Friday, June 8, 2012

The prolific Chuck Wendig is hosting a flash fiction contest at his website

Recently I've steered away from writing flash fiction as I am consumed with a MG novel I am working on and as I see it, if I have time for 1,000 words a day, I would rather dedicate it to the novel. 

As usual, however, Chuck's topic caught my eye and set the keys to clicking. In this particular challenge he presented options of setting to writers. In my judgement writing solely about the setting was too easy and if real writing is to be done, the setting must be the most minor of set dressing. 

Thanks for the challenge CW. Here is my entry.

Margaret bit down on her lower lip, trying not to think about the feeling of despair that overcame her in the grocery store. Her life had always been cataloged and defined by a mildly delusional feeling that she was being judged by every one. Places where strangers shared aisles with her and hid around corners pretending not to see her opened up dark places in her mind. She knew they were focused on her as they pretended to have gentle conversations with each other or spoke softly into their cell phones. What they were actually saying was that her pants made her look fat, and the pimple just above her hairline was looking infected. She wished Steve hadn't gone.

When she was with Steve, it all felt better, more natural for her. As he walked by her side, those who would mock and jeer turned and scattered. Steve was in her life for a very short period of time. When he left, her feelings of paranoid self criticism returned. Alone now, Margaret struggled to deal with her 48 years of age, bags under her eyes, poorly fitting bra, and mismatched purse. Margaret felt terrible.

Pecan Sandy, sometimes called Peekaboo or Peeks, was Margaret's cat. Like her, Peekaboo was middle aged and without a like-species companion. Although not particularly modest, if he cared about what other cats thought of him, his looks, and his personal hygiene, he didn't show it. Peekaboo was happy laying on the carpet and getting waited on by Margaret. Like most cats, Peekaboo was a demanding master. If the water in his bowl was more than 12 hours old he would vomit on the floor. If the litter box was excessively pungent, he wet the laundry basket. And when there was no moist canned food in his bowl, he howled as if passing a moon-sized kidney stone until there was.

Steve hated Pecan Sandy and Pecan Sandy hated Steve right back. Their acrimony hit its peak just as Steve and Margaret's physical involvement was climaxing. The long anticipated consummation happened in her apartment, in full view of Peekaboo. Like a trench coat concealed pervert at a twenty-five cent peep show, Peeks stared at them during their lovemaking. Sitting on the covers at the foot of the bed, he watched as each participant took turns climbing on top of the other. The grunts and groans of luke-warm passion did little to alter his expression of ambivalence. The rhythmic back and forth rocking of the bed brought to Peekaboo the motion of a shaking bowl of gelatin, but it did not unseat him from his spot.

Peeks watched the thrusting, grabbing, and sweating, all the while tolerating the nauseating coital dialog of 'oh, yea' and 'God, you're the best'. Peeks knew he was the best and that everyone else was a distant second. The termination of the sex act was followed by a prolonged period of panting for recovery, during which time Peeks walked delicately up the covers between the couple and sprawled out around Margaret's head. Once situated, Peeks beat his tail across Steve's face until he dislodged a clump of litter concealed in the fur, sending it into Steve's left nostril.

Margaret thought Steve over reacted when he scurried out of her bed and tried blowing the foreign object from his sinuses using the closest small article of clothing he could find, her panties. No pleading in the world could get him to stay. The feline feces and aggregate ball was the wedge that would drive them apart. Margaret spent the rest of the night weeping on the couch with Peekaboo sitting next to her, exhibiting the outward appearance of a man who won.

Margaret pulled back with her left hand and swung the shopping cart into aisle 9. The cat food was on the far end. She pushed the empty cart, straining as if it was filled with bricks. Each step she took became shorter and more labored. She thought of Peekaboo in her apartment, staring at a clock, wondering what was taking her so long. Margaret became weak, her legs barely moving now. Her back grew stiff and a tightness seized her chest. She gasped for air but none would come. She fell on the floor, the force of her body's decent sending the cart careening into a display filled with cat food cans. Margaret lay sprawled out in aisle 9. A can, dislodged from the cat food display by her runaway cart, teetered and rolled into her outstretched hand. As her vision faded, she fumbled with her fingers across the tiny cylinder. Aisle 9 is where Margaret's heart beat its last.

One week later, Pecan Sandy, starved and neglected, still in Margaret's apartment staring at the clock, joined her on the other side.