Undercover Flash

Devon’s heart raced and his palms were sweating. He’d never realized just how hard his mission was until he was through the door and looking at the desk. There were so many people around, he didn’t know how he was going to plant the box, but he had to. There was no turning back at this point.

He had it hidden behind his back, tucked into his waistband under his coat. He scanned the room, trying to figure out a way to make sure no one was looking in his direction. They were all grouped around the desk he needed to get to, discussing something sitting there. The side of the room with the terrariums was empty, so Devon wandered over and stood looking over the tanks. He needed a distraction, but not one that would draw attention to him.

He smiled when he saw Stanley. Making sure no one was watching, he quickly flipped the tortoise over onto its back and shuffled away. Once he was a good ten feet from the tanks, he turned back to that side of the room and hollered, “Hey! Stanley fell over, look at him trying to get right side up!”

All of the kids in the room rushed to the tanks to laugh at the poor animal and Devon quickly made his way to Susie’s desk. When he got there, he saw what everyone had been talking about. Someone had given her one of the chocolate boxes that had three layers of morsels with different kinds of fillings. Devon looked down at the sad little heart in his hand that only held five little treasures and tried not to cry. It had taken all of the money he’d saved from his allowances the last three weeks just to get this little box.

Instead of putting the box on her desk–like he’d planned–he turned instead to Ms. Mercuzi and handed the box to her. “Happy Valentine’s Day,” he mumbled before slumping into his seat. One of the kids had finally taken pitty on Stanley and righted him and the kids were heading back to their desks.

Ms. Mercuzi clapped her hands and asked them all to pull out their math workbooks and turn to chapter 2. While his classmates moaned about the unfairness of starting class with math, Devon quietly got out his books and put his head down on top of them. He jumped when the chocolates were placed back on his desk.

“You should still give them to her, you know. Slip them into her backpack during recess. And make sure you leave a note. She’ll appreciate something personal from you way more than that box of anonymous chocolates, trust me.”

Devon smiled up at her, suddenly realizing that his teacher would make a great secret agent. He didn’t think anyone else had even heard the conversation or seen her hand off the box of chocolates. She winked and held a finger to her lips and he dragged out a piece of notebook paper and started laboriously constructing the perfect note to tell Susie just how cool a girl she was.

Mirror Flash

I promised you guys that I would get back to the prompt I missed in between being  traveling and sick, so here it is, my response to Writing Prompt #16. If you don’t remember, it was that lovely photo of two women looking in a mirror from the 40s or 50s. But I’m feeling like twisting some things around here…
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Lucille couldn’t believe it was actually dark. She had been nearly hysterical all day, waiting and waiting for the sun to set, finally submitting to her sister’s ministrations only when the daylight had started to dim. No more would she have to stay home with those too old to go out; she was finally old enough to join her parents and sister on the streets after dark.

She had watched Linda go through her White Night two years ago when she turned 18, had helped her pin up her curls and lace up her dress. Her longing to join Linda on that night had been excruciating. But she had still been too young, and she hadn’t passed the safety exam yet. At least she had passed on her first try two months ago, unlike her year-mate Shirley who had to take the test five times before she was allowed out after dark.

The test was long and some of the questions were designed deliberately to try and trick you into the wrong answers, like,

On a young man’s White Night, is it permissible to
a) proposition him
b) ignore him
c) fight with him
d) none of the above 

The answer was, of course, none of the above. The rules for White Nights dictated that the young person was allowed to proposition any of the above things, but no one could proposition them. The newly aged member of the community must do all of the approaching on their first night. This rule was instituted after a particularly sordid affair involving the mayor’s son and his friends taking advantage of a string of White Night girls. If you got that question wrong, you automatically failed and had to try again the following month to pass the test.

But Lucille was about to step out of the house on her own White Night, dressed in a flowing white sheath she had made herself. It had classic, simple lines; she would have nothing to do with the current trend of pleats and ruffles, unlike her sister. Linda’s dress for the evening as her escort was a proper shade of midnight blue, but was an almost hideous combination of velvet, taffeta and gathers.

The church bells pealed out their sundown pattern and Lucille turned back to the mirror one last time. Smiling at her sister behind her, she asked, “How do I look?”

Linda beamed back, her eyes glistening. “You’re all grown up, Luce. I’m so proud of you. You look absolutely ravishing.”

“Well let’s hope so, cause isn’t the whole point of the evening to be ravished?”

Her sister’s smile faded a bit. “Yes and no. Luce, just be careful tonight. I’ll be right beside you the whole time, ok?”

Lucille turned from the mirror and embraced her sister hard. “I know. But I passed the test the same as everyone else, I’m ready to Go Out.”

Places Flash

I’ve moved a lot, but I rarely go back to places. I’ve visited my old high school once, the summer after I graduated, and I steadfastly avoid going back to see old houses where I’ve lived. It feels somewhat like a betrayal–of what, I have no idea, don’t ask me, that’s just how I feel.

But when I was invited out to the West Coast for a wedding, I decided I wanted to take the opportunity to go back to my college town, see a few people, take a look at the campus. I was hoping the cherry blossoms would be in full bloom, but it had been too wet for that.

Driving into town was uneventful; my mother and I got checked in at the hotel and made plans to meet my old roommate for dinner and just relaxed. The hotel was a bit sketchy, but they spent their money in the right places, like excellent mattresses and 400 channel satellite in every room. However, the halls smelled like bad asian takeout and we parked the car right next to the front door, just in case. I didn’t think much of it since we were on the stretch of ‘highway’ leading into Salem and it had always been a bit run down.

The evening and next day were a wonderful whirlwind of hanging out with friends, seeing old professors, and marveling over the new construction on campus. I have to admit, I was a bit jealous of all the improvements that had been made–new buildings, old buildings completely remodeled. It was impressive. But I also started noticing things, like just how old my favorite professors had started to look. Some of them were old to begin with, but others were definitely softer and grayer looking. You can’t tell how people age over email, but you can’t ignore it in person. I think this is why I prefer email.

And then, while some buildings looked amazing, others were starting to look tired, like the Bistro on campus. The couches were more ragged and even more uncomfortable, if that was possible. It was unnerving, seeing the age. I know it’s cliche as all get out, but I didn’t like seeing my campus change, or my friends actually turn into adults, filling out and settling into their young adult frames.

My rudest shock by far was the town. It was just so…gross. I’d had a car during school, I’d driven around to the malls, the thrift shops, the movie theaters. I’d been  off campus a lot, but everything just appeared so grimy and lifeless.

My mother and I were packing up and preparing to drive up to Seattle the next day, picking up my boyfriend on the way from the airport. “I don’t know if I just lived in the bubble too much while I was here, but was the town always this dilapidated?”

“Yeah, it was, that’s why I was so happy when you lived on campus. You were so involved with the Willamette Bubble you never really missed having a functioning town around you.”

It was unsettling, seeing what I’d just missed seeing during the four years I lived at what I now know was the pristine heart of the town: campus and the capitol building. Much more so than the differences in my favorite buildings and people. I was almost disappointed in myself for not noticing earlier what was around me.

I always thought that if a teaching position opened up in the English Department at Willamette, I’d jump at the chance to go back. Not now. I couldn’t stand to live there, or even really have to commute there everyday. It was heartbreaking. It just makes me feel that I’m right to never go back, not see what has become of my favorite places. Email, meeting friends for vacations, this is what I’ll stick with from here on out. It hurts less.

Lock Flash

Just a heads up about this next week: I’m headed out to a wedding in Seattle and I am trying to get some blog posts queued up for the week so I don’t have to think about it, but forgive me if some are a little out of schedule. I get back super late next Sunday, but I’m trying to be diligent about posting regularly for my readers!
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Susan had given in to her mother. She was finally going to go see someone about the vivid dreams she had been having, though she was determined not to go to the damned psychic her mother had recommended. She wanted to try and keep this at least somewhat grounded, so she had made an appointment with a psychologist in the next town over, someone who’s website specifically stated they practiced Freudian and Jungian dream interpretation. Whatever that was. It sounded almost as terribly mystical as whatever koolaid the kooks would have her drinking, but she couldn’t sleep and needed to do something.

The office was almost clinical in its sparseness. She had been expecting something a little more warm and inviting than bare, green walls and plastic covered furniture in the waiting room, but who was she to say what kind of feelings the doc wanted to instill. Perhaps they wanted to heighten their patient’s anxiety and put them off balance when they first walked in, because that’s how she felt. There wasn’t even any music playing to lighten the monotony, or a receptionist. Just a sign asking the patients to wait, the doctor would be out shortly.

After about ten minutes, the only other door to the room opened and a young woman stepped out. Susan assumed she was another patient until she came over and held out her hand. “Ms. Krantz? I’m Dr. Glenn, but you can just call me Kathryn.”

“Kathryn, hi.” Susan tucked her Kindle away (on which she was reading reports from work) and stood up. “Sorry, I was expecting someone–”

“Older.” the doctor finished. “I get that a lot. I’m actually in my thirties and have been practicing for ten years. I just look young. It’s all that yoga and good jeans.”

Susan was thrown off by the woman’s informal attitude and fumbled for a response. “So, your mother look this young too, then?”

“Nope! She’s a hag, but you find the right pair of blue jeans and your ass will always look phenomenal.” She laughed at her own joke and Susan smiled, finally relaxing a little bit. “Come on back to my lair, and let’s start getting you sorted out.”

The back office was much more warm and inviting than the waiting area. There were soft abstract paintings on the wall and several choices of seating from an overstuffed armchair to a sofa that looked like it would devour you if you sat on its cushions for too long. Kathryn collapsed into an uncomfortable looking wooden chair and gestured for Susan to sit wherever she wanted, so she chose the couch.

“Thanks for filling out the pre-survey, that really helps me to get a feel for you before you come in. So, you’re here about disturbing dreams?” The doctor pulled an end table closer and picked up her mug of tea, making a face when she found it cold.

“Not disturbing, per se, but I can’t seem to get rested. They’re so vivid and I feel like I’m expending so much energy in the dreams that I just feel exhausted in the mornings. Like I’ve been running a marathon in my sleep.”

Kathryn nodded and started making notes on a pad of paper. “So, ultra-vivid dreams that leave you exhausted. But not bad dreams?”

“No, not really. I’m trying to open things, but there’s always a lock, and no matter what I try, whatever keys I might have, I just can’t open it.” Susan didn’t want to tell her the part where she felt like if she didn’t get it open, that something was going to go wrong. It never did, it was just a feeling.

“So, there are locks and keys, but the don’t fit.”

“Yes, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a box, I can’t smash it open, I can’t kick down the door if it’s a door. It’s locked solid.”

Kathryn got up to go to her bookshelf, pulled down a volume and started leafing through it. “Do you have any kind of feeling as to what’s behind it? Or in it?”

“I don’t know, I just have this overwhelming sense that I have to get into it.”

“Or what happens?”

Susan took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes. She didn’t really want to tell this woman, but maybe, just maybe, her mom had been right about needing to talk to someone. “I will lose myself.”

“How do you mean? Lose yourself?” Kathryn put the book down, made a note, and gave Susan her undivided attention.

“That’s just it. I’ll just–poof.” Susan made little poofing motions with her hands. “Not like, disappear, just, won’t be able to find myself.” She slouched back into the corner of the sofa and crossed her legs and arms. “It doesn’t make any sense when I say it out loud. It makes perfect sense in the dream.”

“No, I’d say it makes perfect sense here, too. This lock is somehow preventing you from protecting yourself. Have you ever tried lucid dreaming?”

Susan snorted. “I heard it doesn’t work.”

“Not true. It just takes some practice. Here, I’m going to give you a focus.” Kathryn got up and dug around her massive antique desk in the corner, finally surfacing with a brass scrollwork key. “Take this, wear it on a chain. Think about it all day, wear it at night even, and when you’re falling asleep, repeat to yourself that this can open any lock. It’s a skeleton key that isn’t balked by any obstruction. Then, when you start dreaming about the locked door, or chest, or whatever, you’ll find you’re wearing it in the dream and you’ll be able to unlock the door.”

“That’s it? That seems rather…over-simplistic.” Susan reached out for the key and when Kathryn dropped it into her palm, she was surprised at the weight of it.

Kathryn flopped back into her chair. “The human mind is sometimes extremely simplistic, particularly in base functions like dreaming. It’ll probably take some time and some practice, but I have faith that you’ll get it. Now, dealing with whatever is behind that door may not be so simple.”

“What do you mean? Whatever is behind that door. I just feel like I have to go through it.”

“Sometimes the things we feel we have to do are not necessarily the best things for us, like peer pressure, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Anyways, we can deal with that when you get through the door. Sound like a plan? See you back here in a month?”

Susan stood and pocketed the key. “Sure. Maybe I’ll get through the door by then.”

***

She did exactly like she was told. She wore the key all day and all night, she even wore it into the shower with her. When she woke up exhausted from the struggle all night, she held it tightly and told herself, “This can open any door. This can open any lock.”

Three weeks went by, and there was no change. Every night she threw herself against unyielding wood or metal or stone, and no magic key appeared.

Finally, the night before her next appointment with Kathryn, she dropped into the dream just as she rammed herself against a solid wooden cellar door. And as she bounced back from it, she felt the weight of the key bounce against her chest. Nearly crying in relief, she grabbed it, took it off the chain and approached the door.

Whatever was behind the door seemed to glow brighter as she approached, key in hand. Taking a deep breath, Susan put the key in the lock and turned. She felt, rather than heard, the tumblers fall and she closed her eyes, hand on the door knob. She could feel everything, the light and heat from behind the door, the brass inlays of the knob pressing against her skin.

And she let go. She stepped back from the door and it dissolved, leaving an opening ahead of her, empty. There wasn’t anything behind the door, in fact, the door wasn’t even in a wall, it stood on its own in the middle of the room, a brass key laying on the threshold.

Susan picked up the key, smiled, and tucked it in her pocket.

The next morning, she woke up feeling relaxed and exhilarated. She didn’t quite know what the empty room meant, the fact that there was nothing on the other side of the door and in fact, it hadn’t been separating her from anything after all.

When she showed up for her appointment, she waited impatiently in the waiting area. Dr. Glenn came out and Susan handed her the key.

The psychologist turned the key over and looked at it. “Did it work?”

“Yes, thank you, I don’t think we need to meet today. I feel fantastic.”

“What was on the other side of the door?” Kathryn pocketed the key and leaned against the door frame.

“Nothing, it was a barrier to nothing. All these months, pounding away at the door and it just…dissolved.”

“Well, maybe that’s a symbol of something, then. Work? A relationship? Just relax and it’ll sort itself out kind of thing?”

“Maybe. I don’t really care. Not now that I can open any lock.”

Illness Flash

I’ve put myself in a bit of a bind with this prompt. So, I decided to take a brainstorming tact suggested in a TEDxSomerville talk I saw on stage just this morning. Basically, you ask questions until you can’t think of another and then go back over them. It was an interesting concept and I’ll post a link to the video when it goes up. (I’m also going to talk a lot more about some of the other talks I saw today, later, when their videos are up.)

But for now, how do you write about something this…pervasive, this well-done in literature? It’s been done in anger, in resignation, in determination. What can be unique about writing about illness and injury? Dealing with the actual instigating event and its oddities like Bullet in the Brain by Tobias Wolff? Or approach a longer lasting event? But the long suffering patient has been done. Particularly those sickly sweet ones like in A Walk To Remember. So just how was I supposed to go about creating a unique illness experience? And what do you know…I just had an idea…
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Janine shuffled her notecards one more time at her podium before she looked up, the lights making the audience into uncertain shadows at their dinner tables. Small kindnesses she thought, before launching into her speech.

“It began when I was in 8th grade. I was stupid at a scouting camporee and ended up throwing myself into shock. But from that day forward, nothing seemed to work right in my body. I became hypoglycemic, started having some serious anxiety issues which developed into what we thought were panic attacks, I developed an allergy to dairy, and then my heart started to do funny things–racing, fluttering, doing a fancy gig at unexpected moments.”

She felt like it might do it again now, though she knew it wouldn’t. It never would again. It had been carefully neutered, tamed. It behaved marvelously, even keeping itself at a steady 120 beats per minute on her run that morning. It was just the nerves of being in front of all these people that made her feel like her body might start misbehaving again.

“Misbehavior, that’s what I called it. And it was getting in the way. I was in med school now, getting my MD in cardiology. I had no time for anything beyond class and had driven my body to it’s outermost limits of stress and poor health habits. They don’t tell you when you start an MD that you have to destroy your body to finish it, which is a bit ironic. The day after I turned in my final papers, I ended up in the hospital.”

Her heart twinged, but it was simply echoing the pain and spasms of that time, 10 years ago. Janine suppressed an urge to take her own pulse, the old habit of rudimentary biofeedback as a coping technique brought back by the tension she felt addressing such a distinguished audience.

“They told me that my heart was going to need to be replaced, that it had somehow gotten damaged and that half the nodes were dead already. They wanted to put in a pacemaker and put me on a doner list in the meantime. I said yes to the pacemaker but I knew I was going to be at the very bottom of the transplant list, but that was okay with me. I was going to fix this before the ever got anywhere near me on that list.”

At this point, Janine looked to her left, at her partner in crime sitting at the head table. She remembered approaching the stem cell researcher with an absurd idea that had come to her as she read his research 15 years ago. It had taken her five years to screw up her courage to talk to him, but this was the last straw. Sometimes it just took being more afraid of something else. He had at first laughed, but sobered quickly, then started asking questions and taking notes.

“I approached Dr. Mathias about a possible solution. I was not a stem cell researcher, so I didn’t know if it would be at all feasible. All I knew is I wanted to be fixed, and fixed now. And we did it. Together we created a cure for ailing organs, a way to regenerate them as good as new within their own body. Five injections into the organ, that’s all it takes.” She thumped herself on the chest for emphasis. “And it’s as though there never was a problem. It’s been five years since Dr. Mathias injected my heart with our special concoction. And, frankly, finally being able to live healthy means a little more than this nice medallion, though I must say, the thought is quite appreciated.”

The room laughed, Janine thanked them once again for the honor, and then sat down beside Dr. Mathias. “Next time we win the Nobel Prize, you’re doing the talking.”

Superstition Flash

Hope all of you had a fabulous Monday. Here’s a bit of fiction to finish your night with…

Gina loved the number 13. She’d pause on the 13th step in a stairwell, gleefully punch the 13th floor in an elevator that actually had one–regardless of whether she had to go to that floor or not–and when she turned 13 she convinced her mother to throw the biggest party and invited most of the school. Maybe it was because she was by nature a contrary person and liked to love things other people hated or feared. She wanted to feel like she was breaking some boundary, some taboo, but in a rather safe and tame way. The number 13 qualified.

So many people feared it. Friggatriskaidekaphobia being the name of the fear of friday the 13th. They left 13 out of floor directories, off team jerseys, blamed their misfortune on being the 13th to audition. But that had never been the case for her. She tried to schedule interviews on the 13th, and all the better if it was a Friday. She thought it was lucky.

Then number 13 was present in most of her artwork as well. 13 figures, chairs, columns, flowers…her art installations and sculptures all had some aspect meeting the number 13. And it had started to sell really well. Nobody had seemed to pick up on her numerical theme, but that may be because in some of the pieces the tribute was more subtle; in her post-modern recreation of the last supper, it is only natural to have 13 people. It was unremarkable.

But this–this was going to be her greatest piece. She had been commissioned by her old high school to create the chandelier for their new performance arts center and by god, she was going to do it justice. 13 tiers of glass icicles, hand blown, interwoven with galvanized steel as delicate as lace-work. It stood a story tall in its own right and the glass and steel distorted the 169 blue-white LEDs at its core. The whole thing looked like it could melt to pieces at any moment.

She had scheduled the installation for Friday the 13th in April, just a few days after the construction was completed on the building, but she had completed the project months ahead of schedule, thanks to the inspiration and a manic episode after Christmas. (She blamed her mother’s cookies; there had to be crack in them.) And now all she had to do was wait for the install date while working on her other projects.

While the box sat in a corner, waiting for its glorious reveal, she adopted a black cat and watched him prance across her driveway, repeatedly ducked under her brother’s ladder when he came to help fix a broken gutter, and smashed a mirror for use in her next installment piece.

But when the salt shaker spilled the evening before the chandelier was supposed to go up, she threw a pinch of the spilled salt over her left shoulder. It really wasn’t worth it to tempt fate like that.

Genius Flash

Terribly sorry for the delay on this, but I had a wicked case of food poisoning over the weekend and am only now really feeling alive again. Thank goodness for scheduled posts or you wouldn’t have gotten a prompt either!
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The department head had warned her that she was going to have a non-trad student in her class, which usually meant that there was some older person who was coming back to school to finally get their BA or get another one. They typically did their work without complaint and were generally more enjoyable to have in class than the kids fresh out of high school. They had some life experience under their belt and understood what kind of work was needed to get the most out of their college experiences.

At a minute to the bell, it looked like all of her students had arrived, though none of them looked a day over 18. She rather hated these 8am Intro to Literature courses, but every professor was required to teach at least one a semester and she’d rather get hers out of the way early in the day.

As she called the role, she noticed a younger looking woman who sat a bit more eagerly on the edge of her chair than the rest, and actually looked awake. Most of the other students were in some sort of pajamas, but this girl had actually taken the time to put on street clothes and do her hair.

As the professor started running through her usual litany of first class requirements and syllabi, she kept looking back at the girl who had immediately read through the entire handout and then sat there fidgeting. She had pulled out a notebook and was jotting down notes, but the older woman did not think they were about anything she was talking about, they included somewhat complicated looking diagrams and notations.

“Alright, unless there are any questions, I think that about wraps it up for the first class. I want you to read the first 100 pages of Flaubert before the next class.” When she heard a few groans, she propped her hands on her hips. “What? You have a whole extra half hour right now ’cause I’m letting you go early. The bookstore is open, go get it and get reading!”

The students straggled out of the room, except for the perky young girl, who, when she stood, looked even younger. She came up to the professor and looped her bag over one shoulder. “I just wanted to introduce myself. I’m Shirley, the non-trad.”

“Shirley, yes.” The professor kept packing up her books and files while they talked. “You don’t look like my normal non-trad. They usually have grey hair.”

“Well, I’m non-traditional in the other direction. I’m only 15.”

“That is certainly impressive.” The older woman glanced at her watch and inwardly groaned. Another home-schooled brat who thought she was better and smarter than the rest of the world.

The girl made a face. “I wanted to come two years ago, but no schools would let me in that young. My parents were fine with it.”

“Yes. I can see how that age might make it difficult.”

“But my advisors at the prep school got me into some community college courses so I could start exploring what I wanted to work in and so I spent the last two years determining I don’t want to work in math or science or any of that crap. I want to work in literature, I want to write.”

The professor was a little bit more intrigued now. The girl had some experience and hadn’t been coddled by her parents through the entrance exams after all. “Any particular reason why?”

“This is where you can really get into what humanity is. Psychology is all well and good, and I plan to double major in it, just for a solid foundation, but literature is where you can really express and explore the entire breadth of humanity. It’s exhilarating.”

“Yes, yes it is that. Well, the place to start is with that Flaubert reading.”

“Oh, I read him ages ago. Actually, I was hoping you might recommend a list of books I might read? Outside of class mind. I think I’ve already read the ones on the syllabus and  I’m really looking forward to the discussions about them; my parents, love ’em, didn’t know anything about anything really.”

“You’ve read the entire syllabus already? What about classics like War and Peace, Crime and Punishment?”

“Yes, and in the original Russian.”

The professor was genuinely intrigued. This young girl really got what literature was about and for and was presenting her with a challenge. What to recommend to a young woman who had read everything. The next class started to trickle in and the professor turned to her student.

“How about this. Come with me back to my office and we’ll see if there’s something there you haven’t read yet. I’ll get an idea of your taste and we’ll go from there. Sound good?”

“That sounds fantastic! Thanks so much, professor. I can’t tell you how much I’ve been looking forward to this.”

“Me too.”

Noisy Neighbors Flash

I figured I had to get Valentine’s Day in here as well somehow…
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Gregory woke up to the sounds of raucous sex echoing down the exhaust shaft outside his window. It wasn’t the first time, either. People seemed to forget that when your window was open to the shaft, everybody in the apartments above and below you could hear everything that was said, or moaned. This was the third time he’s heard this particular chorus of voices from above him at 2 in the morning, so this time, he thought he’d do something about it.

Throwing up the screen and sticking his head into the shaft, he hollered up, “Hey, can I join in?”

The voice stopped abruptly and the man shouted down–“Anytime you want, asshole!” And then they picked back right where they had left off, this time with some accompanying thumps on the floor/ceiling above him. It almost wouldn’t be so bad if they at least varied their routine. It seemed to be the same thing every time, and the girl only had the same stock phrases. “Oh, yeah, that’s right, right there, right there!” It was going to drive him mad. While the noises richoceted out into the night, Gregory plotted, trying to figure out the best way to get back at this noisy neighbor of his. He didn’t so much care that the guy felt like bragging that he was getting some, it was just really starting to impact his sleep schedule.

The next night, around 4 am, after his neighbors had stopped their monotonous moaning and thumping, Gregory turned on his cable, navigated his way to the porn channels (which, of course, he’d never been to before), picked one titled “Magnificent Moaners” and turned the volume up as high as it could go. Before long, he could hear down the vent. “Christ man, don’t tear her apart! Save some for me!”

Pausing the video, he hollered back, “As if you’d have the balls!” After restarting the video, he grabbed a broom and proceeded to slam the ceiling. Once the video ended, he finally collapsed into bed, hoping redbulls would get him through work and to a peaceful night tomorrow.

But the next night, his neighbor was at it again, it almost sounded like he was slamming a piece of furniture up and down on the floor, and so Gregory chimed in, competing with the noise from above until the Moaners video ended. And the next night, and the next. He was starting to put cracks in the plaster of his ceiling, but he didn’t really care. He was determined to show this jackass the error of his ways.

The next night was Valentine’s Day, and in honor of this commercial occasion that made single women depressed and single men drunk, the pay-per-view porn had added a new channel titled “Valentine Screamers.” And when his neighbor started up, Gregory turned on the show and started slamming his broom into the ceiling. About ten minutes into the program, dust started to rain down on him and Gregory looked up just in time to watch his ceiling cave in and a small man holding a dining room chair crash through and land on his couch.

A TV teetered on the edge of the hole, finally falling through and landing just in front of his own, a woman’s naked ass showing briefly before it shorted out and started to smoke.

“Valentine Screamers” was still playing loudly as Gregory cleared the dust out of his lungs and made his way over to the gentleman who had just fallen through into his apartment.

“Truce?” Gregory stuck out his hand.

The man rested his forehead on the back of the chair, and started laughing. He stood and grabbed Gregory’s hand, shaking it once, quite briefly. “Truce.”

Party Flash

Everything was opposite of her wedding. Black fondant on the cake with white swirls, sweeping black lace dress, dried flower bunches strewn throughout the room and her best friends all in garishly colored clubbing dresses. She was particularly proud of the cake-toppers she had made: hand-painted porcelain figurines of herself and Jim, with her figure pushing him off the edge of the three-tiered confection.

Everybody seemed to be having a wonderful time, herself included. It was common knowledge that he wasn’t a good husband. A fantastic lay, that was certain, but worthless as a business man and partner and he liked sharing his bedroom prowess with too many women. Thus, the divorce party.

Kathleen staggered up to her, martini in hand. “Are you guys exchanging anti-vows? I hear that’s super popular now.”

“Hell no, I’m not exchanging any more promises with that jackass. With his track-record, he’s liable to just break those as well and when I actually want him to leave me alone…”

“Fair enough!” She drained her glass. “Love the cake, can we cut it now?”

“Sure, I think it’s been admired long enough.” She swept her train over her arm and made her way to the food table.

“Your attention, your attention please!” The crowd quieted down and the DJ turned down the music, currently “Get Your Hands Off My Woman” by The Darkness. She had specified a play list as confrontational as possible. “As you all may know, today is the day when I am officially divorced from Jim.” As the crowd roared, she tipped his figurine entirely off the cake and watched with satisfaction as his horror stricken face shattered on her hardwood floor.

She plunged her hand into the side of the cake and pulled out a handful, holding it up like a trophy. “So lets indulge a little!” The cheered and desceneded on the cake, everyone reaching in to grab a bit. The new divorcee bent down to pick up the broken figuring of her ex-husband and worked her way out of the crowd, everyone congratulating her as she passed.

She finally found herself at the edge of the room, and slipped behind the decorative screen as her friends fought for a bite of the cake. Charlene was trying to maintain some sort of order until Kathleen shoved a handful in her face and it was a true free-for-all after that.

Alone for the moment, she gently arranged the figure of Jim on the windowsill facing the next apartment building, using the figurine of herself to prop him up. She allowed herself a single tear before brushing the crumbs off her face, straightening her bodice and rejoining the party.

 

Subversion Flash

Don’t you hate it when you stump yourself with your own prompt? Anyway, better late than never.
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They were a precision team, designed to tackle the most devastating obstacles and escort their charges safely to the other side. They were battle hardened and weary from being on their feet since dawn, but these things never asked whether you were tired. They never asked whether you needed a break. They came whenever they decided, and the harder they made life for you, the better.

It was the men they were escorting through this ordeal that fared the worst. Concussions, broken bones (noses and hands were common), psychological trauma that even the most savvy PTSD therapist had trouble cracking. The women were eventually fine. Most of them. But it was hard.

And another case just slammed through the door, screaming, blood dripping from the husband’s nose. “I didn’t know what to do, what should I do?”

The wife panted and moaned, clutching her abdomen, and the husband paled, listing slightly. “I can’t take it anymore, what can I do?”

The nurses usher him out to have someone look at this nose and the rest of the team turn to the woman, timer running, braced for the worst. “Dilation complete, this one barely made it in time. It’s crowning! Ready to receive the package in five…four…three…two…”