Category: Snapshots: Micro Stories

Snapshots: The Greatest Show On Earth

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photo by Jason Hargrove

Good morning, Mirror!

It’s a beautiful day and WE are beautiful!

Look at those blue, blue eyes, that American Beauty nose.

Smile!

We are going to make it the best day ever!

We are EXTRA-ordinary and we do EXTRA-ordinary things!

Here are our Post-Its for today, Mirror, which I wrote last night and am sticking here as reminders because we both know if I don’t write them down before going to sleep, my mind just buzzes and buzzes with everything I need to do and everything I THINK I need to do, which includes making a LIST of to-dos, which I did and can already cross several things off before I’ve even put on my makeup, like, empty Mr. Whisker’s litter box (check!) and call pharmacy to renew prescription (check!).

(New Post-It: Add “Xanax” to tonight’s bedtime thankful list, because GRATITUDE.)

Okay, Mirror, let’s remember to pick up bagels for Ann Marie’s birthday surprise at the office (is that a zit on my chin?) and whatever you do, do NOT get poppy seed. Ann Marie did nothing but bitch after Jason’s birthday surprise last month about finding poppy seeds stuck in her teeth for two days afterward. She always HAS to have something to be negative about, like last week when we rode with her to the bank. She pointed at the building and said, “You know, I hate that color of brick.” YEESH.

(Add “Glad I’m not Ann Marie” underneath “Xanax” on thankful list…)

Today, we MUST get that email out to the announcer for the Broadway channel on satellite radio to suggest (once again!) that they really need to be playing more Gershwin. Also, demand that they increase their Sondheim rotation. Not NEARLY enough Porgy or Sweeney, as far as we’re concerned.

That reminds me… we need to find a pianist for this Saturday at the Best Western lobby bar, so we can make sure our rendition of “Someone To Watch Over Me” is in perfect form when our blind date walks through the door. (Create new Post-It!)

Before I forget, Mirror (am I imagining things, or is my right boob sagging lower than my left?): Don’t forget to pull together the contracts for Mr. Berenson so he can take them (once again!) to Legal for review. As if you and I haven’t already had it UP TO HERE with attorneys (and boyfriends!) this month, thanks to Mr. I’m-Banging-Chloe-The-Barista, and the unfortunate incident that followed with the bagel and venti Americano.

(New Post-It: Do web search for Liebeck vs. McDonalds, to give to lawyer. Look up how hot coffee has to actually be to qualify as “scalding,” especially in pelvic region.)

Finally, be sure to pick up some flowers and a package of Hello Kitty stickers for Mr. Lubovitch’s cast, even though we’re really NOT sorry we hit him with our car because, for God’s sake, how can we be expected to see a pedestrian in our rearview mirror when we’re busy backing out of our parking spot AND singing along to “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” Hey, come to think of it, maybe we can practice “Someone To Watch Over Me” on Mr. Lubovitch. He’d probably appreciate a bit of entertainment in his hospital room, being stuck in traction and all.

(New Post-It: Buy batteries for boombox; record pianist playing accompaniment for use in hospital karaoke.)

Yes, Mirror, this is going to be the best day ever!

Gorgeous, that’s what we are!

What’s NOT to love? MMMWAH!

Curtain up! Light the lights!

We’re ready for our close-up!

 

© Michele Miller Nelson 2014

Snapshots: The Chairs

Every night since the Dream came to visit, the old man has been helping the children get ready.

He began by painting the chairs the colors of a summertime carnival, arranging them in a circle around the trunk of the sycamore tree.

After that, the children began to play.

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He has watched through the broken window of the garage as neighborhood parents gather each evening at the edge of the front yard, discussing things like mortgage rates and food allergies while their children play tag around the chairs or blindfold each other in a game they call Guess the Color.

The parents pay no attention, but the old man knows why the children never fail to guess the correct color of their particular chair: One night, after the families had gone, he sat in a purple chair and the unmistakable flavor of grape lingered on his tongue for an hour.

A few nights ago, he placed red plastic party cups upside-down on the metal seats of the chairs.

After that, the children began to listen.

They walk around the inside of the circle, pressing their ears to the bottom of each cup. As the parents stand around complaining to each other about taxes and road construction, the children run over to them, presenting dazzling, solemn pronouncements of what they’ve heard.

Bees, buzzing inside a can.

Marching bands, fighting with each other.

Dinosaurs, roaring for their babies.

The parents pay little mind. But the old man knows it won’t be long now, because the children are describing the vision that came to him in the Dream.

The ships will appear as a humming hive of ancient galleons, silver and brilliant against the sun. They will float in a dead calm over the city, blasting their brassy, dissonant chords each morning at daybreak.

And then, the children will be gone.

It makes the old man a little sad to know that the parents will pound on his door, seeking their children, searching for answers.

He, too, will be gone but vows to do the best he can for them.

He will leave the lone, pink chair under the sycamore tree so that the parents can whisper into its red cup and listen for a reply.

If they are lucky, he thinks, if they have even the smallest drop of imagination left in their dried-up souls, their ears may catch the slightest shimmer of their children’s laughter wafting down from above.

 

© Michele Miller Nelson 2014

Snapshots: The Sharpshooter

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Gardner stepped down from the wagon and stood in a pool of blood. The stench of shit and decay hung heavy in the early morning mist.

“I don’t know that I can do this, Mr. Gardner,” said O’Sullivan, frozen in his seat.

“Aye, you can.” Gardner removed the grey raincoat he’d purchased just before leaving Glasgow and placed it in the wagon. He gestured toward a tree a few yards away, directing O’Sullivan to tie the horses to a low-slung branch.

There were still hundreds of casualties strewn about, not all of them dead. Bodies stirred and soft moans floated across the meadow, begging to Christ for a bullet to the head.

Gardner had privately noted this particular spot on the battlefield the day before, when the artillery and cannon fire had driven him to seek refuge back along the perimeter of Gettysburg. Here, two ledges of granite met to form a sharply angled corner. Someone had piled small rocks in the gap between them, creating a wall tall enough to allow a sharpshooter to take aim at the rebel soldiers on the ridge below.

O’Sullivan unloaded the box camera and equipment from the wagon as Gardner stepped gingerly around the bodies, sometimes squatting, cocking his head to gauge angles and perspective.

“Come here, Timothy,” Gardner finally said. He guided his assistant around to stand in front of him and placed a hand on the back of O’Sullivan’s neck. Leaning in to the young man’s ear, he said, “Tell me which one.”

O’Sullivan turned his head away from the clusters of dead men. He stared through the fog, back toward the encampment.

Gardner squeezed O’Sullivan’s neck. “C’mon, lad, bear up. We’re blessed with a break from the rain, but it’ll surely be starting up again, soon enough.”

The assistant turned back and swallowed. “Him. That one there.” O’Sullivan pointed. “He has some blood, but not too much. His eyes are open. And he hasn’t been dead long. He’s not stiff yet.”

“Aye. Good man.” Gardner slapped him on the back.

Gardner strode over to the body, waving for O’Sullivan to follow. Taking the dead soldier’s feet and shoulders, the two men rose together and shuffled toward the stone wall. Off in the distance, they heard the soft pop of a single rifle and indistinct shouting.

O’Sullivan’s face was pale and his arms trembled as they lay the soldier on his back, the heels of his boots scraping against the bottom of the wall. Stepping away, he watched as Gardner arranged the soldier’s arms to give the effect of having fallen backward from a shooting position. Gardner lifted the head and turned the face toward the camera. He pried the mouth open but placed his thumbs over the eyelids, pressing them shut.

“A haunting image is needed but we musn’t take it too far,” he said.

Gardner returned to the group of casualties, picking up a cap, a tin cup, and a leather ammunition bag. “Looks like the officers have already gathered up the guns, Timothy,” he said, scattering his chosen items at the base of the wall, “Please get the rifle from the prop box.”

He took his time placing the gun, leaning it against the wall at an angle pointing heavenward. He walked back and slid the glass plate into the opening at the rear of the camera. Making a slight adjustment to the wooden tripod, he removed the lens cap.

“Fourteen seconds, I should think,” he said to himself, studying the sweeping hand on his pocket watch.

O’Sullivan noted the absence of a uniform on the dead man. “I wonder. Is he Union or Confederate?”

Gardner said nothing until the exposure was complete. “He is what the viewers want him to be,” he finally replied as he replaced the lens cap and pocketed his watch. “Mr. Brady’s orders are for images with broad impact, in order to attract the most viewers to his gallery. And that is what he shall have.”

The back of the wagon groaned as the assistant stepped into the portable darkroom to develop the plate. Gardner walked back toward the rocks and squatted next to the soldier. He slid his hand inside the coat and found a small, half-carved wooden horse, which he first took to be a child’s toy but soon realized was a chess piece, a knight. There was also a sealed letter, addressed to a Miss Clarice Turnbow of Hopewell, Pennsylvania. He returned the items back to where he’d found them.

Gardner checked to make sure that O’Sullivan was still in the darkroom, then walked to one end of the rocky ledge. Leaning over with his palms against the stone, he vomited up the meager breakfast he’d eaten at daybreak. He spit into the dirt. “Good God, Marie,” he whispered in anguish to his faraway wife. Wiping his mouth against the back of his hand, he straightened and made his way back to the wagon.

The mist was lifting and thunder rolled over the ridge by the time O’Sullivan finally climbed into the wagon. Reaching for the reins, he handed Gardner a horseshoe. “Toby threw a shoe on the way down the hill,” he said.

Gardner felt the heft of the iron in his palm. “’Tis a fine job you did this morning, Timothy.” He took one last look at the sharpshooter lying there as O’Sullivan steered the horses and wagon around to head back up the rise. “This afternoon, if the rain holds off, you shall take charge of choosing the next setting.”

“We’ll need to stop by the camp blacksmith on our way back, before lunch,” O’Sullivan said, clicking his tongue at the horses to get them moving.

Gardner straightened his back and closed his hand around the curve of the horseshoe. “A landscape setting, I should think. A few men, a building or two, and a cannon. Mr. Brady will definitely require a cannon.”

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This story was written as a flash fiction exercise (less than 1,000 words) suggested by Chuck Wendig at Terrible Minds. Four random items were chosen from a list and were to be integrated into an original story. I chose a chess piece, a child’s toy, an unopened letter, and an iron horse shoe. If you’re interested, you can read what other writers came up with by clicking on the links in the comments of Chuck’s original post.

© Copyright 2013 – Michele Nelson