Tag Archives: tale

A Car And A Cute Old Man

9 Dec

Today, I met a cute old man. He was not by default cute because he was old. I have met a lot of old men, and many, many of them are not cute. A lot of them are crotchety fuckers.

But this old man, he was cute. He barely had any hair left, just a brush of white and wiry remnants as his eyebrows, and a U around his head. His skin has the yellow tinge of an elderly Philippino. He could have been stern, if his mouth puckered more. But it didn’t. He was not stern. He was not intimidating. He was like a really old uncle, maybe a grandfather. Something non-threatening. The sort of old relative that would call you dear and not mean it demeaningly.

Oh, I met him because he was my Lyft driver.

So I got into the car, and we made chit chat as is opening procedure for taking a Lyft. I asked how long he’d been driving, he told me he’d been up since 6 am. I commented on how early that was, and he mentions, nonchalant, that he’s hoping to make enough fare to head home early and take his wife out to a nice dinner.

Okay, this dude is like seventy. That’s already frickin’ adorable.

So I try not to making squeeing noises out loud and merely respond how that’s sweet. I ask how long he’s been married. He answers – 44 years.

Holy. fuck.

I ask how they met. He tells me that they both worked in the same government agency, back in the Philippines. “We met in the office and… that’s how it all got started.” His voice winked, even if he did not.

He launches into his whole story. He tells me how he and his wife, they worked at this agency for 25 years, but before they retired, his wife wanted to pursue her real profession for a while. They moved to Chicago and “were trapped there in the snow” for twenty years, so she could be a chemist.

Finally retiring, they moved to Florida. He tells me how, having saved up a fair amount, they gave their remaining assets in the Philippines to their daughter, which he pronounces further endearingly as duo-ter. But… he stumbles over himself, for a few seconds. He’d started to explain how he has a daughter, but… the stumbling and backpedalling came to a stop, and he tells me, “I had a son, but I lost him when he was nineteen.”

I don’t want to ask what lost means.

My driver, he pushes on and tells me about his duo-ter, now 44 (my innuendo-center starts cheering internally and wink-wink-nudge-nudging the man), lives in Okinawa with her eight-year-old son. She’s serving as a pediatrician in the air force – they paid for her school, she works for them the same amount of years. She’s got two left.

My mind immediately starts praying that Okinawa stays quiet for the next two years.

The old man’s talk meanders back to him and his wife. He tells me how they tired of Florida’s weather, so they moved to Los Vegas instead. It was cheaper there, anyway. They rented a three-bedroom house for just $700 a month. My roommates and I are renting a three-bedroom apartment for more than that.

But… the old man, his voice becomes closed and quiet, “Los Vegas was my downfall. I had never gambled before in my life. But I got myself stuck at the slot machines. I lost all our savings. I… I squandered everything.”

I can hear the shame in his voice. I would not have been surprised if he’d started to cry.

“But I told my wife,” he goes on, “I told my wife, it’s not too late, I can earn it back. Well, not all of it, but some, enough…” He spends several more minutes reciting a litany of “I did a bad thing” and “I needed to make it better” and “I was contrite, so I could do it.”

They moved out to Santa Clarita. He started driving for Lyft. That is why he is a driver, to try one car ride at a time to rebuild the life he intended for his wife – and himself – to have. To make good on his statement that he is contrite. He tells me how sorry he is for what he did, how grateful he is that his wife is with them. “I think she still loves me,” he said in a small voice. “I love her very much.”

We reach my street, and as we pull up to my curb, he turns to me and with a somehow beaming face tells me enthusiastically, “I hope all your ventures are successful!”

I tell him that I hope he has a nice dinner with his wife.

The Night The Moon Was Eaten

15 Apr

Yesterday, April 14th, was my 23rd birthday. It was actually one of the loveliest times I’ve had on my birthday in a while. I woke up to a super sweet email from my boyfriend, got to spend the day with old and new mates, and then climbed to the roof of my apartment with a couple of my oldest friends to watch the lunar eclipse. A blood moon on my birthday? Why thank you, galaxy. That was an awesome gift.

And that time on the roof, wrapped in a blanket talking about everything and nothing in particular as the moon waned and waxed and became saturated with its bloody hue before us, as the moon took on an oddly placed shadow as the earth passed by the sun in front of it, causing the moon to look almost as if something were eating it – well that, of course, inspired a story.

So thank you, to everyone who made my birthday wonderful with your well-wishes and hugs yesterday. One day after my birthday, this, a story, is my gift to you.

 

Thank you to Casey Handmer, friend and photographer of this fantastic timelapse photo. Permission to use this photo must be obtained directly from him.

Thank you to Casey Handmer, friend and photographer of this fantastic timelapse photo. Permission to use this photo must be obtained directly from him.

The Night The Moon Was Eaten

Something was eating the moon.

Killey leaned back against the thatched roof and stared up at the sky above her. Bale, her little brother, a mere seven years in this village of ancients, had been the first to see it. He’d run screaming through the town, child that he was, screeching in his sweet little voice the same way he would have if a cow had gotten loose from the fields or a stranger had come visiting or a particularly choice piece of candy had just been given him by one of the elder ladies. Bale had not quite learned the art of tone differentiation yet.

And so he had gone streaking through the streets with his shouts naked of discernible emotion beyond urgency and surprise (what kind of urgency? surprise at what?) repeating those two unassuming words over and over again.

“The moon! The moon!” A chubby little hand with its chubby little fingers stretched up toward the sky, waving in no particular direction round the galaxy. “The moon!”

Eyes had turned skyward. Eyes had widened. Eyes had shut.

Smiles turned to swallowed groans.

The moon – that was no typical waxing. That was no mere shadow. It was in entirely the wrong place for this night of the lunar cycle. No, that darkness – it was no usual momentary lapse of our beloved lunar orb. And – eyes opened only to grow wider once again – it was getting bigger. Right before our eyes, the moon was being swallowed up.

Something was eating the moon.

Within moments, ladders were raised and roofs were climbed. Families sat atop their homes, feeling safer in the height and the open than trapped between a lid and the ground. Whatever it was, if the moon was not enough for it and it came to swallow the earth next… Well, the ground did not seem like a particularly safe place to be.

And so we sat on our roofs and watched as the darkness chewed away at the lunar orb.

Something was eating the moon.

“Papa,” I whispered early in the night, “why aren’t we doing anything? Why are we just sitting here, watching?”

Papa had sighed and pulled me closer at that. “Killey, dear, what can we do? The moon in her fortress is far, and there is no certain way to reach her. The veil between us is vast. We can do nothing.”

Except sit. And wait. And hope that the darkness swallowing the moon would deign to return her to us once again.

There was so little left of her. Just a mere scrap now. Soon, there would be nothing but a hole of where she used to be.

The night blew on. The moon continued to fade as we watched.

And then, suddenly, there was nothing.

For what felt like hours we sat on our roofs with bated breath, hoping to see some sign of return of our moon.

But for so long, nothing.

“Papa!” The entire village turned their heads toward our hut as Bale’s voice pierced the air once again. Around me, I could see the faces of our neighbors blanch. No tone was needed to see what had sparked Bale’s outburst this time. The terror on his face was so thick it dripped into the night and leaked in puddles on the roof around him.

“Papa,” Bale’s voice no more than a whisper this time. “The moon is bleeding.”

Papa’s gaze jerked to the sky. All eyes returned to the moon. Yes, Bale was right. There, up where the moon kept her court, was the tiniest sliver of a moon returning to us. Except she was not waltzing back to us, finally free of whatever monster had tried to imprison her in its jowls.

No, she was being regurgitated.

Up in the sky, the monster hacked up the moon queen, bit by bit,coughing up a pile of ragged flesh. The moon we were seeing returned was no longer the cool, pale glow of the star courtiers that danced around her. No. Now, the moon, she had turned sickly, undeniable blood red. And as we all sat and stared, her white gown was only drenched all the more in that frightening color of dying.

“Papa?”

But my father said nothing. I saw his lips move and the knob in this throat slide as he gulped down hard.

I did not like it when Papa was afraid.

The moon was so saturated with blood now that even the glow she cast on our fields reflected the laceration of her veins. A wind rustled through the corn and the cows moaned at the sight of the grass turned the color of rust before them. Around us, the world creaked and cracked and wailed.

Disturbed.

I sat down on the thatched roof, bracing my feet against the straw. Boring old blessedly normal straw. My knees were shaking. I pulled them toward me and held my arms around them tight, trying to make the shaking stop. Bale stumbled over the slippery thatching and plopped next to me. He buried his face in my arm.

“Killey, I’m afraid,” he mumbled as best he could with his nose and mouth smushed into my skin.

I swept a hand lightly through his hair, fixing a few of the tousles. “Me too, Bale.” Against my arm, Bale started to sniffle. “Shhh, Bale. Come here.” I pulled him into my arms and rocked back and forth, humming softly. His little sobs quieted. I continue to croon over his tiny form, a lilting strain from nowhere in particular.

Papa came and sat beside me, listening. He’s always told me he likes it when I hum. He says it reminds him of Mama. She used to sing all the time, he says. I just like to hum, but I like it too, that maybe I could be like Mama was.

Papa leaned in so he could catch my notes better. After a while, he nodded and started humming too. It wasn’t quite the notes I was doing, but he played around them, so it sounded nice. His humming was more repetitive than mine was.

The family on the roof next to ours started humming too, something close to what Papa was doing. Soon, the humming had spread through the whole village, and all the thatched roofs were vibrating with the low chant of families sitting on top.

I wanted to laugh in delight but just put the happiness into what I was humming instead. Bale lifted his head, eyes still droopy with sleep, and smiled up at me. He sat up in my lap and craned his head, looking around at all the other families.

Suddenly, Bale’s body went rigid in my arms. His breathing stopped for just a moment. Relief flooded my melody when his body went loose again and he turned to me, his eyes wide again.

“Killey,” he said breathily. “Look.”

My eyes immediately snapped to the sky. The moon! The moon…

The night had long since carried away the torn and bloodied strips the monster had vomited in the moon’s palace. We had watched as the red mess was replaced again by emptiness.

But now, the emptiness was not complete.

Now, there was something else in the emptiness.

I tiny little sliver, a small glow.

The moon. She was coming back.

And she wasn’t bloody anymore.

“Killey! The moon is coming back!” Bale turned his young eyes, nearly as wide as the moon themselves now, towards me. “You’re healing her.”

I glanced at Papa. He shrugged, his face surprised and uncertain. I don’t know, his eyes told me. But his mouth kept humming.

I kept humming too. Just a little louder.

I met eyes with the woman on the roof next to us. I nodded up at the sky, trying to show her. She looked up, saw. Her eyes got wide too. Came back to rest on me. Nodded.

She looked across the way at the roof next to her, to tell her other neighbors too.

Soon, the village moan had turned to a murmur, a resonant melody punctuated by gasps and caught breath as the rest of the families on the roof looked skyward and saw the moon returning to us, growing whole once more. Coming back from the dead.

All around, our humming filled with wondering. Was it because of us? Had our song saved her? Or had it just been the moon herself, always cheating darkness out of death, just like she did every month?

We didn’t know. So we kept singing anyway.

And the moon kept coming back, brighter. Just barely on the edge of waking, Bale giggled from where he was curled in my arms. His eyes fluttered close, some dream finally claiming his tired mind. Around us, the village song slowed and softened to a close. The moon was back. She was safe. The monster in the darkness had not claimed her yet. Our guardian in the sky was still safe at her post. She had not been eaten down to nothing.

Which meant that for now, we would not be eaten down to nothing either.

Gently, I shifted Bale so he was draped across my shoulder and started down the ladder so I could put my little brother properly to bed. Papa smiled at me and nodded, but stayed where he was, stretched out on the roof, looking upward at the sky. At the moon.

Bale only stirred a little as I jostled him on my way down the ladder. “Shh, Bale,” I whispered, willing him to stay safe in dreamland. “It’s alright now.”

Still more asleep than awake, Bale nestled closer to my neck, his head held right in the crook at its nape. His small arms tightened their grasp around me. His eyes fluttered open, searching the sky for a moment before the lids dropped close again. I carried him inside and laid him gently on his bed. His eyes fluttered open one more time, looking up at me. Drowsily, Bale smiled. “Killey,” Bale murmured in his sleep. “Killey, the moon – Mama came back.”

The Typewriter Men

20 Sep

typewriter men edited

Today I read writer C. D. Hermelin‘s piece about becoming a hated-hipster-meme because he happened to be photographed while doing something I think is incredibly creative and that I wish I’d thought of first (hmm… Los Angeles is on the completely opposite side of the country from New York… that’s non-compete enough, right?). But I’ll let him tell you the whole story himself – here’s a link the article.

Anyhoo. Hearing about Hermelin’s typewriter busking prompted a bit of flash fiction to bubble up in my mind and coalesce into something decent-ish. I wanted to just email the thing to Hermelin – he spends so much time writing stories for others, thought it might be nice to have somebody write a story explicitly for him for a change – but, likely because of the rude comments he’s gotten from idiots, is no longer easily accessible publicly. So instead, I thought hey, I haven’t given my lovely readers a short story in a while; how about I post it here and tweet the link to Hermelin, and then lots of people can enjoy (hopefully) the writing? Brilliant idea, right?!

Oh god, please agree with me.

Well, that’s probably enough of my jibber-jabbering. Here’s that flash fiction I promised you.

The Typewriter Men

You used to see them roving the parks every so often. But that was years ago. That was back when the men in ragged coats and ladies in tattered clothes roamed the sidewalks with their typewriters, murmuring of their wares to passersby.

“Tales for sale,” they’d coo softly. “Tales for sale.”

They’d write you anything you wanted, the Storymongers. Tales of heroism and tales of hate, tales of love and lust and longing. Tales of fae and fall magic, of winter and the tulips to come. They’d write you tales of infancy and tales of old men, tales of every young woman’s want and tales of what burns beneath a new man’s cheeks. They’d even write you tales of yourself, if you asked them.

Though they’d always frown a little before. Ask if you were sure, really sure.

And always, we’d laugh. Of course I’m sure, we’d say. It’s just a story. What harm could come of that?

That was before I knew.

That was before anyone knew.

That was before the government tried to make us all forget we knew.

You see, the Storymongers did not really write us tales. They wrote us our histories. Because they were the only ones who had never forgotten.

In a time where no one can remember what happened beyond yesterday and your few alone have not lost the memory, perhaps it is best for one’s kind to dress in rags and tatters.

Yes, you are more likely to be abused.

But that’s only if they notice you.

And Storymongers are the ones who did most of the noticing. That’s why their stories were so coveted – even by the fur-and-diamond ranks who pretend to care nothing for those uncanny fruits of ink-smudged fingers. The Storymongers, they could look right at you and know.

It didn’t matter what they knew. Because really, they knew everything.

They knew what story you wanted and why you wanted the one you did. They knew what story you needed to hear and what other story would be the one you’d think you’d need anyway. They knew the story of your parents – how they met, how they fell in love – and, sometimes out of it – and how somewhere in all that chaos they came together and made you. They knew the story of your parents’ parents, and their parents beyond that… All the way back. Forever.

They knew the stories of the wars and bombings, of plows and reaping, of pacts and princes and popes and pills. They knew the stories of everything. All the way back. Forever.

I suppose that’s why, when the government finally found out about them, they were declared to be so dangerous. In a time where people have forgotten what happened before breakfast, it is a tremendous threat to your power for someone to know more than you. Even about yourself.

Especially about yourself.

I suppose that’s why they’re in hiding now, the Storymongers. But they say you can still here the click of their keys in the night, the haunting slide of a changed line feed in a faint howl of wind. And every so often, as I walk through the park, a single page of orderly black type will blow across my path. I will pick it up and tuck it in my coat pocket. I read them all, every day. And that is how I remember.