The Red Circle (Short Story)

I just finished edits on a new short story called The Red Circle. It is different from a lot of what I have been writing lately,  but I like it a lot.


The Red Circle

I loved kindergarten. I was so smart. My classmates thought so, at least. They would copy my work, which I thought was a very good thing. Everyone wanted to lay near me during nap time, and Ms. Lane used my work as an example more than anyone else. I could read and write better than anyone else, and at the October school assembly, I read a poem I wrote about my fish and an inchworm that lived on its bowl. The principal sent my poem to the American Association for Young Writers, and they gave me an award for ambition and talent. I won an award at the district art show for my age group. At their parent-teacher conference, Ms. Lane told my parents she thought I was bright enough to skip first grade. I heard her say that to them, sitting between the two in a red plastic chair, but I pretended I didn’t and kept my gaze above Ms. Lane’s shiny brown hair on the number chart on the wall. I was trying to think of a way to slip into the conversation that I had them memorized up to one hundred. I never got the chance, but Ms. Lane did say that I was very prepared to take on the challenges of second grade, and I might be bored and unengaged in a first-grade class.

Every Monday, Ms. Lane brought in a chocolate chip cookie. It would be sitting on a napkin her desk when we filed into the classroom and took our seats in the morning, and at snack time Ms. Lane would give it to whoever she felt was a model student that day. I got it every week for the first four weeks of school, and on the fifth week, Ms. Lane took me out into the hallway. She said she had to give the cookie to someone else that day because it was only fair that other students got a chance to earn it. But, she said, she still thought I deserved something for my model behavior. She handed me a small pink eraser, shaped like a monkey’s head. I held it tight in my hand. It smelled fruity. Back in the classroom, I set it on the corner of my desk. It smiled at me, and I smiled back. I couldn’t stop smiling, in fact, and I was still smiling when I got off the school bus at home. The words _special_ and _favorite_ had been wringing in my head all day, words I knew Ms. Lane would probably never say out loud to me, but I hoped so hard she was thinking. I think it was almost like praying, the way I would rub my little pink monkey and hope, hope, hope that she saw how different I was, how much better I was. Of course I didn’t look down on my friends in class, I just knew they looked up to me.

I remember the day, early in November, when Ms. Lane had us cut shapes out of construction paper. She drew the shapes on the board in colored markers. I cut out a green square. Easy. I lined my ruler up with the edge of the paper and traced my line before cutting. The class saw this, abandoned their lopsided first attempts, and got a ruler from the supply cabinet. A Blue triangle. This presented a new challenge until I realized that folding the paper diagonally created two triangles. I gave one to a friend who was still struggling with her square. Next was a red circle. I took my piece of construction paper and started turning it in my small hands, cutting around and around. When I arrived back to where I started, I looked down at my paper and realized it wasn’t circular at all. I looked up on the wall, where a poster of the shapes hung. I looked from the shape in my hands to the smiling circle on the poster. They didn’t match. I didn’t worry though. I could see the uneven part, so I went back with my scissors and trimmed it away. When I finished I compared my circle to the poster again. Mine was still wrong. The smiling circle on the poster knew something I didn’t. Back again with my scissors, and the circle was still wrong. Again, I tried to trim away the irregularities, and the circle on the wall watched me, along with my class, and slivers of red paper fell around my hands, cutting and cutting the paper. My hands clenched down hard on the scissors. My vision blurred, and the smiling circle had started to scare me. It thought I was stupid. Everyone in class probably thought I was stupid. I cut and cut, going around and around. The circle got smaller and smaller. I could feel tears running down my cheeks, so I lowered my head to focus even closer on my cutting. I think my tears were becoming increasingly audible because Ms. Lane came to my side and started to speak to me. It’s okay, she said. My hands grabbed the kid scissors tight, staring at my oblong sorry excuse for a circle. Ms. Lane reached for my circle, but before she could grab it, I jolted upright, and the open blade of my scissors caught Ms. Lane across the cheek.

The classroom was silent. Ms. Lane’s cheek was bleeding. I started to sob and ran to the bathroom, knocking my monkey off the desk, throwing my scissors on the floor and grabbing my red circle.

I sat in the bathroom and thought about my monkey. Ms. Lane would probably take it away now, I thought. Everyone thought I was stupid. I was still crying, but the tears had stopped.

I took the red circle out of my pocket. It was the size of a quarter, maybe a little bigger.

And it was a perfect circle.

Absolutely perfect.

I smiled. I beamed. I stood up and walked out of the bathroom, circle in hand. Ms. Lane wasn’t in the classroom when I got back, but nevertheless, I held the circle above my head for my friends to admire. I looked over to the circle on the wall. Mine was identical. The circle on the wall smiled at me.

“Look at my circle you guys! It’s perfect!”

 

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The America I Love (Short Story)

I really like this story and style. More to come in this type of format.


The America I Love

 

The world once ran in a confusing and badly managed way. Different newspapers ran conflicting stories, and journalists gave their own personal opinions. The intellectuals on top loved it; they argued all day long about symbolism in rap music and underlying racism in Kylie Kardashians line of armchairs. But for the layman, it was no fun. Instead of scintillating conversation, the average American found the discourse to be tiring, and the big-wig writers stuck up.

 

“We don’t care about your MFAs in french poetry and dance therapy! Just tell us what the weather is!!!” America shouted at the New York Times.

 

“No!!!” the New York Times said. “the weather is sexist!” The intellectuals rubbed their chins and said, “hmmm…”

 

And that was the end of that.

 

But the people grew restless. Ryan, the electrician, had enough. He really snapped July 12th, the day he spent twenty minutes sounding out every word in “I Hate Katy Perry and Here’s Why You Should Too”. There were some hard words. After he finished reading, he saw another article called “Katy Perry is the Susan B. Anthony of the 21st Century”. Ryan was pissed.

 

“Who is Susan B. Anthony?!” He yelled at the sky.

 

The sky yelled back, “We hear you, Ryan. And we understand.”

 

The government knew that something had to be done, or normal people all across the land would start bleeding out every hole in their heads.

 

“Then who would make me my flat white at Starby’s?” One senator asked, turning white with fright.

 

Everyone nodded in enthusiastic agreement, imagining the dire prospects of it all. They would pass a law, just this once.

 

So a proclamation was issued: Only one media outlet could cover any one new story. Only one article could be written about any one event. It would prevent conflicting ideas from being shoved in people’s face all the time.

 

“Phew!” America said.

 

“That’s not fair!” The press shouted

 

“Too damn bad!” The government retorted.

 

“Drat.” The journalists across the nation sighed. “They’ve got us there.”

 

Reporters scrambled across Los Angeles like headless chickens, sniffing out a leak of a new Beyoncé single, and mothers and fathers stayed glued to the phones at the dinner table, awaiting a Trump tweet to paste into a pre-written article of critiques. After one outlet scooped a scoop, the rest had to back off. It was the law, for goodness sakes. It was a real bummer for them, but honestly, no one really cared besides that. Things went super well from then on out.

 

Solstice

Here is a short story I wrote on the Summer Solstice, June 21st, 2017. I like it a lot, I’m looking for a magazine that is right to submit it to.

~~~

Solstice

 

I struggle with self-love. Love, to me, is so intimately close and personal that there is no room for imperfection. I know myself too well to love myself. I choose to look for love in places where I can’t find imperfection. God, I struggle with imperfection. I can find relative perfection in things I don’t have the chance to examine, like the sticky hands of someone else’s lover, or fruit taken from said hands to be used in a solstice love spell. I like things I can’t have. It’s compulsive. I struggle with things I can’t have. I can’t help but notice small imperfections in others possessions, things I’m sure they would never notice themselves. The fine blond hair that sprawls like a meadow across his forearms, for example, only visible when hit by the light of the setting sun. Or the stray black hairs that stand alive with static, holding themselves above the hoi polloi of coarse, shaggy hair that touches his collar and his bright pink ears. Thinking of everything I can’t have, I burn a bag of chamomile, lavender, and hemp and pray for self-love in the form of love from anyone else. I breathe in the smoke. I do things with him and around him to make myself known. I don’t eat, or I do. I come home at two in the morning, hair dripping, skin paved with dried chlorine, clothes soaked and smelling like someone else’s pool. I take his towel out of my bag, shocked that I have it. I sleep with it. I owe everything to his real lover. I owe them everything for keeping him away from me. If he was really mine to love, I would have nobody to love. If he loved me, I would be too close to love him. He would cease to be perfect. I know myself too well to love.

The Peach Pit (Short Story)

This is a short story I wrote in about a half hour. I used the word “cross” and words that start with the letter “p” for no real reason, it’s just what came to my mind when I sat down.

~~~

The Peach Pit

He and I sat cross-legged across from each other, looking cross with our arms crossed. It crossed my mind that we were at a crossroads, one I was cross to recross. Something was across, and our eyes crisscrossed between the others crossed arms and the pit of a peach perched in a pile of perished peonies. My interest was piqued at his perennial placidity, and I pondered the possibility that we were recrossing a reposed crossfire, and I pretended to present him a phantasmic peace offering. Perhaps too much cross recrossing of a crisscrossed crossroads had precluded us from peering across to each others cross predisposition pertaining to the perpetrator; the peach pit perched across us in a pile of perished peonies. It crossed my recrossed psyche that I was proficiently displeased with the pit, and upon my prompt departure, I pressed the pit into the pile of peonies that had presented the crossest crossroads I had ever had to cross and recross in my entire life. I was placated, but not permanently.

New Story! May/June

This is a first chapter I wrote in the middle of the night… I like it, I’m either gonna develop it into a short story or novelette.

~~~

Two Stoplights, Three Lighthouses

“I would like to be called Estella now.” Estella said, clutching her copy of _Great Expectations_ to her chest. “Estella resonates with me deeper than I knew possible. The way Havisham brainwashes her into becoming a cold, heartless yes-ma’am is no different than what society has done to us as Gen-Y. They want us to lay down and take the brunt of the failed economy, Social Security’s collapse, the environment, to fix it all when the boomers finally croak. I say no. I want to continue Estella’s story into my own life and break that great expectation. I choose to say no.”

Estella’s friends all nodded and said, “you are so right Estella.”

—-

Days later they were sitting on the beach. The kids let the water wash over their bare sunburnt legs and watched pieces of plastic bags and aluminum cans get stuck in the pebbles at the edge of the water. The sun hung low in the amber dome, and despite the clear sky, the beach felt shady.

Estella pulled a tiny green sprout out of the ground beside her. “I’m bored out of my mind. There is nothing to do here except go to the beach and get divorced.” A thin black salamander ran over Rudolph’s leg. He shivered and glanced at Estella out of the corner of his eye. He was planning what he could say, it had to be good, it had to be fun.

He surprised himself by saying out loud what he was planning on saying out loud. “My sister has the keys to the school greenhouse, we could go hang there I guess…” He knew his voice had shook. The group responded with the sound of crashing waves, seagulls, and otherwise silence. He watched the silhouette of a seagull dip down to the surface of the water and kept talking. “I know a guy who hides his weed under a pot in there. He wouldn’t notice if we…” Estella seemed not to have heard, as she snapped a twig in half and discarded the two pieces in the thin tide surrounding her legs. Audrey brushed her hair out of her eyes and turned toward the water. Silas looked like she wanted to say something, but she too was watching Estella. The kids were all quiet. Rudolph was thinking of anything else he could say to break the sounds of the beach with his voice when Estella clapped him on the shoulder, sending a cloud of dust out into the orange sunset air. She stood, brushing the sand off her long freckled legs.

“Great idea, Rudy. Let’s do it. You’ll drive?” She said it as if she was giving him permission, and didn’t even finish speaking before striding across the wet beach to the sand covered parking lot, already headed towards his van. Dust and sand fell off the back of her patchwork sundress, and the other three kids chased after her, as if they were trying to catch stardust off a comet. Maybe if they gobbled up enough of it they could keep pace. Rudolph blinked hard and wiped his eyes. The sun warmed the back of his neck as he followed the others to his car.

The halls of the high school were deserted. Even teachers go on summer vacation, but why they did this was beyond the kids. The greenhouse, however, was still humming with life. Vines in fifty shades of green spilled out of jars and cans and halves of water bottles. They clung to the steel framework of the structure and reached like spiderwebs across the panes of foggy glass. The air was wet with precipitation. They found the weed as the sun was disappearing behind the bleachers through the frosted glass windows. “Damn, there’s enough here for us to each have our own!” Rudolph said, pulling the paper bag out of the terra cotta pot. The greenhouse was close quarters, and the verdant room smelled like warm soil and steam. Estella knelt on the floor and tore pages out of _Great Expectations_ to roll the blunts in.

“Don’t you ever want to read that again?” But from the way Carter eyed the hemp it was clear he didn’t care what it was rolled in. Audrey took the first blunt from Estella and eyed it like a virgin.

“It’s a library book.” Estella answered, tearing out another page. Once she had rolled four blunts to her satisfaction, she took out a silver lighter with a skull on it, stolen for her from the gas station by Rudolph.

“Why don’t I get one?” he was the one who got them in, after all.

“I don’t really like it when you smoke, Rudy. You’re cuter sober.” Rudolph looked disappointed, so Estella said she might share hers with him. “Besides, you have to drive us home.” She flicked off her flip flops, buried her yellow painted toes in the dirt and lit her blunt.

A half hour later the five friends sat in a circle on the floor, metal table legs and withered vines surrounding them like stonehenge. In the middle of the circle was a poppy plant in a lentil soup can. There were three small flowers on it that Estella was holding her lighter to, one at a time. The group watched with fascination.

“Poppy flowers make opium. Opium makes dead soldiers. Dead soldiers in Vietnam. Fuck poppies. Wizard of Oz and shit.” The group nodded in fervent agreement. “Fuck poppies.” echoed Carter. She was wearing stars as a crown and the moon sat in her eyes. The delicate red and yellow petals wilted and turned brown before completely burning up, and pools of black water appeared all around them. The water was warm and fluffy and light, like the soil, like a soul. The poor flower shriveled in its can. When there was nothing left to burn, Estella held the lighter up in front of her and stared into the tiny blue flame. The group did the same. After a minute she clicked it shut and fell onto her back with a heaving sigh. Rudy dropped beside her and pushed the right side of his face into the floor, cement covered with a half inch of topsoil. It smelled like dirt. It was after all, dirt. Estella was pinching clumps of it between her fingers and letting it drop onto her chest. He watched her drop it onto her forehead and rub it into her skin. She giggled.

The other kids were watching her, waiting for a queue. I could tell it was more than weed they were smoking, because there was an extra smell in the room, like paint and gasoline. Audrey was incredulous at the similarity of her left hand to her right. After an hour it was time to go.

—-

As soon as Rudolph dropped the kids off at their respective houses smelling like weed and dirt and that extra special ingredient, Estella shouted that she had left her book at the school, and if they found it they could ask the library who checked it out, and they would know she broke in, and- but Rudolph had already turned around, they could go back to get it.
She picked it up with both hands and dusted the dirt off the cover. The greenhouse felt different now that it was just them, alone, in the dark. “Lets do something fun.”

She grabbed his hand and led him out to the football field, where she more or less shoved him to the ground. She knelt over him and before he knew it she was kissing him, and his mouth was full of fire that was sinking down into his gut. He was burning from the inside out but he would manage it, because her mouth tasted like weed and maybe strawberries, and the grass around them was growing so tall, it covered them completely.

“You are beautiful.” She said into his neck.

He kept his eyes open, and focused his blurry vision just past her wild hair on the full moon above them. Little pieces of starlight dug into the bottoms of his arms, and the cold wind hitting his chest made him realize his shirt was off. He felt his body sink further and further into the grass, and he let himself be taken by the Earth. The would go together. Silver smoke was billowing out of the hole in the sky where the moon was, falling on them like a spotlight. Venus was falling in to retrograde.
Rudolph Hesso lost his virginity at the fifty yard line and would live to remember as little of it as he could while still knowing it happened.

Then it was over and they were walking to the car, shaking moon dust off of their clothes. Rudolph’s eyes were still blurry with light and sound and feeling.

When they got to her house, Estella waved to Rudolph as she ran up her front steps. His eyes were fogged over and projecting stars. He rolled down the windows and was about to pull out of the driveway when he saw an un-smoked blunt in the passenger seat, wrapped with a page from _Great Expectations_. He stuck it in his pocket and drove away.

—-

“I love you.” Rudolph told Estella the next day, sitting in front of the grocery store in his car. The air conditioner was on and the windows were open.

“Two stoplights, three lighthouses.”
“What?” He turned to her. She had reclined her seat all the way back so her head was basking in the light coming through the skylight. She blew smoke from her camel out through her nose, which today was adorned with a white gold nose ring; a birthday present from her aunt, a convicted drug dealer.

“In this town, there are two stoplights and three lighthouses. We live in a beach town on the coast of North Carolina, there are more lighthouses than stoplights. There are more seagulls than people, more garbage on the streets than high school graduates, and more fucking volcanoes than original thoughts.” She lifted her legs to rest them on the dashboard and rested her sunglasses on the bridge of her thin sunburnt nose. Her black toenail polish was chipped. Her sunglasses were cracked. “How stupid does a man have to be do take a town with a booming tourism industry and render it an empty wasteland after a mere decade in office? Really, I’m curious.” She threw her cigarette out the open window and sat up, her matted brown ponytail whipping the ceiling.

“Did you hear me? I love you.” Rudolph said it quieter this time.

“You don’t love me.” She lit another cigarette. “Even if you did, I couldn’t let myself love you back. I could never be someones first love, it’s too much pressure.” She threw put out the cigarette on the arm rest and stuck the butt behind her ear.
“Well what am I supposed to do?” Rudolph stared blankly ahead, watching a young woman with white hair fight a seagull for her sandwich in front of the store. The seagull wanted to kill the woman, all the woman wanted was her sandwich.

“Love someone else first, I guess. If you had already loved someone I could love you back.” The seagull was winning, but the white-haired woman would not give up easily. “Like Audrey. If you went out with Audrey I wouldn’t feel so lousy about you loving me.”

“Estella, I’m not into Audrey, I’m into you-“

“But you feel that way about me, right? So could you do it for me?” He sighed and put the car in drive. “C’mon Rudy. If you could just go out with her for a while, I wouldn’t have to be your first.”

“You _were_ my first…” he muttered.

“What?”

He sighed and resigned himself. “Ill ask her out, if it means that much to you.”

Estella smiled and lifted her seat upright, re-lighting the cigarette from behind her ear.

—-

They drove aimlessly for a long time, in silence. Estella ripped pages from _Great Expectations_ one by one and threw them out the window. In the rear view mirror, he could see the pages littering the road behind them, like confetti.

Mini Story Contest Entry

This is a short story (under 200 words) I wrote for a micro story contest… The theme was “clean” and I wanted to take it to an unusual place… I’m fond of this one, although it is kind of hard for me to re-read. I don’t usually write in this style.

~~~
The Cheater

You will want to be clean. Oh, when I have finished what I came here to do you’ll want to be so clean. From the first word I speak I can see your skin raise in anticipation and desire. My outstretched palm awaits the keys you hold tight by your side. I could have gotten them tomorrow, but I wanted this. This moment. For you to expect, to become smitten with the idea of it all. To wrap yourself in the idea that I would kiss you, press you against the wall. It would dissolve into the breathless, toe-curling sex you never got from you-know-who. We were having sex right now, I could see you picturing it. When you dropped the keys in my hand, I made sure to graze your fingertips with mine. Shudder. Recoil from my red hot touch, then realize, as I walk out the door, I was only here for my keys. You wanted so much more. Now all you want is to feel clean, but even that is too much to ask. Because you can wash away sex, but you can’t wash away what is still happening in your mind. You can’t cleanse yourself of me.

The Witching Hour

This was a ten-minute writing prompt I did yesterday. I like it. although the style is very confrontational and direct, a departure from my usual style. It was written very late at night, so it is stranger than usual.

The Witching Hour

I can perform miracles and if you sit in my booth at the very back of this truck stop diner, I may grant you a wish. The wish will be of my choosing.

Between the hours of two and four AM, the bones of my spine fall out of their row, and my neck cracks every time I turn my head. I order two drinks. One for me and one for you. You’ll pay, but I’ll add a special ingredient to yours that will send clouds of purple smoke curling above your head, like a halo of dirt. The smoke will coat your teeth with a film, and it will stay that way long enough for you to not want to eat the fries you ordered. I am hungry this early in the morning.

My teeth are long and gray. They remind you of dried chewing gum. My nails are short and yellow. From now on, everyone’s nails will remind you of my nails. I double my height, and my dry knees, broken again and again and re-set at the wrong angles, scrape against the bottom of the table. You lean forward on the table for a kiss. You will want to kiss me again and again but I fill your mouth with a cigarette.

My hearing ears and seeing eyes can tell you are uncomfortable. Your ears cannot see and your eyes cannot hear, and they will fail you despite your scrambled instructions.

You bend over and I transform you into my cane. I lean on my cane, you silly thing, and grant your wish. We get a milkshake at the bar. The waitress admires me and scorns you. She knows you, but she pretends she only knew you. A grilled cheese to top it off.

You shoot sparks from your place leaned against the bar, and I allow you to become a cat. You perch yourself on a stool beside me and rub my knee in hopes of reciprocation of affection. I turn you back to a cane.

I am no genie and your one wish is almost over. I want you to enjoy it more and more. You do.

You do.