Category: very short stories

Around the corner

Around the corner, up the stairs. Listen. Do you hear it? The subtle scratch, the soft scrape against cement.

He is writing, etching characters into the wall. A confession. A terrible truth. Or a lie.

Or maybe it’s code. A barely perceptible rhythm scratching out a message. Tap tap tap. Meet me in the back room. With the red wall. Come alone.

Maybe he is just trying to escape and he doesn’t even know you’re there. An unintentional voyeur. But there it is, the distinct sound. Knocking against the lock, prying metal away from stone. It’s really only a matter of time before he cracks it. Snaps it free. Gets away.

Wistful lampshade

He often thought about the outside — what was out there. Leaning against the patterned wallpaper, which smelled of smoke (the man) and lemons (the woman) and stickiness (the boy), he would look through the large window and wonder.

He imagined what the world world feel like: the warm press of the sun, the wind’s gentle exhalations passing by, rain travelling down the length of him to the ground. Quieter. Nicer.

The people who walked by each day: where did they go? The woman with the purple scarf and briefcase, the red-headed boy on the red bike, the teenager with the black hood. Once they slipped out of range, past the window frame, and further along the tree-lined sidewalk, where did they go?

Outside had all the answers. Inside had all the problems.

Upstairs room

There was a darkness to the upstairs room. A darkness to him. He sat indistinct in a corner of the room where one shadow dissolved into another. The scent of ashes and ancient newspapers clung to the air. But there was something else, too.

The old window, propped open by a spinecracked book and covered in filth and memory, let in more chill than light. A curl of grey smoke slipped from the dark space where his face would be, clawing its way upward against the draft, but pushed toward the back of the flat. Pressed toward forty-year-old wallpaper and cracked knickknacks. Summoned toward that door.

His voice, gravelled and grave, “I wouldn’t open that, if I were you.”

#10: Shifted

It was so quiet here. Just a car or two every once in a while, the travelling crunch of gravel quickly dissipating before reaching the porch. And occasionally the distant rattle of a tractor, a jet scraping across the sky.

The best part was the trees. The little white house was enveloped by trees. Embraced by them.

The trees are what she misses most. The vibrant colours of autumn, the crackle of leaves falling to the roof. Bare wintry branches and their muffled creaks as cold crept into the dampened trunks. The dark, leafy canopy of summer that eclipsed the sun, but let the quiet warmth dissolve down.

From every room you could hear the wind rush though the leaves, a sound as soft as water or triumphant as applause. It thrummed over the roof, beyond the road and what lay ahead.

The best part was the trees. Even as the house shifted. And shifted.

#4: What the past won’t speak back

If these diner seats wanted to talk they would start speaking and never stop. But they won’t. The cheap, highly-durable red vinyl is, if anything, reliable. Relentlessly faithful. They’ve heard the screeches of children and the belly-aching of old men. They’ve borne witness to plots and plans and countless whispered adolescent trysts. Oh, the crushes and crashes and clandestine moments of young, pitiable love.

These seats have withstood the violent ends of friendships, but have also gently cradled young lovers who spent hours finishing a milkshake, then married, and kept coming back until the decades blurred together.

Take a good look. These booths have never changed. After over 50 years the floor still creaks in the space above the stairs, on the back wall toward the kitchen. The pungent smell of old grease still hangs the air. You can also taste a “special.”

Remember what he told me back then? When that high chair was a juke box that gobbled our quarters and supplied the soundtrack to endless confessions and plates of fries. Do you remember what he said?

The old red seats remember. But they won’t betray a word.

#3: Octopus lost

Oscar woke up confused. He didn’t know where he was. He looked up and down, to the sides and back — although this effort was exacerbated by the fact that he was horizontal and facing sideways. And stuck to the side of something. A tenacious tentacle twitched against cold metal. It appeared that Oscar was adhered to a chain link fence. Curious that. And Oscar was a curious cephalopod.

Cars whizzed above on a concrete roadway in the sky. It made Oscar dizzy just looking up at it with one eye. All brightness and blue sky and buzzing. But the sound was somewhat soothing given this particular predicament. Below, and much closer, was a roughened pavement of stones from a nearby construction site. It didn’t look like a very comfortable place to land. A lone straggly weed looked up at him from the other side of the fence.

Oscar breathed in. Cough. He breathed in again. Better. He opened his other eye wide to take in the situation. All eight arms present — although in a deplorable state: fluffy rose now matted to a pink paleness, white dirtied to grey. No matter. It’s nothing that a little soap and water and fluff-dry couldn’t mend.

Now to the matter at hand: extrication from this metallic inconvenience.

Octopi have a uncanny way of getting out of tight spaces. Ask anyone. The lack of a skeleton can be invaluable. And their ability to perform complex reflex actions without even involving the brain is uncanny.

Hoping to remain inconspicuous, Oscar waited for the cover of darkness to make his move. And although he was a highly intelligent invertebrate, he didn’t even have to think about it.

In the morning Oscar was gone.