Tag Archives: short fiction

Drabbles: experimenting with POV and prose #amwriting

I love writing ‘drabbles,’ extremely short fiction because they offer the opportunity to write in a wide variety of genres and styles. Drabbles present the chance to experiment with point of view and prose. Often, these 100 – 200-word experiments become 1,000-word flash fictions, which are sometimes saleable.

In my files (to be worked on at a later date) is the rough draft of a short story that began as a brief exercise in writing from the point of view of the flâneur–the person of leisure, the idler, the urban explorer, the connoisseur of the street. They are the interested observer, a person who seeks much, knows a little, and is a (frequently unreliable) witness to the events of a story.

Click here for Scott Driscoll‘s great blogpost on the flâneur. In short, he tells us that: “With a flâneur narrating, you can remove the noticing consciousness from your point of view character to accomplish other purposes.”  

The flâneur is a character frequently found in literature from the 19th century. The story is filtered through his eyes and perceptions–it distances the reader from the immediacy of the scene, so be forewarned: genre-nazis and armchair editors who want the material delivered in 60 second sound bites of action won’t love it.

My flâneur is Martin Daniels, a wealthy, retired jeweler. He spends his time roaming his city’s streets, sitting in sidewalk cafés observing his fellow citizens, and making social and aesthetic observations. He regularly finds himself crossing paths with one man, in particular, Jenner: a self-made man who came up through the mines.

Jenner is battering against the prevailing social barriers which stand in the way of his achieving a political office that he covets, using whatever means at his disposal. He is uncouth, a barely civilized rough-neck with a bad reputation, but something about him draws Martin’s attention, and so he finds himself both observing Jenner and listening to the whispered gossip that surrounds the man.

One day, as Jenner is passing Martin’s table, his hat blows off, and Martin catches it, returning it to him. Jenner then introduces himself and admits that he has been watching Martin for some time. He has a task for Martin, one that intrigues him enough to bring him out of retirement. Thus begins an odd relationship.

When this twist happened, my flâneur ceased to be merely an observer and became my protagonist, yet he is reporting the events from the distance of his memory, so he is still the observer.

Literary fantasy, one of my favorite genres to read, is a great venue for the flâneur. It examines the meaning of life or looks at real issues, and I tend to write from that aspect. In my favorite works, the fantastic, otherworld setting is the frame that holds the picture. It offers a means to pose a series of questions that explore the darker places in the human condition.

Sometimes the quest the hero faces is, in fact, an allegory for something else, and the flâneur shows you this without beating you over the head with it. I read good literary fantasy—it tends to be written by men and women who write well and literately. Not only are the words and sentences pregnant with meaning and layers of allegory, but they are also often poetic and beautifully constructed.

I like to experiment with prose as well as style and genre, and writing drabbles offers that opportunity.

The character of the interested observer is not limited to a person walking the streets and making political or social commentaries on what is seen. Nor is the gender of the observer limited to that of a man. Any person can be the observer and serve in this role. The flâneur is great fodder for a drabble, so give it a try.

The modern flâneur is found in the office, the coffee shop, shopping at the mall or grocery store, waiting in line at the movies, even looking through the curtains of their front windows. These are venues they habitually visit and don’t go out of their way for, and are where they are likely to regularly see the person who piques their curiosity.

Writers are, by nature, observers of the human condition. When two friends sit in a Starbucks and play ‘the coffee shop game,’ the game where they see patrons and invent stories about who they are and what they do, they become the flâneur for a brief moment. Write those paragraphs and see what emerges.

Writing drabbles offers me the chance to write two or three paragraphs in a literary style, experiment with both point of view and prose, and allows me to play with words. I can imitate the style of my favorite authors and see what it is about their work that attracts me.

Any time you have a great little idea, pause for the moment and write a drabble about it. Save it in a file labelled ‘Drabbles.’ You never know when you may have the seeds of a great story in those two brief paragraphs.


Quotes and Attributions

Flaneur, try it and set yourself free by Scott Driscoll, © Oct 24, 2013,  https://scottdriscollblogs.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/flaneur-try-it-and-set-yourself-free/

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#flashfictionfriday: Scrofulous Mudd (reprise)

Scrofulous Mudd was first published here in May of 2016. The story itself was prompted by the first line. Once I had that, the rest of the story followed. 


Scrofulous Mudd was a dirty old man.

By that I mean he was an elderly man who sorted through the leavings in ancient privies and wrote highly boring papers detailing the history of what he uncovered. He kept himself moderately clean, and took baths every Saturday unless an additional effort was required, such as for his mother’s funeral.

I suppose his fascination with filth began with his elegantly disease-ridden name. His was a difficult delivery, and when the elderly volunteer came around asking about the new baby’s name, Maude Mudd was still a little out of it. A scholar of Roman Literature, what she had actually said was “Rogellus.”

The volunteer, a retired nurse of infectious diseases, had misunderstood her mumbled words. Thus, Scrofulous, or Scroffy, as he was known at school, was given a name difficult to live up to.

Young Scroffy never knew his father, nor was any father named on his birth certificate. He assumed his had been a virgin birth, as his mother had never said otherwise and to his knowledge she never had gentlemen callers.

In truth, Maude’s single night of passion with the Professor of Antiquities had occurred after both had consumed far too much sherry at a faculty mixer at the at the beginning of fall semester. Hung-over, embarrassed, and terribly disappointed by sex in general, she immediately accepted the offer of a research position at a University far, far away, in Scotland to be exact.

It wasn’t until several months later that she realized she had a little Mudd in the oven. Things were different in those days, and rather than lose her position at the University for being morally unfit, she padded her chest, making herself appear to be merely stout. She hired a live-in housekeeper and continued with her work until the day of his delivery, which occurred just at the beginning of summer break. When the next term began, a much slimmer Professor Maude Mudd returned to school as if nothing had happened.

via wikimedia commons

Nanny MacDuff cared for young Scroffy as much as she was able, which was not a lot, as she had a pinched heart, but she did do her best by him. Many times Scroffy and his pram were left parked outside the post office, forgotten until Nanny arrived home and suddenly wondered where the washing powder she had tucked in his carriage was.

However, she saw to it he was as clean and well-fed as any other child. Both the infant Scroffy and Maude Mudd’s house were vigorously scrubbed daily, and both shone like polished chrome.

Never having been a maternal woman, Maude felt she had fulfilled her parental obligation, by hiring a nanny. While she did occasionally ask after his health in a general sort of way and whether he was doing well in school, she rarely had any reason to communicate with him.

As a small child, the books in his mother’s library fascinated him, but that room was strictly off limits. Nanny explained that little boys had dirty fingers, and so he should never touch the ancient, irreplaceable tomes. However, he often stood just outside the door, peering in, wondering what mysteries lay concealed within those pages.

Scroffy spent his childhood at boarding school. He did well in primary school and was a good student during his secondary years. It was there he discovered history could be uncovered by digging through the garbage left behind by our ancestors, and it was a science called Archaeology.

Perhaps it was his lifetime of rigorously enforced cleanliness at the hands of Nanny and the various Matrons, or perhaps it was the only rebellion he could think of, but dirt, and what it concealed, attracted him.

He was rarely invited home for holidays, and thus, Maude had nearly forgotten about her son when she was surprised to receive a letter from him thanking her for his education. He also explained he would be taking his newly earned Doctorate in Archaeology to London, and hoped she would understand.

In London, he indulged his passion for filth, digging up medieval midden heaps and privies, sifting the soil, and exclaiming over dubious treasures. Unlike his fellow scientists, he didn’t mind the filthy conditions, and relished a good, big find, feeling as if the night-soil of generations past somehow filled in the blank, far-too-clean slate of his childhood. He also began acquiring his own library of rare books, and manuscripts of historical significance, all of them shining a little light on the dark, dirty realities of medieval life.

It was said by his peers that Scrofulous Mudd knew more about the dark ages than the people who’d actually lived through those times. Had he been told that to his face, he would have agreed.

Forty years passed, during which time Maude Mudd rarely gave any thought to her absent son, although he thought of her at times. At first, he’d hoped for a letter or card, or an invitation to Christmas dinner but eventually gave up believing there was any connection there.

He had a brief, cordial conversation with his mother at Nanny’s funeral. Maude was heartbroken at Nanny’s loss, and terribly concerned she would never find a cleaner with as much respect for the many irreplaceable manuscripts in her library as Nanny had embodied. Scroffy had agreed it would be difficult. On the train back to London, he comforted himself with the thought his old nanny was in floor-polishing heaven.

He was a congenial, if obsessed, guest at faculty dinner parties, and was always willing to talk about his work. The more fastidious guests suspected he was invited as much for shock value as anything else. Conversations would stutter into pained silence when he began describing how the layers of earth and ancient human waste concealed the shards of history, things tossed into the privy or accidentally lost.

The arrival of the main course would inspire the observation that usually he found evidence of what people in various strata of society dined on, in their petrified dung. Then he would casually mention he didn’t watch the telly, as he spent his evenings with his microscope, puzzling over samples.

Time passed, the world changed, and having been born and raised in a life of academia, Scroffy evolved with it. He rose to a high post at his university. He had a team of several young women and men who were as intrigued by the waste and garbage of the past as he was. The BBC made several documentaries on what his work digging up medieval privies had unearthed, and how our ancestors had really lived.

When Scrofulous was sixty-five, he received a letter from Maude’s solicitor informing him of his mother’s passing. He had inherited the house and her library, which, as a child, he was never allowed to touch.

After the funeral, he walked through Maude’s house, looking into rooms that seemed so large when he was a child.

Walking through each room, he saw his mother had found another cleaning person as deeply offended by dust and dirt as Nanny MacDuff. Every room smelled of furniture polish and gleamed in the light shed by windows so clean he had to look twice to see they were there.

The ancient tomes that were his mother’s closest companions seemed as much a mystery to him as she had been.

Old Restored booksA book lay on Maude’s desk, with an envelope sticking out of the top as if marking a place. A pair of clean, white, cotton gloves lay beside it. He opened the book, seeing it was a first edition of a famous treatise on an archaeological dig in Mesopotamia. It was a book which he also had in his collection, albeit his was a later edition. Then he saw the envelope was addressed to him, from his mother.

“I never really knew you, as my work precluded everything else. Nevertheless, I have always been pleased you were successful in your career. But whatever you do, wear gloves when you handle the pages of these books.”

Scroffy reflected that even in death Maude cared more for her books than her son. Yet, the scientist in him realized she must have left something behind for him to dig up about his own history, and he intended to discover it.

He looked down at the book in which he had found the note. The author had been one of his professors, a solitary man obsessed with antiquities, and who only came to life when discussing some of his more obscure finds. He’d learned a great deal from him, finding a kindred spirit when it came to unearthing the past.

He wondered why Maude had chosen that book, when she had been a scholar of Roman literature, and inherently unable to discuss anything else. He sat down suddenly, his knees giving way under the realization she had chosen the only way she knew to tell him something important, something she had withheld from him for all those years.

Nanny’s words came back to him, about little boys having dirty fingers. He was aware of how little had changed, that he was in actuality a dirty old man, due in part to his advanced age, but mostly to his profession. Accordingly, he drew on the white gloves and opened his mother’s desk. He pored through his mother’s papers, physician’s instructions, tax returns, payroll receipts–being who she was, Maude had been unable to dispose of any. She had kept everything, but had filed them as neatly as she had kept her library. He searched and sorted until he came to the year prior to his birth.

The light had begun to fade when he refiled his mothers papers as neatly she had originally, and shut the drawer. For a long while, he sat in his late mother’s study, staring into the gloom, thinking.

Having met both his mother and his father, and found them to be exceptionally solitary people, he concluded that his existence could only be explained as a miracle. And while, as a boy, he’d often wished for a less arduous name to explain to new acquaintances, he was terribly glad his mother hadn’t named him after his father.

If ‘Scrofulous Mudd’ had been the cause of the occasional fist fight at school, he suspected Hamza Pigg Jr. wouldn’t have been any easier.


Scrofulous Mudd © Connie J. Jasperson 2016, All Rights Reserved

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#FlashFictionFriday: The Cat, the Jeweler, and the Thief

Barliman gazed at the statue of the cat, and then out the polished window, not seeing the passersby. His eyes turned back to the stylishly dressed thief who stood before him. “It’s a nice enough  statue, well-made. What makes it worth the amount you are asking?”

Scuttle smiled. “It’s more than merely well-made. It’s brilliant. Look at it—have you ever seen such detail rendered in marble?” Thin, with a face slightly resembling that of a pleasant, well-favored weasel, he kept his desperation tightly tamped beneath a business-like demeanor.

Scuttle’s lady, Mari, was so ill that an ordinary herb doctor wouldn’t do. Their landlady believed she had contracted river fever and insisted only a healer from the Church could resolve it. But the Church never healed the poor; only the wealthy could afford a Church Healer. For that reason, Scuttle had to have those coins. He put on his most persuasive voice. “This is a miracle of art, created in marble. The hand of a master freed this cat from the stone.”

“I agree it’s beautiful, but I doubt you came by it honestly. I will be limited in who I can resell it to. Who made it? If I can at least tell a prospective purchaser whose hand created it, I will understand its value, and be better able to get a fair price for it.”

Scuttle snorted. “A fair price…usury has no concept of ‘fair.’ But all right, I’ll tell you who I believe to have made it. Benevolio.” Raising his hand, he forestalled Barliman’s comment. “I have no proof, and there is no maker’s mark on it anywhere.” Picking up the statue he held it to the light, turning it to reveal the remarkable craftsmanship. “Look at the face. Each hair, each whisker, every feature is there in the most minute detail, as if a cat had turned to stone as it sat there. Even soles of the paws which can’t be seen unless one picks the statue up–only Benevolio himself could have created such a masterpiece.”

Silence reigned in the shop as Barliman digested that comment. He pulled his magnifier from his pocket and examined the life-sized statue inch by inch. Scuttle had expected he would, and occupied himself with calculating the value of the objects displayed in the shop. Silver tea services, gold-handled cutlery, delicate jewelry set with precious stones—all rested on dark velvet in glass cases, gleaming in the light cast by wide diamond-paned windows. The fact they were on display meant those items had been purchased from more reputable sources.

The thief had come to Barliman because the jeweler sometimes supplied the wealthier class with things they could acquire nowhere else. Scuttle was a discreet thief, a man who ordinarily only stole on commission. However, the cat had been liberated from the house of a prosperous merchant newly in town, something he had only done because of Mari’s illness. The fact he was there in person to sell the statue indicated to the jeweler that this had been a private matter, making Scuttle’s bargaining position perilous. The jeweler was his only resort–no one else would have given him a copper for the statue, much less what he needed.

What Mari needed.

Barliman set the cat back down on the counter. He replaced the magnifier in the pocket of his vest. “With no maker’s mark, I can’t guarantee authenticity. That will substantially lower the price I can get for it. Therefore, I can’t give six golds coins. Three is my offer–consider, it please. It comes to three months wages for an ordinary man.”

“Five would be less than fair for a statue of this quality, and you would still make an absurd profit. If you can’t offer five, I must withdraw it.” Scuttle had no idea what he would do if Barliman refused. He didn’t dare take the time to go all the way to Westerberg. Three days there and back—Mari would be dead before he returned.

Barliman pursed his lips, deliberating. “Five golds, then.”

Though he felt like dancing, Scuttle comported himself with dignity as the coins were handed over. Barliman placed the cat statue beneath the counter and bowing, the thief departed the shop.

>>><<<

As the door closed behind the thief, the curtain behind the jeweler whisked open. Cardinal Valente stood framed in the doorway. “Good.” The Cardinal’s acidic tones fell like lead in the shop. “Here is your five golds, plus fifteen more for your trouble.”

Barliman handed Valente the heavy, marble statue. “Whose hand created this cat?” he asked. “Even Benevolio could never have done such fine work.”

Instead of answering, the Cardinal set the statue on the counter. “Observe.” He muttered some incomprehensible words, passing his hands over the cat.

Fantasy Desk With Books And Scrolls © Unholyvault | Dreamstime.com

Fantasy Desk With Books And Scrolls © Unholyvault | Dreamstime.com

To Barliman’s surprise, the statue stretched and yawned, then stood up and jumped down. Twining about the Cardinal’s ankles, the cat purred.

“God’s hand created this cat. A spell turned it to stone, and I placed it in the home of my concubine. Then I allowed rumors of its existence to come to Scuttle’s ears.”

Barliman could not conceal his dismay. “Why? Was it to trap him? He has…skills. He’s useful, and not only to me. Imprisoning him would be bad for my business.”

“He is indeed useful. However, a personal matter  interfered with my thief’s ability to gain an artifact I must have. He needs coins to resolve the issue but he is not a man to ask for charity, and I am not known for my generosity. Hence, I devised a way for him to help himself.” The Cardinal laughed, a grating sound. “By the day after tomorrow at the latest, my thief will resume the important task I have set before him, and soon I will have my artifact.” A sly smirk lit his bony features. “And now I know what matters most in the world to my thief, and where to lay my hands on it if I should ever need a bargaining chip. That knowledge alone was worth twenty golds. Never forget this: knowledge is power, Barliman. It’s good to be the one with the knowledge.”


The Cat, the Jeweler, and the Thief © Connie J. Jasperson 2016 All Rights Reserved

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#FlashFictionFriday: Scrofulous Mudd

The following bit of fluff and nonsense was prompted by the first line. Once I had that, the rest of the story sort of followed.


Scrofulous Mudd was a dirty old man.

By that I mean he was an elderly man who sorted through the leavings in ancient privies and wrote highly boring papers detailing the history of what he uncovered. He kept himself moderately clean, and took baths every Saturday unless an additional effort was required, such as for his mother’s funeral.

I suppose his fascination with filth began with his elegantly disease-ridden name. His was a difficult delivery, and when the elderly volunteer came around asking about the new baby’s name, Maude Mudd was still a little out of it. A scholar of Roman Literature, what she had actually said was “Rogellus.”

The volunteer, a retired nurse of infectious diseases, had misunderstood her mumbled words. Thus, Scrofulous, or Scroffy, as he was known at school, was given a name difficult to live up to.

Young Scroffy never knew his father, nor was any father named on his birth certificate. He assumed his had been a virgin birth, as his mother had never said otherwise and to his knowledge she never had gentlemen callers.

In truth, Maude’s single night of passion with the Professor of Antiquities had occurred after both had consumed far too much sherry at a faculty mixer at the at the beginning of fall semester. Hung-over, embarrassed, and terribly disappointed by sex in general, she immediately accepted the offer of a research position at a University far, far away, in Scotland to be exact.

It wasn’t until several months later that she realized she had a little Mudd in the oven. Things were different in those days, and rather than lose her position at the University for being morally unfit, she padded her chest, making herself appear to be merely stout. She hired a live-in housekeeper and continued with her work until the day of his delivery, which occurred just at the beginning of summer break. When the next term began, a much slimmer Professor Maude Mudd returned to school as if nothing had happened.

via wikimedia commons

Nanny MacDuff cared for young Scroffy as much as she was able, which was not a lot, as she had a pinched heart, but she did do her best by him. Many times Scroffy and his pram were left parked outside the post office, forgotten until Nanny arrived home and suddenly wondered where the washing powder she had tucked in his carriage was.

However, she saw to it he was as clean and well-fed as any other child. Both the infant Scroffy and Maude Mudd’s house were vigorously scrubbed daily, and both shone like polished chrome.

Never having been a maternal woman, Maude felt she had fulfilled her parental obligation, by hiring a nanny. While she did occasionally ask after his health in a general sort of way and whether he was doing well in school, she rarely had any reason to communicate with him.

As a small child, the books in his mother’s library fascinated him, but that room was strictly off limits. Nanny explained that little boys had dirty fingers, and so he should never touch the ancient, irreplaceable tomes. However, he often stood just outside the door, peering in, wondering what mysteries lay concealed within those pages.

Scroffy spent his childhood at boarding school. He did well in primary school and was a good student during his secondary years. It was there he discovered history could be uncovered by digging through the garbage left behind by our ancestors, and it was a science called Archaeology.

Perhaps it was his lifetime of rigorously enforced cleanliness at the hands of Nanny and the various Matrons, or perhaps it was the only rebellion he could think of, but dirt, and what it concealed, attracted him.

He was rarely invited home for holidays, and thus, Maude had nearly forgotten about her son when she was surprised to receive a letter from him thanking her for his education. He also explained he would be taking his newly earned Doctorate in Archaeology to London, and hoped she would understand.

In London, he indulged his passion for filth, digging up medieval midden heaps and privies, sifting the soil, and exclaiming over dubious treasures. Unlike his fellow scientists, he didn’t mind the filthy conditions, and relished a good, big find, feeling as if the night-soil of generations past somehow filled in the blank, far-too-clean slate of his childhood. He also began acquiring his own library of rare books, and manuscripts of historical significance, all of them shining a little light on the dark, dirty realities of medieval life.

It was said by his peers that Scrofulous Mudd knew more about the dark ages than the people who’d actually lived through those times. Had he been told that to his face, he would have agreed.

Forty years passed, during which time Maude Mudd rarely gave any thought to her absent son, although he thought of her at times. At first, he’d hoped for a letter or card, or an invitation to Christmas dinner but eventually gave up believing there was any connection there.

He had a brief, cordial conversation with his mother at Nanny’s funeral. Maude was heartbroken at Nanny’s loss, and terribly concerned she would never find a cleaner with as much respect for the many irreplaceable manuscripts in her library as Nanny had embodied. Scroffy had agreed it would be difficult. On the train back to London, he comforted himself with the thought his old nanny was in floor-polishing heaven.

He was a congenial, if obsessed, guest at faculty dinner parties, and was always willing to talk about his work. The more fastidious guests suspected he was invited as much for shock value as anything else. Conversations would stutter into pained silence when he began describing how the layers of earth and ancient human waste concealed the shards of history, things tossed into the privy or accidentally lost.

The arrival of the main course would inspire the observation that usually he found evidence of what people in various strata of society dined on, in their petrified dung. Then he would casually mention he didn’t watch the telly, as he spent his evenings with his microscope, puzzling over samples.

Time passed, the world changed, and having been born and raised in a life of academia, Scroffy evolved with it. He rose to a high post at his university. He had a team of several young women and men who were as intrigued by the waste and garbage of the past as he was. The BBC made several documentaries on what his work digging up medieval privies had unearthed, and how our ancestors had really lived.

When Scrofulous was sixty-five, he received a letter from Maude’s solicitor informing him of his mother’s passing. He had inherited the house and her library, which, as a child, he was never allowed to touch.

After the funeral, he walked through Maude’s house, looking into rooms that seemed so large when he was a child.

Walking through each room, he saw his mother had found another cleaning person as deeply offended by dust and dirt as Nanny MacDuff. Every room smelled of furniture polish and gleamed in the light shed by windows so clean he had to look twice to see they were there.

The ancient tomes that were his mother’s closest companions seemed as much a mystery to him as she had been.

Old Restored booksA book lay on Maude’s desk, with an envelope sticking out of the top as if marking a place. A pair of clean, white, cotton gloves lay beside it. He opened the book, seeing it was a first edition of a famous treatise on an archaeological dig in Mesopotamia. It was a book which he also had in his collection, albeit his was a later edition. Then he saw the envelope was addressed to him, from his mother.

“I never really knew you, as my work precluded everything else. Nevertheless, I have always been pleased you were successful in your career. But whatever you do, wear gloves when you handle the pages of these books.”

Scroffy reflected that even in death Maude cared more for her books than her son. Yet, the scientist in him realized she must have left something behind for him to dig up about his own history, and he intended to discover it.

He looked down at the book in which he had found the note. The author had been one of his professors, a solitary man obsessed with antiquities, and who only came to life when discussing some of his more obscure finds. He’d learned a great deal from him, finding a kindred spirit when it came to unearthing the past.

He wondered why Maude had chosen that book, when she had been a scholar of Roman literature, and inherently unable to discuss anything else. He sat down suddenly, his knees giving way under the realization she had chosen the only way she knew to tell him something important, something she had withheld from him for all those years.

Nanny’s words came back to him, about little boys having dirty fingers. He was aware of how little had changed, that he was in actuality a dirty old man, due in part to his advanced age, but mostly to his profession. Accordingly, he drew on the white gloves and opened his mother’s desk. He pored through his mother’s papers, physician’s instructions, tax returns, payroll receipts–being who she was, Maude had been unable to dispose of any. She had kept everything, but had filed them as neatly as she had kept her library. He searched and sorted until he came to the year prior to his birth.

The light had begun to fade when he refiled his mothers papers as neatly she had originally, and shut the drawer. For a long while, he sat in his late mother’s study, staring into the gloom, thinking.

Having met both his mother and his father, and found them to be exceptionally solitary people, he concluded that his existence could only be explained as a miracle. And while, as a boy, he’d often wished for a less arduous name to explain to new acquaintances, he was terribly glad his mother hadn’t named him after his father.

If ‘Scrofulous Mudd’ had been the cause of the occasional fist fight at school, he suspected Hamza Pigg Jr. wouldn’t have been any easier.


Scrofulous Mudd © Connie J. Jasperson 2016, All Rights Reserved

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#flashfictionfriday: A Little Love Story

In the long ago days, before every home had a word-processor, and even before I had my beloved secondhand typewriter, I wrote stories. My writing was for myself, or for my children, as it never occurred to me that I could ever really “be a writer,” although that was what I always answered when asked.

My handwriting was better in those days, perhaps because I wrote daily. Some of my short tales were good, some were bad, and most have vanished over time.

This little tale survived the many moves and purges, and dates back to 1984.

Duet, by David Teniers de Jonge - (1640s) via Wikimedia Commons

Duet, by David Teniers de Jonge – (1640s) via Wikimedia Commons

A LITTLE LOVE STORY

An old man and his wife of many years sit on a rough bench outside the door to their home.  It’s a rough cabin, just one large room with a large attic. The furniture is rough but sturdy and clean from daily scrubbing as is the rest of the home.  Everything in their home they built or made for themselves, right down to the small flute the old man plays as the old woman mends his rough, homespun shirt.

It’s just the two of them now; their son has long since married and moved away. Occasionally they walk the two day’s journey to see him and his family, but it’s unlikely they will ever do so again.

To look at them it would be hard – nay – impossible to believe they ever were young and beautiful or strong and handsome but once upon a time they were just that.

Once upon a time, the old woman had abundant dark hair, thick and curling to her knees when it was unbound.  Her dark eyes were full of fun and her red lips smiled often.  When she thought of what her life would be like, she knew without a doubt she would be as rich as a queen, and as happy as any woman could ever be.  To her, the future was as bright as new-minted gold; all things were possible.

Her laughter made the grumpiest person smile.  The entire village loved her, and though many a handsome, well-to-do young man wanted her for his wife, her eyes saw only the poor but hardworking son of the carpenter’s widow. Whenever she was asked, she vowed she would only marry the young man with the easy smile that charmed all who saw him.

Once upon a time, the old man was handsome, tall and strong, with a smile to melt the hardest heart. But no matter how many beautiful girls danced with him, or tried to kiss him, he only saw her – the merchant’s daughter. She filled his dreams and he vowed to all that he would wed only her.

Everyone said theirs was a story of true and eternal love.

He worked hard, and built the small house for her with his own hands, swearing it was only the beginning of the fine mansion he would build for her and vowing she would live a life of ease and luxury.  Her father was pleased and gave him her hand in marriage.

She didn’t care. She would have lived in a mud hut if it meant she would be with him.

One beautiful spring day and they were married and the entire village celebrated. They lived blissfully for the first year, and the following spring they were blessed with a child.

It is sad but true: to know what happiness is, a person must understand sorrow and pain. Their infant son didn’t live for more than a day. Heartbroken, they buried their child and tried to go on with their life.  Over the next five years, they buried three more children. Only the love she had for her husband kept her going. In his arms, she found solace and peace.  His steadfast love and support carried her through those dark days, and though she was not the merry girl she once had been, she was still a good-natured, loving wife.

The good old king died, and his son took the throne. The young king’s rule was not as kind or as benevolent as his father’s rule had been.  He taxed the people cruelly and life became hard, but still their home was their haven.

Each night they fell asleep in each other’s arms and in the morning they woke happy.

One spring the brash young king’s men came to the village and took her husband to fight the war in a land far away. Bereft and alone, she struggled to keep the home they had built, taking in sewing and laundry, working hard and praying morning and night for her husband’s safe return.

After two seasons had passed, the goddess heard her prayers. Though she feared he would be lost to her, her husband came home, wounded and with a limp which he never lost, but alive and still strong in his love for her. His smile had grown melancholy while he was away, but still melted her heart whenever he smiled at her, which he did at every opportunity.

At long last they were blessed with a healthy boy, and not only did he survive, he thrived in the sunshine of his parent’s love.

And their days passed, turning into years. The king’s taxman saw to it they never grew rich, but he could never steal their true wealth. The boy grew to be a strong, handsome lad and one day he married, leaving his parents somewhat lonely but happy for their son.  And still time passed.

In middle age the woman was still striking; strong and nice to look at, though she had grown somewhat stout. Her laugh was jolly, and her smile still as free as it had always been and she was known by all to be a good and generous woman. When good advice was needed the village sought her out, and her wisdom never failed them; she was as a mother to them all.

The man was still strong but needed a straw hat when working, as his hair was growing thinner with the years. The younger men admired his strength and heeded his wisdom.

Each night the man and woman kept each other warm and every morning they woke happy, knowing they would spend it working together in the little kingdom which was their home.

The old woman’s hair became thin and white, and her smile lacked all the teeth she once had, but the old man still saw the most beautiful girl in the world.

The old man’s pate became as bald as an egg, and his scraggly beard white as snow. He too lacked some teeth, but when she looked at him she saw the one boy in the world who made her heart skip a beat; the boy for whom she would have done anything to have for her own.

An old man and his wife of many years sit on a rough bench outside the door to their home.  When they sit there, they are rich.  Their home is finer than any castle ever known and their lives more blessed. Every promise the man ever made to his wife was kept, if not in the manner he once had planned, although he has only just recently come to understand that.

Every dream she’d ever had came true, though she too only realized it as she became an old woman.

The Goddess of Hearth and Home looks on them and smiles.  One day soon, they will be young and strong, and merry and free again. One day soon they will rise from the bench hand in hand and walk into the sunlight, together forever and always, leaving old shells behind, no longer needed.

One day, soon.


A Little Love Story, © 2016 Connie J. Jasperson

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Filed under #FlashFictionFriday, Literature, Romance, writing

#FridayFiction: Meriko’s Eyes

Meriko's Eyes © cjjasp 2016

Meriko pressed against the wall, hiding ever deeper in the shadows.  One never knew what lurked in the streets of the city anymore. Since the change, things had been difficult. According to the internet, society was crumbling.

Of course, the web had always declared that.

The darkness in the alley emphasized the scarcity of electricity even though the grid was back up. Meriko’s own scant ration of wattage was reserved for her computer—her lifeline, her source of income and her only reliable link to the life she once had.

She knew things were still bad but had no idea how widespread the problems were. She hadn’t witnessed any violence outside her windows in weeks, but still, emails from her fellow employees at GiantSoft were rife with rumors of murder and worse, and now she went out only when she had no other choice. She wasn’t completely out of touch—she still had interactions with friends through emails and social media. Even if they never saw each other, the network of workers did have a kind of camaraderie.

It was just…she had found a solitary existence more difficult to endure than she had initially believed it would be.

Normally, she had everything delivered to her: food, clothing, everything. She never had to leave home.  However, her self-imposed solitude had at last driven her out of her flat; loneliness and the handsome face of a young man viewed from her window.

She emerged into the alley behind her building. The cool, damp air held a musty scent of mold and garbage mingled with other even less desirable odors, but she didn’t notice them, her senses open to other, worse things. Fortunately she didn’t sense the evil miasma of nightwalkers in the area. Nevertheless, she cleared her mind of any thoughts that might draw attention to her and quickly crossed the alley to the Double Joy restaurant, melting into the shadows. After a moment’s indecision, she entered the café through the backdoor.

Boldly walking as if she had simply been to the restroom, she sat on the only empty stool at the counter and ordered yaki-soba and bubble tea, adding a tip as she paid the bill.  Sipping her drink, she waited for her meal. Even if nothing came of her plan, it was good to be around real people, hearing real voices instead of virtual conversations through the social interface.

She had a flat full of cat statues to keep her company, but they only underscored her isolation, their marble features forever perfect and unchanging.

Meriko could barely tolerate the aromas of the restaurant, the scents of food mingled with the odors of others like her, people so desperate to escape their solitary lives that they would brave the shadowed streets just to dine in a sweltering café with strangers.

“How can you see with those dark glasses, girlie?” said the drunk next to her, with a leer.  The smell of stale beer made her ill, and reflexively, she leaned away from him.

“Oh, you know,” she said noncommittally. “It’s the fashion, so….”

“Hey there! Don’t be bothering the other customers,” the man behind the counter warned the drunk. “If you bother her again, you’re out of here.”

“I’m behaving, don’t worry,” the drunk mumbled, and after a few moments, he staggered out the front door into the night. As he left, fresh air came in, but it was quickly cut off by the slamming of the door.

“I hate drunks,” the man behind the counter said.  “They can eat elsewhere. I don’t need their money.” He busied himself with cleaning the counter and the soda machine.

Meriko pushed her food around the plate and stared through the service window at the young cook in the back.  He was why she came here, despite the danger in doing so.

Tonight she had come in close to closing time, and soon she was the only customer there. So she had timed it right.

She’d watched him come and go every night since he had started working there, observing him from the window of her flat.  The restaurant was just across the alley from her building, so much of her view was taken up by the alley and the back of this restaurant.

“May I have a box to take my leftovers home in?” The man behind the counter brought her a box. “Have a nice evening,” she said, as she walked out the front door.  She was so lonely.  Maybe tonight she would find a friend.  Other people had companions in their lives. Maybe this was the night for Meriko.

***

Ten minutes after closing the restaurant, the cook, a young man named Kai, walked down the dark city street to his bus stop. Usually he was the only one there, but tonight a girl was there, and a to-go box from his restaurant sat on the bench beside her.  He was sure she’d been in the café earlier. He’d seen her carrying the box as she left.

He’d noticed her because she was wearing dark glasses.

“Hello,” he said cheerfully. “Did I see you tonight in my restaurant? Well, it’s not mine, but I work there.”  His smile was unforced and honest, elevating his face from handsome to beautiful.

“Yes,” she said, smiling. “I go there often, but tonight I was later than usual. They were almost closed.”

“I only work the late shift, so that’s why I haven’t seen you before,” he said as he sat on the bench and checked his phone to see the time.  “My name is Kai.  What’s yours?”

“Meriko,” she answered, feeling happy for the first time in weeks.  He was so handsome!

They sat talking for five or so minutes.  Finally he asked, “Why do you wear dark glasses in the night? You wore them inside our restaurant.  I heard you tell the drunk that it was the fashion, but…well, maybe I am not up on the current trends or something.”

“Ah…it’s a genetic condition. My eyes are extremely sensitive to the light,” she told him. “Do you have any hobbies?” she asked, trying to distract him.

“Oh, so it’s painful to go without them,” he said, as if he understood. “So are you a vampire or something?” he joked. “That would be a hoot, me hanging out with a vampire.”

“No.” She laughed. “I’m not a vampire! I am just a girl, just a regular girl. Hobbies…I like collecting old Pokémon cards from before the change. Do you collect anything?”

“So let me see your eyes then, Meriko, who is just a regular girl,” he said, leaning forward to take the sunglasses off her.

“No! Don’t do that,” she said. But it was too late.

Meriko looked at the statue of the handsome young man sitting on a bus bench, holding a pair of dark sunglasses.  The lights of the approaching bus turned the corner as it made its way to her stop, but Meriko had already fled into the darkness, crying.

“Why do they always want to see my eyes?  Why can’t they ever just want to talk?”  Still sobbing, she crept through the shadows to her home.

Statues.  Meriko’s life was full of statues.


Meriko’s Eyes © 2016 Connie J. Jasperson, all rights reserved

Meriko’s Eyes was first published on WattPad in January 2013 as Fortune’s Fool. It was republished in March 2015 by Edgewise Words Inn, under the title Meriko’s Eyes.

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Filed under Fantasy, writing