Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Truman Syndrome

I'm quite fascinated by today's piece of flash fiction because it was inspired by a very real condition I didn't know existed called The Truman Syndrome, which is a paranoia that one's life is part of a secret reality TV show. (A la The Truman Show.) The author, Chase Will, is from Sandusky, OH, and graduating from Bowling Green State University in the Spring with a degree in Theatre. He is currently completing his first Young Adult novel. Enjoy!

Truman Syndrome
By Chase Will

Angelica knew they were watching her—from the air vents in her bathroom, from behind the blinds of her bedroom window while she slept, from cameras hidden in the cracks of her walls—but superstardom was becoming monotonous. The cameras demanded she go through the same routine every day: wake up at 7am to go work at the call center, take a lunch break at 12:35pm sharp to walk toward the Dunkin’ Doughnuts, then leave work at 5pm to go home and stare at the television as it stared back at her in reflection of her life. What sort of niche audience was tuning in so faithfully? She’d never asked for this fame. She’d never asked for the bus driver to smile at her so knowingly every morning as if to say, “I watched the breakdown in front of the mirror last night and replayed it twenty times on YouTube,” or, “I caught the last ten minutes of the fight with your ex-husband and loved it! Good show!”

Day-in, day-out: they watched her.

But not after tonight. Not after she destroyed her inadvertently-created celebrity icon. They’d never be able to look at her the same way—all they’d have left to fawn over would be reruns of her last twenty-three years. She’d finally have peace and quiet.

The razor nicked the top of her head as she shaved away the last bit, but she didn’t flinch as the wound bled. Sheswore her audience would never see tears nor smiles from her ever again. Her chest heaved as she looked herself over in the bathroom mirror, pleased as she flaunted the new look for the hidden cameras. It was perfect.

The silence of her victory was broken as she noticed a pair of tiny, pajama-covered feet in the open doorway beside her, and she turned to see a look of absolute horror on her young son’s face.

“It’s okay, Stevie,” she tried to say, but without her lips or facial muscles the words were lost. She picked him up in her blood-soaked hands and held him close. He couldn’t even scream, petrified as she walked him toward the rocking chair and her unblinking eyeballs looked him over. “Give Mommy a kiss. We’re going to be alright.”

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A.J.'s Heart

Hi everyone. Dare I call today's story "New Adult?" No, I don't dare. But the author, June Toliver, did so that is what I shall call it! June is a writer from Indiana who spends her non-writing time as a social studies teacher. She writes both YA and adult, and is sharing a story called A.J's Heart, which takes place in the mid-'90s and focuses on a young woman trying to find her place in the world. Hope you enjoy!

A J's Heart 
By June Toliver 

The hot shower felt so good after working all day long, running around a very crowded and busy diner. I loved the way the hot water hit my skin and how the steam pushed its way into my lungs, especially in the dead of winter. However much I enjoyed the shower I emerged quickly to get started on my crazy hair. Stepping out of the shower onto the cold tile floors, I leaned forward to wipe out a space in the foggy mirror. Wrapping one towel around my hair and the other one around my chest I gave myself a good look over. I was pale and probably could use some Sun, aside from that, I did not have much else to complain about my looks tonight. As I began to work the towel through my hair, I wondered what Chad was up to and where we were going tonight. After blow drying my hair and tying it up in a more messy pony tail than usual I put on some eyeliner, mascara, a little face powder and then some of my favorite red lipstick.

On my way to the bedroom, I heard the door bell ring and knew from the chatter of my family that Chad had arrived. I quickly rushed into the bedroom threw on my clothes, and my boots. Grabbing my jacket off the bed, I hopped on one foot trying to tie my left boot. I then quickly made my way down the hall towards the living room where Chad was obliviously standing waiting impatiently for me to emerge.

Coming into the living room and front foyer area of my parent’s home, I was almost knocked off my feet when I saw Chad standing there in his Sunday’s best. My parents and brother were looking at me and I could see that they were as stunned and speechless as I was. Chad always dressed very casually in what seemed like the same old Flannel shirt, jeans, and construction boots. To see him in a pair of khakis, neat long sleeve polo and loafers made me even more suspicious about what we were really up to tonight and where we were going. Chad never, I mean never dressed up and he had a lot of explaining to do later.

As he met my eyes and the eyes of my family nervously I felt like he could almost read my mind or our minds regarding why in the heck he looked like a yuppie going on a job interview, instead of a guy from a Midwestern Indiana town going to a friend’s house to have a couple of beers or just hang out.After a moment of shock and being thrown off guard, I quickly rescued Chad from the gawking looks of my parents and Cham, who was one moment away from bursting out in laughter over Chad’s appearance. Seeing Cham on the verge of tears caused my protective, somewhat maternal instincts to quickly kick in.

“Hey, Chad you look great…Wow is that a polo you’re wearing?

Before Chad could respond, I sort of winked at my Dad who then began to chime in talking about how handsome Chad looked and how he wished young men took as much care in their appearance as Chad had tonight. He continued by comparing Chad to himself in the 50s when Chad’s makeover would have been considered sharp by the standards of those times. In almost an instant I realized that, though well intended, my Dad was somehow making things worse. As I grabbed my pocket book and keys from the kitchen, I dashed back to the awkward scene in the living room, with Chad getting more nervous by the minute. Saying goodbye to my family, Chad and I escaped quickly out of the front door, before my father could say anything further. At this point, I was beyond embarrassed and humiliated for both Chad’s sake and mine.

Once outside, Chad slowly walked in front of me, his loafers making loud crunching sounds in the snow. He was not wearing a coat so I knew he had to be freezing. As we approached Chad’s pickup truck, the engine purred quietly as the exhaust pipes let out a familiar grey mass into the cold night air. The truck felt so warm once I got inside. Watching Chad walk around the front of the truck with the bright headlights hitting his neatly pressed khakis, made my heart melt for my friend and at that moment I decided not to drill him about where we were going and what we were doing. He obviously was on a mission and I was not about to be my usual pessimistic self. At this point, I felt an internal need to just encourage him and give him some additional confidence boosting as he would need some when other people who knew us saw him in these clothes. I was not sure who we would be partying with tonight however, my family’s reaction would be nothing compared to the guys that Chad normally hung out with. These local guys would be expecting to see the John Deere Hat, Flannels and old blue jeans as much as my family and I had.and they would probably give him a really hard time.

As Chad sat in the driver’s seat, putting his truck in reverse he looked over at me with a smirk on his face …

“Hey Janie, I did not mean to almost give your dad a heart attack or to make Cham almost have a hernia in his attempt to keep from laughing…. I actually have a very good reason for my "debonair" appearance this evening…"

Pausing for a moment and winking at me as he spoke, I was completely stunned by his choice of words and the way he was talking.

“…her name is Julie and we are attending her party tonight,”

As I sat quietly, A feeling of relief began to flow over me, I was so grateful that I wasn’t going to have to come up with more compliments regarding polos and how the color of his shirt brought out his eyes. “Soooo cute”…I thought with a chuckle …new lady, new look , new words…this was really too much.

“ Well, Julie huh? …that’s a nice name, I suppose I will be meeting her soon.” I responded after a moment of silence.

“Yep that’s the plan" Chad said with a little pride in his voice….

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Juicy Fruit and Boo

Welcome to 2013, everyone! Let's start the year off with an excerpt of a YA short story because why not?

Juicy Fruit and Boo is a short story by Kathleen S. Allen, who also has a Jane Eyre mash-up called THORNFIELD MANOR: Jane Eyre and Vampires on FanFiction.net. You can find out more about her latest projects, where to buy her books, and Like her Facebook page via her website. She is also on Twitter at @kathleea. Enjoy!

Juicy Fruit and Boo
By Kathleen S. Allen

Liza stood on the edge of the curb and stared at the green light. Should she go or wait for the light to turn red?The walk sign flashed but she hesitated until a car honked. She stepped off the curb into oncoming traffic.

Someone grabbed her from behind. A girl with braids that stuck out like Pippi Longstocking’s.

“You da new kid on da block?” she asked. Liza nodded staring down the street at the line of cars trying to turn left.

“You got gum?” the Pippi girl asked. Liza nodded again rummaging in her pocket for a fresh piece. She held it out to the girl.

“What yo name girl?”

“Liza. What’s yours?”

“Joseyfine. Supposed to be Josephine but mama couldn't spell it right. Still can’t.” Only it came out ‘kaint’. Joseyfine popped the gum in mouth and chewed noisily. “You dint tell me it was Juicy Fruit. Its my fave.”

“Mine too,” Liza said even though it wasn't. She preferred bubble gum. Juicy Fruit had been her mom’s gum. The light turned and Joseyfine grabbed Liza’s hand to pull her across.

“Come on, we gotta run or get kilt.” Once they were on the other side Joseyfine let go of Liza’s hand. “Kin you blow bubbles?”

“No.”

“I kin. Watch.” And much to Liza’s amazement, a huge yellow bubble came out of Joseyfine’s mouth. She popped it with her tongue and grinned at Liza. “See? Easy.” She eyed Liza’s too-big dress with disdain  “That all you got to wear, girl? It too big.”

“It was my mother’s.”

“She pass?”

“I don’t think so. Took off when I was little. It’s just me and my dad now.”

“He beat you?”

Liza was appalled at the question. “No. He just drinks a lot.”

“Alkie?”

Liza shrugged. “I guess.”

“Thing is, my ma is too. Once I pour her licker down the talet. She like tore my hide off. I don’t do that no more.” She smiled at Liza. “You wanna come play at my place? I gots jacks or we kin jump rope. We kin do double dutch.” Liza had no idea was ‘double-dutch’ was but she nodded.

* * *

Joseyfine was the double-dutch champion of the fourth grade. She had won blue ribbons and had competed nationally. Liza-the clumsy-wasn't very good at jump rope. She was more of an inside girl. A read-a-book-a-week girl. Joseyfine didn't read. She thought it was funny that Liza used Juicy Fruit gum as a bookmark. She’d snatch the gum from Liza’s book and pop it in her mouth before Liza could say anything.

“Yo mama teach you ta read?” Joseyfine asked leafing through the book.

“When I was three.”

“When she go?”

“The end of first grade. I came home from school and she was standing on the porch with a suitcase. She cried and told me to be careful. Then she left.”

“She don’t call?”

“No. My dad said she’s traveling all over Europe. One day I’ll just turn around and she’ll be there.”

“Yeah? You believe that shit?”

“No. Not really.”

* * *

Their fifth-grade teacher, Mr. Richard Richards---“Call me Dick Richards,” he laughed on their first day---wouldn't allow gum in his classroom.

At first the girls would only chew it at lunch then spit it out before class started. Then, it was only at recess. Then, whenever Mr. Richards had his head turned. Liza would look over at Joseyfine---she sat two rows across and one seat up---and nod. The two of them would pop a piece in their mouth and chew furiously for several minutes until he turned around. If there was time the gum would go back in the wrapper---the foil piece so it wouldn't stick---or swallowed quickly.

One of the Jennifers in class---there were four of them that year---hated her. Liza had just rolled a piece of JF up and stuck it in her desk. The desk was the kind that lifted up so you could put your books inside. Liza’s had gum in hers. Jennifer’s hand went up high in the air.

“Yes, Jennifer?”

“Mr. Richards, Liza has gum in her desk. She chews it when you are writing on the board.” Liza glared at the back of Jennifer’s head.

“Liza? Is that true?”

Liza nodded. Joseyfine looked panicked. Her eyes wild with terror.

“Stay after the bell rings.”

She got after school detention. A note to her dad. She had to clean all the desks with a toothbrush.

Joseyfine stayed away from Liza after that. She still chewed with abandon but Mr. Richards ignored her. He kept an eagle eye on Liza instead.

At recess Joseyfine played with the Jennifers now. They glared at Liza whenever she walked by them. They popped enormous bubbles and giggled when gum got all over their mouths.

Liza was determined to get all “A’s” this year and ended up on the honor roll. At the end-of-the-year assembly, Liza got an award for her academic achievement. Joseyfine and the Jennifers giggled and blew yellowish bubbles at her when she accepted her award from the principal.

* * *

Last recess of the year Liza stood near the fence watching some kids toss a ball around.

“Yo,” said a voice. “You got gum?”

Liza shook her head. “Sorry. I stopped chewing it. It was making my jaw hurt. I never liked the taste anyway.”

Joseyfine looked at her with her head tipped sideways. “That yer mama’s dress?” She pointed to Liza’s dress.

“It’s mine. I picked it out.”

“Better ‘n yer mama’s. Her dresses be weird ugly shit.”

Liza felt tears sting her eyes. “My mother had good taste.” Had. Not has.

“Why she leave you then? Seems like she had better fish ter fry.”

“She loved me,” Liza said.

“Yeah? Funny way to show by takin’ off, ain't it?”Funny way.

* * *

Liza looked for Joseyfine on the first day of middle school when they had to register for classes but didn't see her.

A snatch of a song drifted to Liza’s ears. “Me and You and a dog named Boo.” Liza’s dad used to sing that to her mom---named Barbara but called Boo--- as a joke. It was a song from the sixties when he and Boo grew up. Now some girl was singing it softly under her breath.

“How do you know that song?” she asked the girl.

The girl shrugged. “My dad plays old albums constantly.” The girl looked at Liza. “Do you know where Room 222 is?”

“No, but I think there’s a map on the back of our schedule. Survival Skills?”

“Yeah. We get to learn how to cook and crap like that. Not that I need it.”

“You can cook?”

“Sure, my parents own a restaurant downtown. Been cookin’ as long as I remember. You cook?”

Liza shook her head. “No. I was always afraid I’d burn myself.”

“I’m Sarah.”

“Liza.”

“Got any gum, Liza?”

Liza’s eyes widened. “Gum?”

“Sure, I like Juicy Fruit the best, don’t you?”

“Sorry. No gum.”

“I’ll bring us some tomorrow.”

“Get going girls, the late bell is about to ring. Be careful on the stairs.”

Liza turned her head to stare at the teacher who spoke to them. For an instant she looked like Boo. Or rather like the Boo Liza remembered before she left.

“Come on, we’re gonna be late,” Sarah said as she sprinted up the stairs two at a time. Liza followed her.