#ShortShortStories

a cure for the common block

Lonely Heart

Belinda finally stepped back into her old-new habits, but it was several days before she saw Peter behind the counter again. During their last conversation she realized that despite how comfortable she felt with him, she knew nothing – only the things she assumed in her imaginary flirtations with him. He asked her if she wanted the usual as he smiled, revealing the dimples that made her wish he was just a few years older. She smiled and nodded, and turned to take her seat while she waited. “The Usual” he shouted, turning the heads of several confused people, watching a red-faced Belinda meekly make her way to the warm cup. Peter stuttered a sincere apology, almost choking up until Belinda released him with a smile. She began to turn when he took a breath and asked if she still wondered about his tattoo. She nodded again, a more concerned look on her face. He was wearing short sleeves and pulled the left sleeve up over his shoulder. He revealed the vines growing thicker further up until they wrapped around the base of a tombstone.

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Sanctuary

Over the weeks Belinda’s ordering developed into small talk, but she only ever imagined about the full tattoo on the young man’s arm, never having the courage to inquire. One Monday she found herself in the cafe and – seeing she and Peter the barista were the only two there – realized it was a holiday and she didn’t actually have to be at work. He spoke first, asking if she wanted the usual, but she opted instead for one of their more flavorful offerings. Peter wasn’t wearing short sleeves that day, but she felt comfortable to ask him about his tattoo. He playfully brushed it off as nothing important and changed the subject to the music playing, which he also brushed off, calling it “Rubbish”. She smiled, but awkwardness lurked behind the rest of their otherwise pleasant conversation. Belinda felt so embarrassed that she drove two miles out of her way to another coffee shop for the next two weeks.

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First Impressions

With a new job came a new commute and new habits for the just-thirty Belinda Greer; she would visit a different coffee shop and refill at a different station, but it was all for the better. Upon her first visit to get a Plain Black, she noticed the tattoo on her barista’s left hand: a green vine tracing its way down and coiling around one of his fingers. He was wearing long sleeves, which piqued her curiosity about how far it went up his arm and how it culminated; she pondered various scenarios dreamily as she stirred and sipped her brew. After a few weeks the cold weather relented and she finally caught a glimpse of his bare forearms, the left decorated with multiple vines sprawling from under the sleeve around his elbow and untangling as they spread downward until only one stretched long enough to reach his hand.

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Deaths-Head Re-Revisited

Dear Julie & Zukie,

Stefan is writing for the both of us. Firstly, we’d never been aware of having actual “fans” before you two. We sold some CDs, we were allowed to open on a tour of another new, albeit more promising band, but you were the first people we ever saw wearing our merch, wearing our band name. The other reason we can’t possibly express how much we owe to you is that you gave us clarity.

After much stumbling, Uri is taking over our attempt to explain how much our chance meeting after the concert – and even just seeing you in the audience – changed our course. Stefan sought drummers and guitarists, and I show up with my clavichord, but he gave me a chance and something remarkable happened. By further Providence we were picked up by a label. We stayed with the gimmick and tried to make it work, but we unsatisfied with the result, the label was disappointed, and the album wasn’t a hit. Needless to say, we were in a bit of a malaise.

Then we met you. A disadvantage to an organic meeting like the day of my audition is that flaws are completely oblivious, you’re so consumed by the harmonious coalescence that you can miss faults obvious to those around you. Also unfortunately for us, those around us didn’t “get it” and thus we dismissed many critiques – even if some were unintentionally accurate. When we met you two we saw ourselves through your eyes, the best version of what we could be. You had incredible insights into our dynamic. That which was ineffable to us, you made effable.

Before that concert I had told Stefan that I could have been making more money at home providing lessons, and we spoke of ending our journey at the end of the tour. Then we stepped out to play “Our Miss White” and saw the two of you, front row, L&L blazed across your chests. The set you saw was not the set that any previous audience saw on that tour, your presence instantly revived an energy within us. We wanted to invite you backstage, but the studio did not allot us any passes.

Stefan apologizes for dragging me off stage when I attempted an encore. He had just had an idea for a new song and required my collaboration. It would become The Garden Party on the enclosed copies of our latest album The Boondocks (we assume you won’t mind getting early copies?) Thank you for not telling anyone wink.

Stefan taking over, I was trying to instruct Uri to inform you that Thank You For Not Snitching is us thanking you for (hopefully) not telling anyone that we sent you early copies.

Uri again. Apologies, occasionally my formality can distort the meaning of a message. You see, we had to self-produce this album as our former label dropped us over multiple “controversies” regarding various aspects of it. They fell hollow on me. Stefan seemed to understand, and attempted to litigate the merits (quite exceptionally, in my opinion). However, the studio wanted nothing to do with it and so we entered contract with a private producer and – due to its “controversial” nature and limited production – were not allowed to give out copies. So we gave you ours.

We hope you enjoy them as much as we enjoyed making them, and as our friends (we are friends, correct?) we hope you will be open and honest with your thoughts.

Yours,
Uri & Stefan

P.S. Uri has just informed me that “Yours” is a contraction of “Your servant”, I wish I had known that before signing my name to it. Also, I am having Uri teach me calligraphy so future correspondence will be more harmonious.

P.S.S. Although having a distinct writing style would make distinguishing ourselves unnecessary.

We hope to hear back from you,
Stefan & Uri

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Benediction

Dog and Watch sat on the curb in front of the bodega, people-watching. A police officer turned the corner and smiled at a car parked in front of a fire hydrant. Dog whistled and catcalled at the officer, who screwed up his nose in disgust. He began walking toward the two when their grandmother, Edna Perkins, came out with arms full of bags of groceries. Dog and Watch immediately snapped them up to her delight, “Such good boys”, she said with a smile to the officer, whose lips shut tight upon seeing her. He smiled back and tipped his cap to her, then turned on his heels to return to writing his ticket. He was interrupted again moments later by the sight of the clerk, still tearing off his duct tape bonds, shouting to report a robbery. Back in their tenement building, Edna smiled and patted her grandchildren on their backs as they counted the money.

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I’ve Got You Under My Skin

She stopped in his doorway and stared at him like a goat with its mouth open. “You’re new,” she stated obviously to the newest addition to the staff. He introduced himself, as did she, but they barely saw each other throughout the campaign since his job kept him at his desk and hers out in the field. One day he was analyzing poll numbers and confirming the wording of future polls when she poked her head in his office to say “Hi.” He made the mistake of ignoring his first impression of her and she launched into a prattle. Soon her incognizance was alarmingly apparent and he excused himself from his own office – confident that she was incapable of interpreting anything negative from the gesture. Hypothetical headlines flashed in his mind as he feared the reason such an incompetent person could be hired as a paid staffer. As he paced his way through the field headquarters he tried to avoid thinking about the potential scandal involving this young, comely, and totally inept – he paused as he remembered the tangent that set the blatherskite off in the first place: she was doing the Senator’s makeup.

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I Will Remember You

Ruby peered into the tide pool and marveled at the delicate ecosystem. She didn’t even notice the tide coming in until a wave crashed into the pool splashing water into her face, prompting her to push herself up and shake her head and blow the salty water out of her nose. When she looked back down she saw a cuttlefish as white as sun-bleached bone, still tumbling from the spill. Its fin undulated rhythmically as the startled cephalopod regained composure before jettisoning a cloud of black ink and darting into a crevice directly opposite Ruby. She would recount her pursuit and study of the creature to students year after year, describing it as the moment she discovered her passion in life. Ruby Goode’s Marine Biology course had the highest student retention rate of any course at Hillman College, elective or otherwise.

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Bottlenecked

Harold’s ears rang, his head throbbed, and he struggled to regain orientation. His car was upside-down, but thankfully he and his wife were secured by their seatbelts and the lack of agonizing pain gave them hope to get through without serious injury. As they carefully pressed their arms against the roof of the car to brace themselves into a controlled fall as they unbuckled they saw a group of young men rushing to their car. Before Harold could ask one of them to call for help they dragged him out, rolled him over and began digging through his pockets, taking advantage of his weakened state. Then he heard a strange series of pops followed by the men – wearing university letterman jackets – falling to the pavement like ragdolls. Harold looked up to see a man in a suit so black that it was almost a shadow cloaked around his body, holding a gun with a silencer. Before he could process what was happening he saw into the barrel of the
silencer

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No Good Deed

Raul entered the lobby of the theater as usual, toolbox in one hand while the other gave a wave to the usher – Mark – who let him pass to work on an air-conditioning unit. Mark usually liked to make small talk with the repair workers and postal employees, but couldn’t get over the embarrassment of not even noticing that the A/C was malfunctioning when the man in a khaki shirt and matching khaki pants arrived three days earlier. Meanwhile Raul sat in the back of the theater, enjoying his seventh free movie of the week and eating popcorn out of his toolbox.

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Most Wanted

Shane was a bit of a struggle of a child, he would always fidget (unless unhampered by clothes) and complain about what his parents made him wear. To be fair, even his parents hated the wool jacket he had to wear to church and other special occasions, but it was the best they could do on a budget. When Shane immediately locked on a pink tutu they passed and refused to move they didn’t even hesitate to purchase it; if other parents would judgmentally stare at them whether Shane was squirming and throwing a tantrum or wearing a frilly ballet garment, as far as they were concerned the only option was the one where their child was happy. Happy may be an over-statement, but at least he would be comfortable while he rolled his eyes and paced around waiting for his parents to finish shopping.

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