Abortive Fiction

He stared at the mottled sky until his eyes glazed and thoughtlessness seized him. He allowed himself to float freely in the frost of his disassociation and the world to grow fainter. Before long, the gentle undercurrent of an afternoon breeze and the chatter and playful yells of summertime revelers were the only reminders of the world around him.

They walked at a brisk pace, each one carrying a bag or a tote full of drinks and finger food. It had been close to a year since the pandemic was deemed over, and they were eager to make the most of each seasonable day. The summer was proving to be particularly favorable for outdoor enjoyment; more than one person could be heard commenting on the goodliness of one god or another, or whatever force it was that they believed controlled the universe. One of the group had spied a lone patch of the field, and they all wormed their way through the gathered people. As they neared their chosen spot, one from the group cast a side glance at a man lying nearly spread eagle on the grass and staring into the sky. That one group member didn’t have a passing thought about that man; in less than a second, they had forgotten the man and were setting themself to enjoying the rest of their day.

15-Minute Fiction

His tweet was tactless. Maybe not offensive, but sufficiently annoying that Dre decided to block him from his feed. Dre didn’t even follow him; his tweet had been promoted by Twitter’s algorithms. Twitter had conspicuously inserted the tweet among others about the frailty of the modern republican system of government. But the moment Dre blocked the tweet’s originator, his Twitter application froze. Dre tapped the screen of his phone, at first with purpose but then with a dumbness reminiscent of an early homo poking at a new object. Dre was accustomed to his technology just working, and his phone’s failure to respond to his commands kindled a dormant frustration that boiled greater with every passing second of non-responsiveness. As Dre touched the various soft-keys that normally elicited an appropriate and satisfactory response, he realized that something more serious had transpired. His phone appeared bricked, and the culprit was a tweet, a blocked Twitter account, an account owned by Stephen King. Dre’s frustration broke momentarily as he considered the irony. A modern horror, Dre thought, caused by a modern horror writer. It felt suitable, nearly forgivable. But a true horror was never confined to the benign.

15-Minute Fiction

He stared at his coffee and swirled it around with the straw.
     “I was expecting more,” were the words coming from his girlfriend. It was a Monday and he was supposed to be at work, but he had allowed her to coax him away from it. She lifted up her purse and withdrew the ring. “This is it? This is all I’m worth?”
     “It’s a nice ring.”
     She didn’t say a word, simply held the ring in her hand as if offering it to him. He looked up at her.
     “I can get another, you know. It might take some time—”
     “I don’t want a-fucking-nother! I told you what I expected and you went and got this anyway. How stupid can you be?”
     There was a moment of silence and he looked away. Outside it began to rain.
     “It was too much.”
     “What do you mean it was too much? It was a simple request.”
     “Do you know how much work goes into getting one?” He looked back at her and tried to feign anger. “It’s not a simple matter. I have to find it first, then figure out the finances, then how—”
     “I don’t care what goes into it. Everyone has one and I’m not going to be left out. Just do it.”
     She put the ring back into her bag and began sliding out of the booth.
     “Bell, wait,” he said, reaching for her hand.
     “Don’t touch me. Don’t talk to me. Text me when you have it.” She flipped her hair and made her way for the door. Across the diner their waitress eyed them impassively.
     He watched her slip out the door into the overcast day, stopping momentarily to frown at the sky. She then dashed to her car while unlocking it with her remote key fob. Inside she drew out her phone and placed a call, exchanging some words before starting her car and pulling away.
     He sighed and looked back at his coffee, no longer steaming. He wasn’t going to get it; he didn’t want to. But he was stuck with her. It was now a question of how to remove her from the equation.


For the Intermittent Writer


Short books about albums. Published by Bloomsbury.

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