Tag Archives: short story

Don’t Cry Over Spilled Liquor

I walked into the subway station and there she was, behind a pillar, crying hysterically. I mean tears running down her face, red eyes, and stumbling a little, which made me think she was drunk. Was she? Who knows.

Then I saw the broken pieces of glass shattered everywhere, with a pool of clear liquid surrounding them. The bottom of the bottle, still intact, rose from the liquidy shards like a miniature mountain. For once, the subway didn’t have that dank smell created from too many people shoved into an underground room.

Instead, it smelled of liquor. Purifying, clean liquor. It would have been a nice change if not for the tearful twenty-something sobbing without control.

I assumed she was drunk, hence the stumbling, but as I sat on the subway, I tried to put a better spin on it. Maybe the bottle was a gift for someone. Maybe it was an expensive gift, one she saved for, to impress a boyfriend, or girlfriend, or best friend or boss or lover or some other kind of person important to her life.

That kind of broke my heart, so instead I went back to my original thought. She was drunk, wanted to keep the party going, and would have to figure out another way to do so.

broken-bottle

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Albert’s Arc

John was trying to communicate but just couldn’t get anyone to assist him. “Excuse eh mwa,” he said to a man who ignored him and continued through the Jardin de Petit Palais.
A tall thin man passing by overheard his struggles and approached.
“Bonjour, madame, monsieur,” he said in a thick French accent. He spoke in his native tongue to the man who nodded and walked away.
“Well, it’s nice to know not all Frenchmen are rude,” John said to the stranger. “I’m John, this is my wife, Mabel. Won’t you join us?” The man adjusted his glasses and sat down with them on a park bench.
“I’m Albert. First time in Paris?”
This time Mabel spoke. “Bon-joor, Al-bear,” she exaggerated his French name, trying her best. “Yes, it’s our first time. And we love it. Dja adoor,” she said with a smile. He smiled back, appreciative of her attempt.
“Don’t judge Paris on this man. Not all Parisians are like him. Where are you from?”
“New York City,” John said with pride.
“Ah, yes, ze big pomme…er…apple, yes? I’ve been zere once. I loved it. Very fast. What have you zeen zo far in Paris?”
“We climbed that tower of yours. It’s no Empire State, that’s for sure,” John responded.
“But beautiful and very romantic,” added Mabel. She adjusted her jacket and fixed her white hat.
“Ah, been to ze famous Parisian stores, hmm?” Albert asked her, regarding her hat. She giggled and blushed a bit. “It is very…you – as you Americans say. Where are you headed now?”
John pulled out a small travel guide and flipped to a specific page. “The Arch De Triumph.”
“Say it like ze Noah’s Ark. Ark.”
“Aha! The Arc de Triumph. Got it. Thanks, Al-bert,” he said, forgetting not to say the final t of his name. “Er…Al-bear.” Albert nodded in appreciation.
“I am heading that way, would you like me to show you?”
Mabel giggled again. “Oh, yes, please do join us! Is it okay Johnny? Imagine being shown around by a true-blue Frenchman!” John nodded and they were off.
The café was just three short blocks from the arc, so they barely had time to chat before they came upon the street they had to cross to get there. “Be careful crossing here, it is a very busy street and Parisians don’t always stop.” He laughed as Mabel looked nervous. “I kid, I kid. Come.”
As they approached, another man in some sort of uniform saw them approaching the building and headed for them. He spoke French to Albert, who responded quickly as if the two were great friends.
“Zis is my friend, Francoise, and he has agreed to let us go up to the top. Would you like zis?”
“Oh yes! Of course we would!” Mabel said. Francoise led them to a door and unlocked it with a smile.
“Bon journee!” he said to them after shaking Albert’s hand.
After many stone steps, they made it to the roof. Mabel ran to the stone wall that surrounded the top and pulled out her camera to take a shot of the Eiffel Tower.

“Look at this view!” she said with a gasp. “John! Look at Paris from up here! This is better than from the tower!” She snapped a few shots while John and Albert watched.
“We really appreciate this, Al-bear,” he said. “Mabel sure loves it up here.” She ran from side to side snapping shots and advancing the film in her camera as the two men watched on.
Albert walked to the wall facing the tower and sat. “You can see all of the arrondisements, from here. I am from the 4th, which is just zere,” he said, pointing. “And I work in the 11th, as a professor, that way,” he pointed again. “I’ve fallen in love in each of ze arrondisements except the 12th. No luck there, yet.” Mabel sighed and leaned into John, taking his hand. He was startled just the smallest bit because he wasn’t aware she was there listening.
“You’ve fallen in love that many times?”
“Oui. How many times pour vous?”
“Just the once…John!”
Albert sighed. “Perhaps I should be in ze twelfth.”
Mabel smiled. “Oh yes! That’s probably where she is! Waiting for you!”
Albert leaned back and let the sun warm his face. “I have a…friend there. Geraldine. She is lovely. I adore her. But…she is just a friend. She does not see me zees way.”
“Nonsense! You’ve got a stable profession, you’re good looking, what else could a woman want?”
He stood and placed his hands in his pockets, looking over the city in the direction of the twelfth.
“You should ask her on a date. Why not? She’d be crazy not to fall for you lickety-split, I tell you. Tell him!” she said, nudging her husband. He just stood looking toward the tower, pretending not to hear.
Albert’s eyes looked distant as he continued to stare into the twelfth arrondisement. “Perhaps,” he whispered.

Anthology Philly

I am super proud of Anthology Philly, a collection of short stories from up and coming Philadelphia Area authors. Here is the intro I wrote and never put into the actual book because I was so excited about it and forgot:

The City of Brotherly Love is known throughout the nation as a place with a depth of historical wealth. Philadelphia is the home to history-making locations such as Independence Hall, and the most famous bell in the country, The Liberty Bell. The “Love” statue in Love Park has become an iconic image of the modern art world. And who can ever forget the William Penn Statue and all of the urban legends surrounding that?

With such a magnitude of meaning, it’s no wonder that Philadelphia has become a cultural epicenter of the United States. The city boasts several arts and events such as First Friday, the Philadelphia Film Festival, the Philly Fringe Festival, and First Person Arts. Philly has recently evolved into one of the great cultural centers of our time.

Anthology Philly showcases work from some of the great new writers of the Philadelphia area. Each story pays homage to The City of Brotherly Love and all of the aspects of our wonderful metropolis. Even through generational changes, Philadelphia continues to touch its residents and visitors in a meaningful way. Some will always remember the Christmas light show at Wanamaker’s while others will think of the same show at Macy’s. Some will reminisce about the days of seeing Sinatra play Convention Hall while others love the memories of standing in line waiting for an R5 show at the Unitarian Church. In either case, the experience of Philadelphia creates memories and sparks creativity across generations.

The richness of Philadelphia’s culture has inspired the stories within this anthology.

We hope you feel the love.

My First Story Published in a Magazine!

Hey all! For those of you who follow me here, I wanted to let everyone know my first short story EVER to be published in a magazine is available online today! The story, originally published here on my blog (but since taken down for publishing) is called I Heart Polka (And I’m Not Talking About the Dots). Click here to purchase the Instigatorzine issue. Here’s the cover:

Scroll to the bottom of the page to order it. They even have it for Kindle!

And be sure to check out the cool Melancholy Robot stories I’ve been doing along with many talented artists!

How to Show a Girlfriend You Love Her on Her Birthday

All photographs by the amazing Sandra Markovic.  See her website or her blog.

It was her birthday, and it had been a long time since she’d moved in with him from Ohio, and without her mom around he knew she’d likely be a little down. He had to come up with the plan of all plans. How could he make her feel as special as she made him feel? She reminded him on a regular basis, with her fake French accent that he adored, how she sometimes wore her hair in two perfect ponytails because he once told her it was so cute, how she always bought him kalamata olive hummus even though she was more of a fan of roasted red pepper…this list could go on and on. This had to be perfect.

He could go on a quest for the perfect gift. But she was better than that. A perfect night of romance? No, too simple.

This was going to be tough, and he knew it. He easily and nonchalantly reminded her he loved her on a daily basis, which now made a perfect birthday near impossible. He’d outdone himself on so many occasions so naturally, without even trying, that now when it really counted he was drawing a blank. Coming up empty. <insert another cheesy cliché here>.

✩✩✩✩✩

When she came home from the studio she had a feeling something big would happen. She opened the door slowly, expecting any number of possibilities but found nothing. She looked in the living room, dining room, he didn’t even seem to be home. Where was he?

She went to the kitchen, and there was a pot on the stove. She opened it, an automatic response since he often left her meals, and in it was a simple yellow post-it.

“Our first kiss.”

She put the post-it down and started to go upstairs, then suddenly stopped halfway up, ran back down, quickly grabbed her coat and rushed out the front door.

✩✩✩✩✩

She practically ran to the nearby park, past the children playing on the merry-go-round, past the slide, the sandbox, the see saws, to the swing set, to the second swing, and sat down. What next?

A little girl walked up to her. She was in the cutest little dress, pigtails, huge, innocent eyes, and asked, “Are you Alexandra?” She looked at the little girl and nodded, smiling, as the little girl search her pockets and pulled out a post-it. “He says this is for you.” At this the little girl ran back to her mother, embarrassed, and her mother gave her a hug, then looked at Alexandra and smiled.

Shaking, Alexandra unfolded the post-it and read. “The place where you wrote that song I love.”

And off Alexandra went.

✩✩✩✩✩

And so Alexandra found herself jumping into her car, the Volkswagon bus she’d bought right before they drove cross-country. She turned the ignition and it chugged, chugged, started, stalled. She tried again. And again. That’s when she noticed the post-it on the seat next to her.

“Put on your best.”

For once she appreciated the stalling car and ran inside. She quickly found an old fifties dress, her favorite, practically tore off her clothing, threw it on and ran out the door, hoping the old bus would be friendlier to her.

It was.

She tore out of the parking spot and headed in the direction of the diner where she wrote the song 1900 Miles and pulled into the parking lot. She took quick notice that his car wasn’t there so knew there would be another post-it.

Upon entering the diner, she looked towards their favorite booth, saw it was marked RESERVED and sat there, panting a bit. Their usual waitress walked up.

“Hey there. How’s it going so far?” she said with a knowing smirk.

“Fine.” She couldn’t contain her smile. “Do you have something for me?”

“Yup. Wait here.”

As Alexandra sat, impatiently, curious and overwhelmed with feelings, she was having the time of her life.

That’s when the waitress returned with a cup of hot Earl Grey tea with a little milk.

“He said you’d figure it out. He said there was no note this time.”

Alexandra looked at the tea she’d just set before her and really had to think. No note. That meant the clue had to be…

…THE TEA!

✩✩✩✩✩

Alexandra had the tea switched to a to go cup, tried to pay, found out he’d paid in advance, and ran out the door on yet another adventure.

She knew he loved a certain store, one of those barrel places that has bins and bins of food purchased by the pound, and there was a whole tea room. They’d spent hours of time together in there, searching for different teas they’d yet to try. That had to be it.

She raced into the parking lot, and as she ran in pulled the door too hard and let it slam against the wall.

“Hey!”

“Oops sorry Mister Hansel. But I’m in a hurry.”

He looked upset but when he realized it was Alexandra a warm smile came over his face.

“So you figured it out. I wasn’t sure you would, but he assured me you’d get it.”

She smiled. “Yup!” and she ran off to the tea room.

She ran in, startling the new girl who was in there, and frantically started searching the giant jars and containers of tea looking for the right one.

“Can I help you with something?”

“No. Yes! I am looking for the Earl Grey Crème. It’s our favorite.”

They both started looking, and the girl became as frantic as Alexandra, without really knowing why.

“Got it!” the girl yelled triumphantly, as Mister Hansel sauntered in, smiling. Alexandra grabbed it, turned it around, and sure enough there it was, a post-it.

She started to run out the door when Mister Hansel stopped her.

“Alexandra,” he said. “Take this.” He handed her an old thermos, red plaid, and she felt it was still warm. “Tell him this one’s on me.”

She sat in the car and looked at the post-it.

It was a drawing of a record.

✩✩✩✩✩

And so now she was headed to their record store. Alexandra pulled into the lot and was already heading to the record store, a place where they’d spent hours upon hours looking, listening, and experiencing all kinds of music.

Now the question Alexandra had to ask was, where, in the millions of records and cds did he hide the post-it? She had to think.

Bridgette Bardot. Nope. Belle and Sebastian. No. Maurice Chevalier, Shins, Decemberists, Frank Sinatra, still nothing. She really had to think. But while she was there, she should check for that one that she ALWAYS checked for, in every store, since she’d started collecting records. Claudine Longet. You never know, maybe it would be there.

And it was. With a post-it. She ran up to the counter, and the clerk gave a smile.

“I wasn’t sure you’d find it. He said you would. But I’ve never even seen that record in print before. He must have spent a pretty penny on it.”

“So wait, this isn’t yours?”

“No honey, it’s yours.” The elderly clerk smiled, and Alexandra walked towards the door, checking the post-it as she walked, wondering where else her birthday would take her.

She opened the next post-it.

“Our favorite meal.”

And so she was off again.

✩✩✩✩✩

Kenny was working, and she was glad because the last thing she needed was to ask a stranger for her note.

She ran up to the counter.

“Now I know you’re not here for food, are you.”

She was out of breath and panting. He laughed.

“It’s over there.”

She ran in the direction he was pointing but didn’t see a note. She kept looking around and lifted a blanket that was sitting on a chair. The post-it fell out.

She grabbed it and started walking when Kenny stopped her.

“Hey, don’t forget that. It’s yours.”

She looked back at the blanket, and realized that it was one she’d been wanting for a while from her favorite store, the one he called the hippie store because it always smelled like incense. Alexandra couldn’t help but love that place, it reminded her of her mom, and she missed her mom.

She ran back and grabbed it, took a big whiff, and ran off.

“Have fun!” Kenny yelled.

She waved and ran out, reading the next note.

“I love you.”

This one was easy. And it was one of her favorite places.

✩✩✩✩✩

She pulled into the state park, the place where they went anytime it was nice out. They’d played Frisbee, hiked, flown kites, taken nice strolls along the river, it was a beautiful place. She went right to their favorite path. The next note had to be there.

She grabbed her backpack in case it was a long walk, the thermos Mr. Hensley had given her, and the blanket because she loved the smell and was really missing her mom. She started walking along the river, thinking it was a beautiful day and the next note was probably near this tree where he’d started babbling incoherently, eventually leading up to the best “I love you” she’d ever heard.

She strolled down the path now, relaxed, taking in the beauty of the park, the woods, the trees, the sound of the nearby river so relaxing, and she found the tree with the note stuck to it. She opened it. It said, “I love you,” and she jumped a little, as if the note had spoken, and then realized he was behind her.

She spun around and he grabbed her, she grabbed him, and they held each other as if they’d been apart for years. She backed away and he pushed her hair behind her ear, looked at her, and covered her with small, romantic kisses.

Her knees gave out a little and he was forced to hold on a little tighter, and they both laughed. He took the blanket and started walking. She followed.

He walked up to the huge rock where they’d talked after he admitted his love, requited of course, and he laid out the blanket next to the rock and pulled a picnic basket from the cracks in the boulders. She smiled.

Then he cranked an antique record player they’d found at a yard sale and put out his hand. She reached into her bag and grabbed the record, handing it to him. He started the music and then reached his hand out again for her hand, knowing full well she didn’t need help, but hell, he was a gentleman.

And so they picnicked, sitting on a giant boulder alongside a picturesque river, warm tea from the thermos, and talked until sunset, when they just cuddled on the blanket, stargazed, and he couldn’t help but wonder what the hell he was going to do to top this next year.

Special thanks to Sandra, who took the essence of this story and depicted it with perfection and a professionalism that I find both impressive and admirable.  Please check out her blog and website which I posted links to at the beginning of the story.  Sandra will also be posting many related photographs that I was unable to work into the post, but are beautiful and should be viewed by all.

The Realistic Optimist

She sat down at the table and     automatically lifted the mug of coffee towards her face, analyzed it, then sniffed it.

“I’m sure it’s fine,” he said with a snicker.  “Why do you always think it’s going to be wrong?”

She took off her hoodie and draped it over the chair behind her.  “Because they rarely, if ever, get it  exactly how I order it.”

“So negative for an optimist!”

“Let’s just say I’m a realistic optimist and leave it at that.”  She stirred the coffee and took another sniff.  “I think there’s too much cinnamon.”

He laughed.  “No such thing.”

“As too much cinnamon?” she asked with a smile.

“No, jerk.  As a realistic optimist.”

“Sure there is.”

“Optimists are dreamers by nature.  A person claiming to be a realistic optimist is just an undercover pessimist, trying to figure out why optimists are so optimistic, what makes them tick, why they think there will be a happy ending regardless of how things are in the present.”

“Nah,” she said, swatting his idea away from the table.  “I’m a dreamer who hopes for the best, but prepares for the worst.”

“An optimist wouldn’t prepare for the worst.  He or she would just know that either the best will happen, or they will take something from the bad event, no matter what it is, that will make them a better person.”

She sighed and took a sip.  “Hmmm…I was right, too much cinnamon, not enough milk.”  She put it down and pushed it away from her and towards him.

He reached over and grabbed the cup, walked to the self-serve table, and added some milk.  He sipped it, added a little more, and returned.

“It still has too much cinnamon, I’ll bet you,” she said.  He handed it to her and she sipped it, said nothing, and put it down, this time on the table right in front of her.  He smiled.

Photograph and some dialogue by Jessica Brookins.

Dreams From Italy

I dreamt of Italy last night.

I was there on a family vacation, but somehow spending a day alone.  I ended up lost in a small town, alone, wandering and trying to figure out how I’d gone so far off the beaten trail.

And that was when I met her, this beautiful woman in a magical world, and she walked right up to me as if she’d known me forever.

“You’re the one I am supposed to marry,” she said, in very good English, considering.

“I am?”

“Yes, you are.  I have dreamt of you every night since I was a young girl.  Everything I did led me to this moment, to you.  I have been waiting here a long time for you.”

I looked at her in disbelief, looked around to see if I was being mugged by gypsies, but when I returned my gaze to her she took my face between her hands and forced me to look into her wide, beautiful brown eyes, and I saw an innocence in them that told me she was telling the truth.

I had finally found her.

She took my hand and led me to a huge festival, a carnival-like atmosphere where the town seemed to be celebrating something.  She brought me through crowds, so many of the elders smiling at us, as she locked her arm into mine, as if they also knew I would someday arrive and marry her.  Young girls followed behind us, giggling and pointing us out to others, who also started to follow, as she brought me to a large table with about thirty people seated.  She said something in Italian I couldn’t understand, and everyone stopped talking and looked up at me.  They looked serious at first, and then slowly smiles took over their faces, and the men started jumping out of their seats and running to me, clapping me on the back.  Older women hugged me and kissed my cheeks, and eventually I found myself separated from my new love, surrounded by her family.

And elderly woman, wrinkles that seemed older than me covering her face, hobbled up.  She was so thin a hug would break her, and she beckoned me closer; I had to bend down to hear her, and even then someone had to translate for me.  She spoke slowly and deliberately, as if this would be her last speech.  A younger boy translated for me.

“It is custom for a new man to find his woman.  She has run off.  You must find her if you wish to marry her.”

“Why?” I asked.

The boy translated for me, and the old woman frowned and responded.

“It is our town’s custom and it has been this way for hundreds of years.  That is why,” he told me.

And so I left and wandered around the carnival for a while, suddenly compelled to leave it and wander a dark road.  I’m not sure what drove me in the direction I chose, whether it was confusion or the love I found for this new woman leading me to her.  I stayed on the road for a bit and when I saw a bus stopped in front of a large, ancient church, I turned towards the building to look around.  It was full of people who traveled a long way just to see this place, and as I walked towards it I stepped through many small, glass jars that littered the ground.  I looked down to find the grass, the path, and all of the land covered with little jars and lids.

I bent down and picked one up, examining the substance that once filled it.  I could tell it was some sort of jelly or preserve, and I stuck my finger in and took out a tiny bit of it, tasting it.  It was delicious.  I placed this jar back on the ground and started towards the building, seeing a line of people waiting to get in.

As I approached the line, an Italian who seemed in charge beckoned me towards the front as if he knew me, and waved me in past everyone.  Nobody gave me dirty looks, they smiled and clapped me on the back as I went ahead of them.  Inside, it was an old church, hundreds of years old, and every open shelf or window was also covered in the little jars emptied of their goodies.

As I continued on I saw a shelf, low to the ground, jars piled on it, but this time they were unopened.  I took one, and a little boy nearby walked up to me and started handing me more.  “Free,” he said, although I’m not really sure he understood what he was saying.  I took a few more and put them in my pockets, and then continued on.

The darkness of the hallway slowly disappeared as I continued towards a lit up opening, which led to a courtyard.  My eyes took a moment to adjust to the sudden brightness as I noticed a woman facing away from me in the middle of the courtyard surrounded by children.  They all began to giggle as I approached, and when I touched her shoulder she turned and I saw those large innocent eyes once again, and she smiled.

“You found me.  You’ve passed the first custom.”  She looked at me with such love that I felt my heart swoon, and I realized that I, too, was in love with her.  I took her hand and kissed it, and the children circled around her and pulled her away from me.

“There is still another custom,” she said, smiling and reaching for me as they pulled her away.

The children all giggled as the girls pushed her towards one archway and the boys began pushing me towards another.  I found myself surrounded by many men of all ages in a separate courtyard.  They smiled at me and continuously congratulated me on finding her, and then they boy from earlier approached.

“Next, you must say to her the traditional words, but you must memory them.”

“Do you mean memorize?”

“You know, you must say them without help.”

“But I’m not from here, I don’t know the words.”

The boy translated to the men and all grew concerned, brows furrowed as they discussed what must be done.  After much talk, the boy came back to my side.

“If you do not know the words, you cannot marry her.  We are taught as young children.  We know them.  We get a little card and we learn it and then we return the card to our parents.  Then on our wedding day, after we recite them, we get the card back, and it signifies our love.”

I sat down, disheartened that I would come so close to the love of my life and fail now.  A man even older than the old woman who first explained the custom to me came up and looked me in the eye.  Even seated I was taller than him, gravity and age had stooped him so much.  He put a hand on my shoulder and spoke.  He was speaking in Italian, but I knew he was telling me about his love, and how long they’d been together, and how perfect his wife was.  I could sense his story as he told it, and at the end he reached into his pocket and pulled out a wrinkled scrap of paper with the image of a saint on it, and he handed it to me.

I flipped it over and there were words on it, and I knew they were the words I would have to say.  The men folk of the town all began to whisper to each other, but remained quiet as I read it over and over again, hoping I could remember it.  Then, the whispering stopped, and I looked up to find the old woman again, leading my love into the courtyard, only now she was wearing a beautiful full dress, her hair was down, and she seemed to glow like an angel.

She walked up to me and smiled, and I said the words.  She leaned in and kissed me, and whispered, “You did it perfect.  I love you.”

At this point, my alarm went off and woke me up.  As I rose from bed, my memory of her faded a bit.

As I ate breakfast, I could remember some of the words I’d said.  As I dressed for work, I could remember less of them, but I still remembered the jars of preserve, and the taste.  As I drove to work, all I could remember were her beautiful eyes and the feeling I had when I realized I loved her.  By the time I got to work, the memory had faded, but I still loved her a tiny bit.  And now, I cannot even remember the look in her large, innocent brown eyes.

Original Photo by Charleen Artese  http://www.flickr.com/this_is_she