I’ve been having a rough couple weeks, to be honest, and it’s striking to see how quickly things can turn around. Friendships can become complicated, narratives muddled, feelings distorted. It has left me in a bit of a rift as far as inspiration goes, so I’ve been wrestling with what to write today. I’ve got a few blog posts in the wings, but without proper motivation spurring me on while writing them, I fear they would fall flat. It’s the same way you can’t approach a project you’re not in the mood for: it needs your love, not your feeling of obligation.
So they’re there, the post about my grandmother, the dissertation on remakes, reboots and sequels. They’re waiting for the light of day to breathe their first breaths and bask in your dis/approval.
Couldn’t do it today. I wanted to get a little weird with it, so I opted to write a flash fiction about… well, nothing really. Nothing except a concept fluttering behind a heavy chest of discontent. Hopefully you lot find it worth a read:
The day was lazy. Thin clouds loitered in a pale blue sky. It wasn’t the hottest it had been that July but it was close; parks were full and offices empty, the rash of calls claiming sickness fooling nobody.
Tom was inside longing for outside, but he had resolved not to leave the bookstore until he had found something suitable to plop down on the grass with. He had been wandering the aisles of bookcases for an hour and he couldn’t pinpoint whether it was an excess of books appealing to him or a dearth. He just walked, looked, fingered through and sighed until his aimlessness had him halfway through The Essential Guide to Horses.
He didn’t like horses. Well, that wasn’t quite true. The concept of horses appealed to him. The history of horse husbandry was interesting, and he admitted that there was a majesty in the way their muscles rippled as they galloped. He would probably eat a horse, if he saw it on the menu.
But like them? No. When he was a child, his father had insisted on trying to teach him to ride without actually providing any more assistance than words to do so. The animal had taken off despite Tom’s bleating requests for it not to and had majestically galloped him into a low-hanging stable roof. He hadn’t expected the wood to yield and the wood didn’t disappoint, driving the wind from his lungs and sending him sprawling into dirt and hay.
Behind closed eyes, “When you fall off a horse, you must get back on” floated in cartoon letters. This thought was immediately succeeded by, “To hell with that, I’m buying a bicycle.”
So, horses. Tom wasn’t a fan.
“What are you reading?”
He looked up into the eyes of a woman about his age. Her hair was dark and bangs curled down to just over her eyes. Not every woman could pull off bangs. This one was working them like a job and his immediate response evaporated in his throat and came out as a dry, “Uh…”
Her eyes were heterochromatic. The right iris was an almost teal blue. The left was the color of honey.
“Stable animals,” he managed.
“It’s the quiet ones you need to watch out for,” she quipped with a wink. “So, you like horses?”
“Uh, yeah. They’re, you know…the best.”
“I hate them,” she said rolling her eyes.
“Thank God. I was actually just thinking about how I would eat one. If a restaurant were serving it, I mean. I’m not going to sneak onto someone’s farm or anything.”
“But you’re reading about them.”
“Know thy enemy and all that.”
She leaned back and appraised him again. A slow smile crept across lips the color of bubblegum.
“I’m sorry,” Tom said. “Do I know you?”
“Do you think so?”
“I think you would be difficult to forget if we had met before.”
She shook her hair and tucked a lock behind one ear. “I saw you over here and wondered why you weren’t soaking up the sun somewhere.”
“I could ask you the same thing.”
“Oh, I’m allergic.”
Tom’s brow rose. “To the sun?”
“Like Doctor Moreau.”
Tom found himself matching her smile. “Now that’s a reference.”
“Marisol Avila,” she said, extending her hand.
He took it in his own and gave it two small shakes. The skin of her palm was soft. He wondered if she used lotion and, if so, what it smelled like. She seemed like an apricot kind of girl.
“Really?” she asked and crinkled her nose.
“Unfortunately.” He had never forgiven his parents for that. Thankfully, his name and putting him on top of wild animals were the worst crimes they had committed towards him. “You caught me trying to find a book to read. I’m hoping I can make a decision before thr day decides to stop being so nice. I just, ah, got a little lost on the way.”
“I found myself in the same predicament.”
“Well, what kind of books do you read? Maybe we can help each other out.”
“You know those supernatural romance novels that have been getting big lately?”
Tom winced. He couldn’t be sure if he did it physically or internally. “Yeah…”
“Anything but those.” She flashed her teeth. They were impossibly white. One of her lower incisors was crooked. It fascinated him.
“Then I don’t have any suggestions, sorry,” he said and she laughed. He looked around at the other customers browsing. One older woman had looked over at the sound and smiled at them. Tom cleared his throat. “I have a question and it might sound a little crazy, but if I don’t ask I’m going to kick myself.”
“I love crazy questions.” She leaned in and her two-colored eyes zeroed in on his own, as if they were trying to find the query in his mind before he could ask it.
“What if we didn’t buy books?”
Marisol gasped. “Abandon the mission?”
“Adjust our objectives.”
“What are you suggesting?”
“I was thinking…” Tom hesitated. He had never been a forward man, but something about her inspired confidence in him. “What if we went out to a park and just kept each other company.”
“Or someone’s lawn,” Marisol said eagerly. “Like, their backyard. Communal sun sharing.”
Tom snorted. “Sure. We could get to know each other better. You seem more interesting than most of the books in here.”
“I don’t know about that,” she said coyly. “But I’m definitely more interesting than a horse. Sure, Tom. I think I’d like that. I’m your Huckleberry.”
“Har har. Wait… is that a Tombstone reference?”
Marisol grinned. “Two birds with one stone, that one.”
Tom shook his head and closed the book. He gestured towards the entrance of the bookstore and they began to walk out together. This was the kind of story he had been looking for. The dread he felt at turning the page was the good kind. The uncertain kind.
“Tell me something about yourself,” he said.
“Well, I have two different colored eyes.”
“Do you? That seems like the kind of thing I should have noticed.”
Marisol pushed the door open and they stepped out into the warmth of summer. The portal closed behind them and the world opened before them. It was shaping up to be a pretty good day.
–Halfway through writing this, I thought it might be interesting to do this story again from Marisol’s perspective. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I didn’t want to necessarily post the same story twice on my blog. It seemed like a cop-out. If I did it. If you read this and you would like to take a crack at it, feel free! I would love to see your ideas and perspectives. And either way, hope you enjoyed this. It was cathartic to write, at least.
And Part Two: With a Kiss In the Wind
And the Conclusion: Something In the Water