Sequentials

What Did You Expect?

As far as first impressions go, Debra was not impressed.

The guy seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. He waited for her shocked reaction which never came, and frowned in obvious disappointment when her eyes merely flicked in his direction before returning to her novel. The fluff of white hair on his head looked to have the consistency of a truffula tree. His skin was almost the same color, a translucent hue that made Debra think of vampires and basement dwellers.

He blurted out something about being the moon and how they were destined to be together. When she didn’t respond he continued. “Haven’t you felt like you’re just waiting for the right person to meet? I mean, let’s face it. Greg didn’t turn out to be much of a keeper, did he?”

Debra set her book down. “You’ve been spying on me.” It wasn’t a question. Lunar deity or not, it was an invasion of privacy.

“Well, spying is a bit harsh, I’d say. I’d prefer ‘hidden admiring’.”

You’re the one that’s been watching me. “You’re the one that’s been giving me goosebumps for no reason.” She jabbed a finger at him with each accusation. Nearby conversations fell to a whisper, ears hoping to get their daily dose of drama.

“Er, well. Isn’t that sort of, you know, old-fashioned and charming?” He gave a weak smile.

Debra stood up. “No. It’s creepy and weird. Stop watching me and get a life.” She scooped up her book and turned to leave.

“Wait!” the moon said, pushing back his chair. “Aren’t you even, like, a little curious?”

When she looked him in the eyes she saw right through him, and he didn’t look like the moon at all. Just a sad and lonely man desperate for companionship.

“No,” she said, and walked away, leaving the moon as it will always be.

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Flash Fiction, Sequentials

Deliberate Intentions

I suppose that I decided to go down that next day. It had to be during the day, or else Father would know that I left my post and be very cross.

Debra Lemming was on my mind again, and I called up the all-seeing face of the moon and watched her usher out the messy fool she had been with the night before. Good. She had come to her senses. No doubt she knew that she was meant for someone greater. The coffee he made for her must have been weak, for she tossed it down the drain and left shortly after, making a beeline for the quaint cafe across the street.

I crossed the length of my chambers to regard myself in the mirror. I had fashioned an outfit suitable for the likes of Earth. A black t-shirt stretched down my thin frame, and black denims.The color contrasted well with the stark whiteness of my hair and pale skin. You’ve got to work with what you’ve got. I turned and admired myself. Today was the day I would make Debra Lemming my queen.The Moon would be alone no more.

Debra sat down at a small two-person table in the corner. Hanging on the walls to either side were acrylic paintings of both the sun and moon, respectively. It was as if she were expecting me. Perfect, though the painting showed a few more pocks than I would have preferred. The sun was more flattering, as always, and my thoughts turned to her. Though she didn’t know it, my sister’s light would be hiding me in plain sight while I went down. Oh Ama, we must reconvene sometime soon. It has been too long.

With my mind fixed upon Debra Lemming’s table, I took a step off my rocky home and was there. I sat down across from her, and before lifting the veil that kept me hidden from her eyes, spoke aloud. I have always had somewhat dramatic inclinations.

“Hello, Debra Lemming.”

And there I was.

Flash Fiction, Sequentials

The Lemming and the Loon

It was a bit better and a bit worse than a normal morning for Debra Lemming. For one, she had finally gotten laid after nearly a year. Greg had offered to make breakfast, even though it was her kitchen and her food. Just a tad presumptuous for her taste, but it was a nice gesture. Greg seemed to be full of nice gestures. Especially the kind that got him something out of it. Take last night.

Debra shielded her eyes from the sun as she sat and waited at the small, two-person table shoved against the wall. One too many cocktails, Debby. Yes, last night had been fun indeed. Although during, she couldn’t shake the itching feeling that they were being watched. But that was impossible. They were five floors up and the blinds had been drawn. Still, she had been having that feeling a lot recently, and kept expecting to turn her head and lock eyes with some mysterious watcher, but never did. She shook her head. She should stop watching those Cold Case Files. They were making her paranoid.

The coffee was piping hot and black, as coffee should be, and Debra let her mug sit on the counter and cool while Greg helped himself to a cup.

“Got any cream?” he asked, already moving to the fridge.

“Nope, but some almond milk on the top shelf there.”

“Thanks.” He splashed in a generous amount and some coffee dribbled over the side. He heroically mopped up the spill with his sock. “Eggs an’ toast fine?” he asked.

“Just toast for me.” She hoped he would get the hint. There were only two eggs left in the carton. Please, just get the hint.

“Suit yourself,” he said, and pulled out the carton.

Debra took a sip from her mug then. The coffee was too hot and that was all right. It was obvious now that Greg had been a mistake. Well no, Debra Lemming didn’t believe in making mistakes, only misinformed decisions. Watching him try to scramble eggs without oiling the pan, she knew she wouldn’t be going home with the charming moocher type again.

Flash Fiction, Sequentials

The Man in the Moon

For years, many have held on to the belief that the moon is deeply connected with woman, and the sun with man. Yes, those early misogynist shapers of the world. What else could man be associated with, if not the sun that gives life? Hubris blinded them, as is its nature. How they would toss and turn in their graves if I were to but whisper the truth to them.

For I am the moon. And I am man.

In the swirling blackness of night, once my sister has retired from the world, I lift my chambers high and view the Earth from the heavens. I sit right here in my chair and I watch and shine my light down, peeking from behind a waning crescent.

I watch as Debra Lemming slides a dress over her delicate frame. She takes a bus downtown and meets a man at a bar. It is the first time they have met in person, but they have talked online for two weeks. She feels as if she knows him. The man smiles a lot. He wears a beige Henley and dark expensive jeans. I cannot hear what they say to one another, but he buys drink after drink for her. Her head lolls and her eyes droop slightly, and the man rests his hand on Debra Lemming’s lower back. He whispers something in her ear and she giggles.

I watch them take a taxi back to Debra Lemming’s studio apartment. The lights do not turn on and I watch as they commit an act of spontaneous love. As I observe, I wonder what it would be like to grasp at another being with such desperate fervor. To twist and turn and entwine until two becomes one. Foolishly, I imagine that I am the man with the dark expensive jeans clutching at Debra Lemming. I allow myself this one small moment of impossible fantasy. One moment when I can pretend to not be alone.

One moment, perfect and fleeting.

Flash Fiction, Sequentials

The Tortoise Falls

Howard’s foot sank into the welcome mat on his way to get the paper.

No. That was wrong.

Looking down, he saw that the tortoise had left a stinking present for him. Howard smeared the greenish excrement on the front step. Looking back up, he saw that it hadn’t stopped there.

There were bare patches of brown in the once-uniform sea of grass that was his front lawn. Several neat piles of feces that looked to have come from a family of tortoises lay carefully placed. Clumps of loose dirt and grass were strewn about as well, and Howard had to wonder how such a slow moving creature could manage to make such a great mess of it all. Part of Howard didn’t even believe that a tortoise was capable of all this. It looked like someone had taken a pickaxe to some parts by how much loose soil had been upturned.

At this point Howard began to take it somewhat personally. His gaze flitted about the lawn. But the tortoise was nowhere in sight.

Flipping out his cell, Howard texted Grace, letting her know that he wouldn’t be meeting her at church this morning after all. Something just came up. Then he walked through the yard, searching for the abominable tortoise. It wasn’t on the driveway, or anywhere in the front yard, so he circled around back. It wasn’t by the bird bath, or in the bushes, or even back at the rhododendrons, which were looking sad and bare. He wondered whether or not it had moved on.

But no. There, in the back by the pines, Howard could just make out its domed form as it paused next to a tree.

In an effort of herculean strength, the tortoise righted itself on its hind legs and reached its long neck out to grasp at a branch. With a mouthful of leaves and branches, the tortoise reared back, trying to rip away the next portion of its meal. It thrashed its head side to side, fraying the thin, whip-like limb. The branch snapped and the tortoise teetered, unbalanced. It looked as if it would regain its composure a split second before it toppled backward onto its shell.

Howard let out an unexpected whoop, and sauntered over to the disoriented tortoise, stopping to smell how fresh and intact the lilacs were this morning. He skipped the last couple steps until he was looking down on his reptilian oppressor. Thick, scaly legs gripped for purchase in the air while the head wobbled to and fro. A low fluctuating groan filled the air like a lover’s lament.

Howard smiled and leaned down until his face was inches away from the cold-blooded eyes.

“Ball’s in my court now,” he said.

Flash Fiction, Sequentials

The Tortoise Remains

“I’m telling you, it was eating the plants in my garden. The rhododendrons, specifically. You should see it too, easily a couple hundred pounds.”

Grace nodded, fork picking at the half-eaten quesadilla. Her curly brown hair was pulled back tight in a bun and she wore cat eye glasses in lieu of her usual contacts, giving her a fierce librarian look. The raised eyebrows told Howard everything, and he knew what would come next.

“That’s why you’re late?” she said. “Cause you saw a turtle in your garden? I mean seriously, Howie, come on. What was it really this time?”

“Crosswords.”

“How many did you do?”

“Two and a half.”

“Jesus, Howie. You know, if we’re gonna make this work, you can’t be so obsessive about your hobbies. First it was gardening, then online poker, now crosswords. What’s next? You’ve had the whole day ahead of you and done what with it? Two and a half crosswords and turtle watching? At some point you need to start evaluating your life choices, hon.” At this Grace reached over and gave Howard’s hand a little pat, returning to her quesadilla as if the matter was settled.

“Yeah, but you’re not listening. I mean, this thing was huge. Aren’t you curious at all about how a giant tortoise found its way to 7th and Washington? There aren’t any woods, or parks. It’d have had to crawl through yards, or under fences or something.”

Grace put her fork down and took a deep breath. “Look, I really don’t mind that you’re so passionate about what you like to do. It’s one of the reasons we started dating. But you can’t let it affect the time we spend together. It’s becoming a problem.”

“Yeah, but —”

“That’s just how I feel, Howie.”

Howard ran through that conversation a dozen times on his drive home, taking the long winding boulevard because he liked the roundabouts. It was exactly like she hadn’t listen to the words coming out of his mouth. Her ears had just seemed to turn off at the slightest mention of the tortoise. Though he had been quite late, having to skirt around the stagnant shell outside his door. It hissed and swiveled its head as he passed, pushing back against folds of leathery skin, and showed no sign of moving. When Howard had finally arrived at La Casa, Grace had been on her third cup of salsa and second basket of greasy tortilla chips. He could understand why she had been upset.

What he couldn’t understand, however, was her complete lack of interest in the tortoise. It was such an odd occurrence, and she had hardly even merited it a response. It just didn’t make any sense.

When Howard pulled up to his house the tortoise was sitting in his driveway, huddled in its shell. He parked on the side of the road and walked past it on his way inside.

“Hope you’re happy,” he mumbled at it.

The tortoise said nothing, but Howard heard it shift in its shell, content.

Flash Fiction, Sequentials

The Tortoise

There was a tortoise grazing in Howard Scythe’s garden. It was big and it was gray and it was eating his rhododendrons. It was Saturday morning and Howard stood in his kitchen, bathrobe on, jaw hanging. He watched the rather large creature through the back window. It reached out its strong, leathery neck for another bite and ripped away a tangle of branches.

Howard banged on the glass pane. “Hey!”

The dull-eyed thing stopped, turned its head and regarded Howard, churning the leafy greens in its complacent maw like a cow would cud. The reptilian gaze held no pity. With a dismissive gesture, the tortoise turned its back on Howard, ignoring his continuing objections.

“Hey…Um. Hmm.” Howard was not entirely sure how to deal with this situation. The tortoise’s presence was confusing. He was almost certain that this particular species was not native to the Midwest.  Its size alone indicated that. The shell a massive dome, an oversized laundry basket sitting upturned on its back.

Howard watched the tortoise eat away at his rhododendrons for a while before it moved on to the lilacs. He tapped a finger on the counter as he watched, chewing the corner of his lip.

Perhaps the beast would become bored and move on to other gardens or vegetable patches. The Robinsons down the road hosted the community vegetable garden. It was quite nice, with full, juicy tomatoes and peppers and carrots and lettuce. Yes, it would no doubt catch a whiff of the wafting, veggie aroma and soon leave his flowers in peace.

Having settled all that, Howard started a pot of coffee and took a nice hot shower.

When he returned to pour himself a mug the tortoise was gone. He smirked and smiled to himself, pleased that he hadn’t let his indignation get the better of him. Logic and reason, that which separated man from beast, had proved their worth in the end. Howard spent the remainder of the morning filling out crossword after crossword on his laptop, every so often casting a sidelong glance out the window. He recently discovered that he could access the database for every New York Times crossword ever, and had done little else for the past few days. The hours wiled away.

On his third crossword of the day Howard read the clue for 12 Down: Fruity Engagement. Date.

Shit.

Howard sprang from his chair and scrambled around the house for a fresh pair of socks. It was 12:52. He was supposed to meet Grace at La Casa, that new Mexican place in eight minutes. But it was all the way downtown, a twenty minute drive, and that was only if he hit every green light. Howard cursed again as he fumbled for his car keys, putting his shoes on as he hopped around. He grabbed his phone and wallet and opened the front door.

The path was blocked by an immovable carapace. The tortoise had returned.

(To be continued)