Along this street, you’ll see whatever you wish to see, like centuries-old adobes with attics containing family skeletons (literally) or betwixt and between the occasional McMansion with basement upon basement delving deeper and deeper into the earth where dragons make their lairs, not the fire-breathing kind for these have lost their ability to belch out flames but lime-green docile creatures with vestigial wings who will more than likely curl up at your feet, or if you continue on this road following the bridge spanning the moat you will behold a castle in the cul-de-sac where a second cousin to Rapunzel now lives who, if you are fortunate enough, will let her long tresses unfurl through the battlement openings, though you may be disappointed to see that her golden curls never quite reach the ground.
He saw her standing there, no longer young, but the two ends of a ribbon, probably from an unmade bow, dangled down the back of her unkempt hair nonetheless. It was a pink satin ribbon, the kind he remembered his daughters would sew to their new ballet slippers, and once attached and then wrapped in crisscross fashion around their dainty ankles, the glistening ribbons were lovely to behold as his two girls leapt and twirled across the dance floor. These images shot through his mind now, as he passed the corner of 2nd and Broadway where the woman stood, looking blankly out into the street. Her features were Hispanic or Native American (he wasn’t particularly fond of the latter description, but for lack of a better one, that was how she looked), and she wore a rose-colored, high-waisted frilly sort of dress, which he assumed was meant to match the pink ribbon in her hair and make her look younger than she was.
He supposed she was trying to appeal to the hidden Humbert Humbert in most men, but that wasn’t the sort of thing that had ever appealed to him. He was on his way home, however, and the thought of seeing and doing the same old same—taking his evening regimen of pills, testing his blood sugar, readying the oxygen equipment and all the other machinery of medicine for the night—made him circle the street to get a closer look. As he passed the second time, her dark eyes flicked his way, wary and hopeful at once. When he pulled to the curb, her wariness gave way to hope entirely, and she rushed over to his car and bent down so that her ample face nearly filled the window frame. She moved her mouth to say something, then stopped, not sure, he guessed, which language to use. She tried smiling instead, revealing a missing front tooth, then immediately pressed her lips together. Laughing, she cupped her mouth with a small plump hand to hide what she must have thought was too hideous for the occasion. Again, it was obvious she was trying to act like a young girl, appeal to some supposed need in men. And for whatever reason, as he studied her more closely, taking in the return of her flat stare, something inside him gave way. He rolled down the window and said, “Want a ride?” She hesitated, looing right, then left, as if unsure, as if checking for permission, as if weighing the odds, then opened the door and slid in.
As she closed the door, she laughed, a short giggle of a laugh, as if to say, “Well, here I am.” She smelled of old things, old unwashed clothes, old shoes, old sweat but there was also an underlying perfumy smell that reminded him of something he couldn’t quite place and wasn’t unpleasant at all. For a few long moments they sat in the car, while she laughed and covered her mouth with both hands as he looked on. Earlier, he had been fantasizing about something or someone different, but it was becoming clear to him that this unexpected offering would do just as well, so he gave into the urge to reach over and touch the ribbon in her hair and was grateful she didn’t flinch. In fact, she barely moved while he rubbed the two ends between his thumb and forefinger for a time, taking in their silkiness. When he finally let the two ends drop, she herself reached back and tied them into a bow. It was a sloppy bow, lank and bedraggled, and she seemed to know this for she smiled widely, baring her teeth without shame, which succeeded in making him smile, too.
All the while the cycling of the traffic lights—red, green, yellow, then red again—had been giving her high cheekbones a kaleidoscopic finish. Now, as the light turned green once more, it was he who looked right, then left, unsure and weighing the odds, even asking for permission. At last, he said to her, in what little Spanish he knew, “Vamanos,” then eased the car into the evening’s sparse traffic.
When a woman, obviously pleased with her own cleverness and good fortune, tells you that she just saved $55 on a pair of designer shoes, and the only thing you can think to say in return is that you (also pleased with yourself) just saved $15 on flea medication for your dog, you kind of suspect that the two of you don’t have a great deal in common. So, rather than say anything, you smile big, nod your head, and try to appreciate her sincere enthusiasm and joy. Isn’t that what sociability and good manners are all about? Looking at the world from another person’s perspective? You then spend the next five minutes listening to the details of her find and trying hard to appreciate it.
But days after the party, you marvel over the fact that shoes can captivate another so completely, and you wonder how someone can save more than you even spend on a new pair of shoes–you, who typically have your shoes resoled and reheeled year after year.
Such mysteries abound.
The candle burned on the table. It burned. And I had no thought of coming back, no thought at all. The candle burned on the table. It burned. And all the hurt and lies have gone up in the flame. In the smoke and haze, they burned.
I should have said, you’re not in my thoughts. I should have said, you’re not on my mind, but then last night I envisioned your looking-glass eyes in the wavering light and I knew it was a lie.
The candle burned on the table. It burned. And I have no thought at all for the here and now while the flame on the table burns.
This micro – flash – fiction – poem is in response to lines in Dr. Zhivago’s Winter Night poem: A candle burned on a table; a candle burned.
I would love to read in the comments others’ microfictions based on stories that they love.
There is a mathematical beauty to our existence, a poetic algorithm. From a series of digits and data a seashell forms in the whorl of an ancient sea. He considered these thoughts, which came to him suddenly while he was grading his students’ papers. The new way of thinking is that everything is information. Our DNA is inscribed with information. Every speck of dust can be read like a tome. But sitting at his work desk, amidst deadlines and obligations, he brushed these thoughts aside and tended to the task at hand.
His students’ writing held some interest. One wrote about how ObamaCare would be the downfall of our economy; another wrote about pot-bellied pigs; and yet another wrote vaguely about the evolution of music. But still while he offered gentle suggestions in his well-practiced tight handwriting in dark blue ink, his mind kept returning to his prior thoughts, and he remembered that they had come rising up out of a dream he had had last night. But what was that dream? Well, the dream itself was long gone from memory. All that remained were these snatches of his subconscious trying now, it seemed, to derail him from this audacious task of assigning grades to the data dreams of others, however unformed and lacking of beauty he found them to be.