Saturday, May 23, 2015

Flash! Friday: Two Waterfalls

by Michael Seese

I'm still chasing that elusive FIFTH victory in Flash! Friday. This week, we were given a photo of Victoria Falls...

 ... and asked to incorporate the theme of "man vs. nature," which I might or might not have done. You can be the judge.

This is "Victoria's Fall."

The flood of tears threatened to carry her away. What began months ago as an occasional trickle had grown into a raging torrent that nearly drowned her every night.

It is said that the individual droplets of water which comprise a river will, in time, return to their source. Victoria knew that someday she, too, would. Until that day – the day she could walk through the front door and tell her parents they were right when they said big-city life was not in her blood – she relied on memories of home to keep her afloat.

She tasted her mother's cobbler, laden with peaches picked from the orchard. She felt the tickle of a butterfly which alighted on her nose, its wings casting a kaleidoscope across her field of vision. She smelled the freshly cut straw piled in the barn. (After discovering boys, she would form a whole new set of associations with the scent of straw.) She even managed to hear in the blare of horns, sirens, and desperate shouts the soothing thrum of the silver stream which bisected her backyard.

These tactile comforts sustained Victoria, and helped counteract the bile which rose in her throat each time another john laid a twenty on the nightstand.

And this is "Over The Edge."

She wavered, her resolve bobbing like a lost cork tossed into a stormy sea.

She toyed with the edge, dancing on the precipice, then pulling back before gravity could win the battle.

She knew that if she took the plunge, everything would change.

Those who surrounded her seemed content to follow the course that stretched out before them. But she could not find comfort in conformity. She never could see clear to just letting herself go with the flow. Her odyssey had been one marked by turbulence, a series of stops and starts, rapids and shallows, eddies and vorticies.

Then a memory came flooding back. That of winter's chill, of being frozen time, fearful of never again knowing what running feels like. That was enough.

I should do it. I will do it, she thought even though a drop of water is not capable of what, through the lens of humanity, could be called actual thought. She let go of the safety of the rock and rode over the falls.

Downstream, somewhere, her new life awaited. She had no idea where it may lie. But she would find it. Until she did, she knew one thing. She was free, freer than she ever had been.

Please share your thoughts on either  your thoughts on "No Escape."

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Flash! Friday: No Escape

by Michael Seese

Something a little different -- at least when compared to the last few -- I think. This week, we were presented with this picture.

And the stated setting was "a downtown." I came up with the first two lines pretty quickly, then pondered the rest a while. So here is "No Escape."

Our town has a Main Street. Correction: our town is Main Street, and not a whole lot else. I doubt much has changed since the days when the wooden Indian keeping watch over Connor's Cigar Store was alive and kicking.

Boredom here is a low-hanging fruit, plentiful, ripe, and waiting to be plucked by anyone young enough to be restless. My friends and I all had escape plans. The lazy ones turned to alcohol or TV-induced coma. Others thumbed a ride out on a semi passing through; their inevitable response to "Where you headed?" being "Anywhere else." A few of the radical kids studied hard, and went away to college.

As I haunt Main Street, I see the next generation sitting around, wasting their lives, languishing in the same stupor we did. I want to grab them by their shoulders, shake them, and say, "Wake up! There is something beyond."

But I can't.

You see, most exit strategies allow for a round trip. Mine – jumping off the water tower – did not. But somehow, even in death, I'm still here. Devoid of life, just like Main Street.

In the movies, lost souls are told, "Go to the light." But which direction does one go when there's no light to be found?
As always, I'm happy to hear your thoughts on "No Escape."

Monday, May 11, 2015

It Never Gets Old

by Michael Seese

In late 2012, I wrote "A Lifetime Ago" for one of Janet Reid's 100-word contests. A few days later, I learned I won. Since it's 100 words, I think I can reprint it here.

The bonds we forged over a lifetime of summers...

Playing pirate with swords fashioned from Christmas wrapping paper rolls.

Seeking asylum from our sisters in your treehouse (accessible only by a really cool, real rope ratline fashioned by your dad).

Finding a family of possums, lodgers under my front porch.

Games of stickball in the street.

Discovering what the girls in our class would look like in a few years, courtesy of my big brother’s Playboy collection.

All of that came unraveling in one horrible second when you yelled, “Police! Put up your hands, Bobby!”

And I drew first.

A few months after that, I learned that Medusa's Laugh Press was looking for flash fiction for a micro book. (These are the same folks who printed my poem "The Daily Caffeine Stream" as part of a 3-D poetry book.) So I submitted "A Lifetime Ago." And it was accepted. It's taken a while, but the book is out.

Holding your book is your hands is like holding your baby. It never gets old.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Flash x2

by Michael Seese

Buoyed by my win last week, I came up with two stories for this week's Flash! Friday.

This was the photo.

To help you understand the first story, the caption of the photo is "1943 crash landing on the USS Enterprise. " We had to include as a character a lawyer. So here is "The Red One Or The Blue One?"

William wiped mock sweat from his brow.

"Which one? Which do I cut? The red wire or the blue one?"

Gracie's expression did not change.

"Damn it, Jim! I’m an attorney. Not a munitions expert. Why don't you ask that cursed Vulcan which is the more logical choice?" William chuckled a little, remembering evenings spent on the couch, basking in the cathode glow. "Dr. McCoy always was your favorite character. Though I know you secretly had a crush on Kirk."

His wife of 47 years snorted slightly.

"It’s too bad Artie’s not here. He would know. Artie was good with electronics. Remember how he used to fix our TVs?" Regrettably, William’s only brother had passed ten years prior.

A tear surprised him, and hijacked his sense of humor. "I can’t wait any more, Gracie. They’ll be in soon to check on you."

William decided to err on the side of caution, and gave both wires a sharp tug. The staccato pulse that had haunted his days and nights for three months gave way to a shrill high-pitched squeal. Her sunken chest offered one final heave, then fell still.

He kissed her forehead.

"Good night, dear," William said before finishing her medicine, and joining her in sleep.

Then I wrote "Homecoming."

"Today's the day, kiddo. Daddy's coming home. Finally. It sure will be good to see him. To have dinner with him. To hold his hand again. It's been..."

In truth, Angie lost track of exactly when Tom had flown to Boston. She remembered she'd packed his summer suits. Now, the leaves on the stately maple had assumed a fiery fringe.

"… too long. That's how long it's been."

And it would be good to hear his voice. He'd call whenever he could. But the meetings often lasted well into the night, and then he'd be in the hotel reviewing papers, sifting through the corporate garbage. So most of his communication came via email, sometimes sent while sitting in the conference room he labeled the "Black Hole of Calcutta for lawyers."
But each one ended with "LuvU." That was all she needed.

"Well, even though his plane just took off, it's a long drive to the airport. We'd best get going, little one," she said, placing two loving hands on a belly that was not yet swollen, but soon would be. "I can't wait to tell him our news."

She turned off the television seconds before the headline, "Tragedy In NYC. Plane Hits WTC" could bring her world tumbling down.

Please comment on either. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Winner! Winner!

by Michael Seese

In a post the other week, I touched upon a few of the things I had written of late.

- a 500-story to MASH stories. (Rejected)
- a 3,400-word update of a classic to Crossroads In The Dark. (Still pending.)
- a nifty little piece (piling up the favorites) to Three Line Thursday. (The eventual winner.)  

This week was pretty good, too. My Three Line Thursday entry from a week ago took second place. To save you the trouble of hunting for it (but here's a link, if you want to) I'll post it below. 

Here is the photo:


And my three-line response:

a pastel lake
seems like a nicer place
to drown 

Then to cap off the week, my Flash! Friday entry "Monkey See" was named the WINNER! My fourth crown. 

These are the judge's comments. (I'll admit I'm a complete whore for praise.)

J – The inescapability of the scenario was made just that much worse by the tiny flicker of hope which in the end trapped the narrator more securely than any lock. Let go of the key, let go of hope…hold the key, Sheila dies. This was an effort in futility from the very beginning and such a brilliant approach to the prompt, absolutely stunning in the execution… no pun intended and a well-deserved win.

IR – Oh the curse of our poor narrator! Much like J, I found the claustrophobia, echoed with the bleak stripped down layers of description, to bring to the fore the inertia of our would-be hero. In particular the shift from fractured torment into the realisation that we are in the midst of some dystopian game show was deftly executed without losing focus on the fear of our protagonists. The theme of catch 22 perfectly captured, the photo prompt delivered to the proverbial T, a worthy winner.

And here, should you still be awake, is my winner's interview.

Let's see if I can keep the string going, either with Three Line Thursday or Flash! Friday this week....


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Castle: Dead From New York

by Michael Seese

This one had a little of everything. Humor. You knew a riff on a popular comedy show (one which runs on another network, mind you) would be funny. Tenderness. Castle's consoling and inspiring his mother was a wonderful scene. Exhilaration. Not only did Castle and Beckett nab the murderer, but Martha wound up the toast of the Twitterverse, "as they say." Oh, and a musical guest. Yes, "Dead From New York" had it all.

Including lividity, which put the time of death between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. Thank you, Lanie.

The opening was a marvelous homage to the current SNL opening, both in terms of the cinematography and the theme song. I also appreciated that Castle noted the show had been on for 35 years, seeing as how SNL has been playing up their 40th anniversary this year. (And, he pointed out that a few of the seasons were clunkers. Art does imitate life, after all.)

I think my favorite scene had to be the one with the actress who would play Beckett in the skit (I don't recall hearing her name) standing there and aping Beckett's movements and gestures, both right to her face (even questioning one of them) as well as behind her back. I could watch that scene again. And I just might.

With regard to verbal humor...

Beckett: "Castle, something's wrong with your mother."
Castle: "You're just realizing that now?"

Beckett: "There's been a homicide."
Martha: "Is he dead?"
Beckett: "Yes, Martha..." 
(Martha waves her off.)

And of course, the whole "Is he dead" shtick was hilarious. Though I didn't write down the setup, I loved Castle's reference to Martha's first-line-only policy, one time long ago, leading to "the most awkward parent-teacher conference ever."

Castle: "How can you not like Dr. Finger?"
Beckett: "Because I'm not a 13-year-old boy."

Liz Ball: "I wanted to be a cop, but wound up a writer. I know... pathetic."
Castle: "Excuse me?"

Unnamed Beckett Impersonator: "Model cop down!"

Castle: "Is this a trick? What answer is not going to have me sleeping on the couch tonight?"

A few nitpicks:

- When Beckett and Castle were interrogating Mickey Frank, he spoke through his "lawyer." Beckett never would have tolerated that.

- The timing at the end. SPOILERS HERE. Let's assume there really was a show like "Saturday Night Tonight." And let's assume the musical guest would go on... I don't know...let's say just after midnight, perhaps following a satirical news sketch. That wouldn't leave them much time to arrest a suspect (Chad, the intern), get him back to precinct, interrogate him, book him (he was being led away in handcuffs), realize he wasn't the killer, and get back to the studio before the show ends at -- hypothetically speaking -- 1:00 a.m.

- And speaking of timing, I know Beckett wanted to bust the murderer. But she was standing there, next to him. Really? She couldn't wait 5 minutes until the show ended?   

What did you think of "Dead From New York?"

And sadness, as next week is the season finale.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Flash! Friday: "Monkey See"

by Michael Seese


A chilling story this week. A few weeks back, I said I wanted to focus more on the photograph, rather than the story element cue, which this week was "Catch -22." And when I looked at the guy's face...

it was easy to come up with a story that featured a desperate man.

So with out further ado, here is "Monkey See."

She gasps a little when she sees me reach in through the small gap in the door. 

"Don't worry. I will get you," I say evenly.

She tries to speak. But terror owns her voice.

"Where is it?" I hiss. "I know it's here somewhere." Then my fingertip finds metal.

"Please," she begs, "just go."

"You know I can't do that."

I wish that I could crawl through the tiny peephole, and end the game. The key is close. I can just jiggle it with my middle finger. I block out her cries as I focus on the task. Sinew tearing, I stretch the last inch, and snatch it from the hook.

"I've got it," I say. "Sheila, I'm getting you out."

"You're too late," she sobs.

"What do you –"

"Quite the quandary," says a slithery baritone. "Do you know how they used to capture monkeys? They'd place a banana inside a cage with a narrow slit. Small enough for an open hand to reach in, but not wide enough for a clenched fist to come out."

My limited view allows me to see only his torso.

And the knife.

"Not wanting to drop the prize, he remains a prisoner. Willingly. I hope you enjoy the show."

Please share your thoughts on "Monkey See."