I brush the mints back together and build once more. My towers collapse consistently at the addition of the eighth drop. I repeat it no matter the count of failure. There is something reassuring in doing the same action over and over, knowing the result, its inevitability. A meditation with open eyes.
Beyond the tarnish of my windshield she loads her shopping into the back of her car. More wine than usual. She bought pancakes at the Waffle House, when I used to work there. Now she subsists on boxed mix. I look to the watch she bought me, its hands stopped on a meaningless hour.
The tower falls. She closes her door, looks around. Drives away. I brush the mints back together and build once more.
His apologies felt as if they would be heard by few, but he penned them all the same. A sorry for being present but inattentive, the gaps in his existence, the fruitlessness of a month or more. His attention and efforts had been elsewhere. When not stapled to his teaching desk, words had been written in other books, in other times. He thought that rather than be alone with his thoughts, it had been best to share them. Some of them had even paid to hear what he had to say. Despite the successes, soon enough things would be back to the way they were.
Leaving the lens of fiction aside for just a moment, I would like to thank everyone who has read my little fictions so far. This year is far from the year of cancellations and online learning as the last was, and as such, my time for writing has been lessened. What little I have had has been channeled into a few other avenues rather than this blog, and it would mean a lot to me if you checked them out. Chalk Snow is not dead nor forgotten, but it has proven difficult to find time to fully create, edit, and post a microfiction every day among the other demands of work and family. I hope to get back to more regular writings here soon, but in the meantime, please enjoy my work that has appeared elsewhere:
Stark trees still in hibernation, he turned the lamp down. Flushed the light from the shutters. Drew the locks across the doors. None had found this hideaway yet.
His fingertips found his wards scrawled into the doorframe wood. Hoping they would buy him time, should she return. He had let her in once and still paid for it in lost homes. Self-care had come too late.
He counted the tools on his belt and settled into the armchair to sleep. For another night, he waited for the light of the hearth to wane. Listened for feet on the gravel path.
The skin of her fingertip held together with a clamp, she applied a line of superglue. Took in its scent as it bonded the two halves back together. A dressmaker until the need for dresses died, she had slipped with the knife she was using for her work. Cut off a larger piece than intended. Unfamiliar with the new medium, she’d have to grow accustomed to it soon. Once the glue dried she would start work on the mask again. Any more failures, and she would have to get more material. She crossed her fingers. She cared very little for the tanning process.
The brief summer love now stretching her shirt had him asking questions of himself. Counting the options on his fingers. Am I a provider? Am I capable of unconditional love? Will biology fail them like it has failed me? He turned the weight from one palm to another. Considered the matter objectively.
He broke the action and filed his choice away. As one palm grew lighter, so did his conscience. This course of his had the least amount of pain, in the grand scheme of things. Despite the heat, the metal still felt cold. The hammer clicking back like relief.
“Fuck you, pal,” the old boy spits. His spectacles as wide as his face, accentuating his other frog-like qualities. I bogart my cigarette. Just the three of us. Nothing to stop it getting further out of hand.
“You sit yourself down in a smoking area and then tell me it’s rude to smoke when other people are eating?” I cloud. “Do you go into doctor’s waiting rooms and demand the sick people leave?”
“When to smoke is a choice,” he continues, putting his wife’s coat on her shoulders. She glares an old woman glare. I throw her a wink and drink in the disgust.
“So is your being here,” I say. “And in the cosmic order of things, I was here first.” A deep drag. Maintain the eye contact.
But he doesn’t bite. They leave, throwing curses and middle fingers over their shoulders. I sigh. Put another tally on the notepad. Count the number of tabs left in the box. If someone doesn’t take the bait and swing a punch at me before long, I am never going to get to claim self-defence if the police come calling. A bet is a bet, and this one is going to expire soon. Then I’ll really be in trouble.
A sword, glum and without sheen. Too ugly to be a display piece, but there it was, above the mantelpiece. Dormant, without its scabbard.
“Why’d you keep that hideous thing up there, Uncle Vernon?” I ask. He had invited me for dinner, unusually. We hadn’t spoken in years. Not since our argument. He called me a wastrel, pissing away his dead brother’s nest-egg. He wasn’t completely wrong. Two years later and I’m penniless.
“There’s an old family legend, lad,” he says over his brandy. “That this weapon must take a life every fifty years, or our house will fall into ruin.”
I drain my drink to the ice. “You said this dinner was about a job opportunity, Uncle,” I say with impatience.
“It is,” he says, unblinking. “Let’s wait for our dinner to go down first.”
The corrections officer ran the biometric scanner up Graham’s breast. Bold, digitized, red, it declared: EXPIRED. Many observers would have still called him a child at his sentencing, those decades ago when the implantations began. The need for prisons crashed when repeat offenders carried explosives somewhere on them.
Graham had knuckled down. Studied hard. Added letters of all sorts to the end of his name. Stayed whole while other boys from his gang tried again. Lost arms. Faces. Lives. He would be a model example of the project’s positive effects. Took a role in the implant factory to prove his route to reformed citizen was complete.
The officer waved him off, a free man. He left, cycling the serial numbers he’d memorized. The list of duds he had approved for use. Graham would contact their owners tonight. He had just the job in mind.
The flare casts a ghost light over that landscape shorn of trees or shelter. We conscripts knew the hills where the enemy dwelt and assembled the last guns known to the sane. Laid fire on the mountainside until nothing remained. Trees splintered and threw themselves into matchwood. The aftermath of a windless storm. Only raw earth to bury the very green of this world’s last goodbyes.
Now we man posts on this barren and forsaken expanse to our doom. If a figure moves in the midst of that friendless waste, our orders to fire again. Yet naught but stillness for months. Food runs low. The men wonder if we are the only ones left. I order them to stare down their sights, and throw flares hopelessly up to the black.