Fiction Friday: [The Porcelain Predicament]

[I came across this article in the New York Times about how they're rolling out 'One-Sentence Stories' on Apple watches. Full disclosure: I didn't read the entire article. In fact, I barely got through the first few sentences. One, I'm not an Apple person. And two , I quickly lost interest when I couldn't tell the difference between these 'One-Sentence Stories' and their regular headlines. "So what's your point?" the readers asked. Well it's this: the actual headline made me think about containing an entire story in one sentence. This isn't a new concept. Plus, I've been a fan of Smith Magazine's Six-Word Memoirs for a while now. I suppose this was all a long winded way to explain why today's Fiction Friday is way shorter than this lead up! Enjoy!]


The weight of the divorce didn't truly hit me until I reached over and discovered the empty toilet paper roll.

Fiction Friday: [The Splintering of a Wooden Heart]

Some would say it was a dark and stormy night. Unoriginal jerk-offs like Todd Winters, that is. He was the type who slid other’s words off his tongue with a cockiness that made the well-read shake their heads and the unenlightened gape all moon-eyed at his wisdom.

Rain pelted the car relentlessly. The windshield wipers screeched in protest as they struggled to keep up. The occasional flash of lightning was a welcomed sight, helping to light an additional few inches in front of the headlights.

My tender knuckles threatened to burst through my skin as my fingers strangled the steering wheel. My purpled jaw pulsed over the grinding of teeth, the taste of salt and copper on my tongue. Vision blurred from the fog of seething anger and an undercurrent of pain and loss.

The deeper I drove into the darkness, the more in sync the weather grew with my mood. Neither of which I would describe as “dark and stormy”. The more I grumbled, the harder the rain seemed to fall. Lightning scratched across the sky every time I relived the moment when had I opened the door. Tessa scrambling to cover herself—with the sheets that I paid for—sent thunder booming right through my chest.

Tonight added way more than insult to the injury. More than salt to the wound. Tonight skinned me alive. So many layers torn away and impossible to piece back together. Things would never be the same. They couldn’t be.

The phone buzzed on the seat next to me again. No need to look. I knew it was my wife. And I knew that no combination of words could make this better. None existed that could heal my broken heart.


Two hours later I realized how foolish I’d been, running away from my own home. Pulling into the driveway, I took a moment to collect myself. The living room curtain pulled back and my wife peeked out. After twenty years of marriage, I could see, even through sheets of rain, that she was relieved I was back. She greeted me at the door, her eyes slick and red.

“Sorry I left,” I said, wrapping her up in my arms.

After a moment, she led me up the stairs and past the flaking plaster where I had punched the wall. We paused outside the bedroom door where a wooden heart, painted with the innocence of pink and purple flowers, hung like a lie. Staring at it only reignited my urge to run.

“I…I can’t do this, Julie.”

My wife studied me carefully. A million emotions passed behind her eyes.

“She’s our daughter, Paul. And at seventeen, she’d not our baby anymore. I’m sure she’s just as traumatized as we are.”

Julie took a deep breath and knocked on the door, swinging it open before getting a response. Tessa sat on the bed, her face pink with tears. In her arms, with one of his ears hanging limply from over a decade of bringing her comfort, was Mr. Bear Bear. And for a moment, all I could see was my sweet little girl.

Fiction Friday: [The Last Girl on Earth]

When I first heard the voices, I thought I was dead. It had to be the chatter of angels. Surely, I was ascending to the next plane of existence. Or at least I hoped I was ascending.

The night before I spotted lush green trees rising in the distance above the hard angles of brick and concrete that had dominated my view since entering New York City. Although I had many miles to go before reaching it, I wasn’t going to rest until I had. Stepping into Central Park, I almost felt reinvigorated. I stumbled down overgrown paths until I reached a huge patch of tall grass. I fell to my knees and cried as my hands brushed against the blades. As with every emotion I’d had in the last fourteen months, I had no idea why. Exhausted from the tears, I settled in atop my worn blue tarp, staring at the stars and imagining my family next to me until I fell asleep.

After a winter of ice clinging to naked branches and cartoon-like clouds puffing through my clenched teeth and dry lips, I had decided to head south. It took me almost seven months to get here from Maine. And it took almost as long to scare up the courage to finally leave home. To see if anyone else still existed. There were no gravestones to visit to say goodbye to my family. Even if there were, those graves would be empty. Everyone had just disappeared.

Packing up in the morning, I looked into the vast space and tried to imagine it full of people. Picnicking, tossing Frisbees, and taking for granted that they weren’t alone. I reached my crying quota last night so it was time to move on. Heading out, I found a tattered green and white sign that read: The Great Lawn. I laughed at the fact that I had slept in all of New York City’s backyard. The sign was also covered in simple lines meant to serve as a map. Although faded, I could make out a Turtle Pond and a theater, but my eyes hung on the clearest of all: Belvedere Castle. Something stirred inside me and I knew that I had to see it. A castle in the middle of Manhattan? What choice did I have? It was going to take at least a year before I made it to Florida, a little sightseeing would hardly make a dent.

When I finally spied the grey brown turret rising above the tree top, my heart pounded as if it knew something I didn’t. I took a moment, staring at the tattered American flag hanging limply at its peak and that was when I heard the voices. Light and carefree, even giggling. I edged closer, passing a half empty pond with no sign of turtles. Clearing the trees enough to see the castle, I paused when I looked at the balcony just below the turret. There were four kids, around sixteen or so. My age. Two sat precariously along the stone railing. One of them, a girl, was the first to see me. But there wasn’t fear in her eyes. Not even surprise.

“We got another one,” she called out to her friends.

After so long without human contact, four sets of eyes on me felt like millions.

“I know what you’re thinking,” another kid, a boy, said. “but you’re not hallucinating. And you’re not dead. Trust me. We’ve all been through it. Come on up.”

I wasn’t sure if it was because I had gone so long believing I was the last person on earth, but gazing up into their empathetic faces, I felt like I knew them. I took the stairs two at a time, my heart now pounding in unison with my thoughts.

I wasn’t alone.

Fiction Friday: Galloway House Pt. 4

[Welcome to Part 4 of Galloway House. If you have missed any of the previous installments you can find them here: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3. And as always...thanks for reading!]


As Joseph Strunk sat down for a meal with his family, he imagined it was considerably more subdued than other dinner tables around Townsley. The arrival of the stranger would no doubt dominate every conversation. Theories would be discussed. Assumptions would be made. And thanks to the lack of facts and evidence, it was safe to assume that fear would grow and spread before night’s end.

Joseph chewed thoughtfully on leftover chicken and remembered the looks of wonder and awe on the other villager’s faces as the storm had rolled in. The hissing sounds of their whispered concerns whipping by on the growing winds. And then, how they had all fallen silent—momentarily stunned he supposed—as their widened eyes drew like magnets to the unfamiliar car as it rolled into town. He had watched as the shock and confusion morphed its way into curiosity.

“Who is that?” Ben Waller had said.

And although he was the only one within earshot of the question, Joseph hadn’t dared to assume it was directed toward him. Ben was Townsley’s only lawyer. In a town where everything had its place, there was certainly no slot that would involve a conversation between a lawyer and a garbage man. Joseph wandered off before the conversation continued, but he was sure it was filled with misinformation and speculation.

What he really knew was that he had just witnessed the seeds of fear being planted. A fear that would not bloom in his household. Neither Joseph nor his wife, Clara, were afraid and their children were much too young to care about the village’s goings on.

No matter how historic.

Watching his children’s chubby cheeks bob and squish as they ate their dinner, he considered their future. The Strunk family had lived in Townsley for almost as long as the village existed, but have never at any point been affluent members of the community. At least not under the definition of what seemed to matter these days.  Theirs was a wealth whose currency was knowledge. Secrets passed down from generation to generation. Ones that involved the truth behind why Galloway house stood abandoned and shrouded in mystery for so long. And more importantly, what it meant now that an heir to the Galloway legacy had returned. 

[Read Part 5 here]

Fiction Friday: [Galloway House]

Perched atop the hill protruding in the middle of the village, Galloway House loomed over Townsley. No one had been seen leaving or entering the home in years. Yet, every night, after the sun dug itself into the horizon and the moon cast a pale blue over the village, warm light glowed between the green shutters of the eerie, eye-like windows. And although shadows never crossed those windows, every villager bore the uneasy feeling that they were being watched.

The Galloway family’s history was steeped in mystery. Aside from their ancestors being the first to settle in Townsley, little more was known of them. Speculation and tall tales had been passed down from generation to generation. Each year the stories grew more fantastical and cautionary like a morbid, decades-long game of telephone.

To this day it was believed that no one could ever escape the long gaze of Galloway House. Those who have traveled far beyond the village’s borders claim that its image still flashed through their nightmares and questions about who resided behind its wall still tumbled noisily through their thoughts, even years after cutting the cord and moving away.

Younger children often stared up the hill, eyes wide with wonder before their parents yanked them away and explained to them—in hushed tones—that they were never to approach the house. As these children grew older those words turned into dares of ringing the bell which always ended with teasing. No one had ever summoned the courage to go past the middle of the hill.

In the distance dark clouds gathered and aimed their sights on Townsley. As they eased closer, an uneasiness spread amongst the town. A sense of dread that was as thick as the murky gray sky following in the clouds wake. An energy swept through the village and with it, the knowledge that they needed to brace themselves. The storm on their horizon would prove to be unlike any they had ever faced before. 


Fiction Friday: [Reset | Delicate Cycle]

Milly flicked her tail as she whined and buried her face into my calf. Reaching down behind her ear, I scratched her favorite spot and struggled to recall the last time she’d been so needy. I wondered if she somehow knew that in just a few hours she would no longer be a part of my life. At best she’d be the spark of a memory that never quite ignited. A fleeting wisp of familiarity that dissipated quicker than it appeared.

Not so long ago people lived with their pasts, no matter how painful. The lucky ones would go through years of therapy, talking about their issues until they became manageable. That wasn’t enough for me. I had no doubt that most people in my position would make the same decision. Would sacrifice everything they once knew to forget the feeling of their cheekbone crushing under the fist of the man they believed loved them. Forget the time—every single time—they accepted his apology and stayed.

In my isolated world, Milly was my only bright spot. My only constant. She never judged me and was always there to lick my wounds. At the first appointment I’d asked about the possibility of keeping her in my life, but they made it clear that memory swipes were all or nothing. Losing her was breaking my heart, but at least it wouldn’t last for long.  

I nuzzled my nose into her neck and held her until she started to squirm in my arms. She leapt soundlessly onto the hardwood floor, but didn’t go far. She stared at me with her piercing yellow eyes and somehow I knew she’d miss me. Without breaking our gaze, she let out a single meow. Just one to say goodbye before she turned and hopped up on the couch. She never looked up again as she circled her favorite spot and curled up into a fuzzy gray ball. My hand itched to pet her once more, but I couldn’t. One step would be all it took to weaken my defenses.

I grabbed my bag from the floor and read over the carefully crafted note one more time. It said nothing of how or why I’d reached my decision, it only held instructions for taking care of Milly. Her new owners would need to know about her favorite spot, her favorite toys and that she was afraid of the vacuum cleaner.

I wished it had been that simple for me. A note full of care instructions that broke down my needs as simply as a laundry tag. Handle with care. Be gentle. Do not hit.  

Long, lazy purrs wafted from the couch. I found the sunlight circling Milly and giving her an ethereal glow. A fitting reminder of what an angel she’d been in my life. My old life.

Fiction Friday: [The Preservation of a Lopsided Smile]

The color drained from Margo’s face when the email arrived. She had checked her inbox obsessively for it every day. Now, the breath caught in her chest as the pointy-fingered cursor hovered, waiting to open what she hoped to be the answer to what had defied explanation for so long. Too long.

Ignoring her husband’s protests, she sent the request shortly after Brianna’s death. Her daughter hadn’t left a note and poring through her emails led only to prolonged heartache instead of providing the answers Margo so desperately needed. Facebook added to her despair when they denied the request, offering only to memorialize the page. Her tears morphed from those of sorrow to joy when an employee turned out to be the friend of a friend and offered to do what they could to get her the password. They warned her it would take time, but if she were able to have one last connection, an understanding of who Briana was in the end, the wait would be worth it.

She considered calling Jim despite his attempts to stop this moment from happening. She tried to convince herself it was for his benefit, but her heart wouldn’t allow her mind to push the truth away so easily. It was no secret that Margo blamed herself for their daughter never seeing her sixteenth birthday. As a mother, she should have seen the signs. She should have known Brianna was unhappy.

The phone clicked louder than it should have against the wood as she set it on the desk. If she was truly to blame, the last thing she needed was a witness to the proof. Her gaze fell upon the framed photo of Brianna next to the laptop. An unsteady finger traced the outline of her daughter’s face as the tears slid over her thinned lips, rounded her trembling chin and splashed onto the keyboard.


Jim arrived home a few hours later and tossed his keys into the lopsided bowl on the entry table. His mind traveled back a couple of years as he paused to remember the look of pride on Brianna’s twelve-year-old face after she had come home from camp. The shape always reminded him of her smile. The bright colors personified the happy girl he chose to remember.

He found Margo on the couch and recognized the faraway gaze to nothing, the ruddy complexion from a bout of sorrow-filled tears, and the unnatural stillness that had filled the house since they lost their daughter. A full mug of tea sat on the coffee table, and there was no doubt it had gone cold. He had yet to find the right words to comfort his wife. He imagined he’d find them buried somewhere deep below his own broken heart.

Jim planted a kiss on his wife’s forehead and then ambled down the hallway. The downturned picture frame on the desk drew his attention as he entered their bedroom. With stilted breath, he made his way over and placed it upright again. The heat of tears pressed against his eyes as they met with Brianna’s sparkling smile. He slumped into the chair and his heart folded into itself when he failed to remember the sound of her laughter. He understood Margo’s needs, but he desperately wanted to hold onto to the daughter he knew as long as he could. Even as the pieces of her floated just out of reach.

His elbow nudged the laptop, waking it from its slumber. Like a moth to a flame, Jim was drawn by the light and found Margo’s email staring back at him. With each passing second, the strings of curiosity pulled tighter as his gaze lingered on the cursor hovering over an unopened email.   

Fiction Friday: [Detonation]

It was the first time she’d seen him since he died.

Crossing Broadway and 72nd, Satomi was stopped in her tracks. Confusion numbed her to the throng of commuters knocking her to and fro around the bustling intersection like a pinball. As flashes of jackets and sweaters zigzagged past their unbroken gaze, the guilt washed over her.

She had never even shed a tear.

The angry horns of yellow cabs barely registered through the ticking. She knew it was the time bomb her family and friends spoke of when they thought she was out of ear shot. Her breathing grew shallow in anticipation of its detonation.

Heat, from deep within, rose to the surface in opposition to the crisp fall air. As her skin tingled, she had no doubt the time had come. A moment that should have happened months ago in the loving arms of her family, instead played out amongst the loud ringtones and honking horns of strangers.

Cutting through it all was his smile. It wasn’t until she tasted the salt in her tears that Satomi realized she was smiling, too.

It was the first time she’d seen her father since he died and her smile grew, knowing it wouldn’t be the last.