Thursday, October 17, 2019

Mouse – A Short Story


dontravis.com blog post #357

Courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net
Back to storytelling this week after an interesting poem last week. Probably more meaningful to me than to most readers since I was a subtle subject of the work.

This week’s short story was inspired by… nothing. I just sat down and dreamed up a rat and a mouse. Voila, a short story resulted.

*****
MOUSE  

          I’m here to tell you, life as Rat Flanagan’s younger brother ain’t easy. Especially, when his moniker earns you the nickname of Mouse. I’m actually Ralph; he’s Finn, but when he went tough guy and got slapped with “Rat,” “Mouse” just came along automatically.
          My brother’s the leader of a local street gang, not by dint of leadership, but by being the meanest, nastiest guy in the neighborhood. The same way he got his nickname, come to think of it. But he’s always been good to me. Looked out for me, you might say. Took me under his wing.
          Until lately. You see, there’s this chick I met down at the college library where I’m struggling through my sophomore year. Roseanna’s her name. Blonde, blue-eyed, and stacked. Smart too. I made the mistake of bringing her around to meet some of the guys, and Rat went gaga over her.
          “She’s too much woman for you,” he said to me after I came home later that same day.
          “Naw. She’s exactly the right amount of woman,” I countered as a worrying flutter began in my stomach.
          He waved a scrap of paper in my face. “We’ll see.”
          “How’d you get her number?”
          “How else, Rose gave it to me.”
          “No way. And her name’s Roseanna.”
          “She’s a rose to me,” he said before turning and walking away.
          The flutter in my gut became a cramp.

          
          My next date with Roseanna wasn’t reassuring.
          “Course, I gave it to him,” she said as she concentrated on buffing the nails on her right hand. We were sitting in my ’98 Cougar in front of the college library.
          “Why?”
          “Why not? He’s your brother. If your mama asked for my number, I’d give it to her, wouldn’t I?”
          “My mom’s interest isn’t Rat’s interest.”
          “I don’t like that name. I like Finn better.”
          “You don’t have a problem calling me Mouse.”
          “Ralph’s such a plain name. Besides—” She tweaked my nose. “—Mouse is such a cute name.”
          The rest of the date did not go well. She seemed to enjoy her malt at the SUB and dancing at the Disco, a nearby college hangout, but I spent the evening fighting an increasingly rebellious gut.

        
          Things came to a head when she told me she couldn’t go out Friday night because “Finn” had asked her to a movie.
          “I thought we were going together,” I said.
          “Nothing official,” she answered, admiring her glittering scarlet fingernails. It looked like a professional job to me, and she couldn’t afford a manicure like that.
          “Nice nails,” I opened my gambit.
          She beamed. “You think so? I think it’s ultra!”
          I went from subtle to blunt. “How much did it cost?”
          Roseanna gave me her sweetest smile. “Have no idea. Finn paid for it. Wanted me to look nice for our Friday night date.”
          I went from blunt to self-destructive. “You can’t date two brothers.”
          “No law against it.”
          “My law. You gotta choose.”
          “You sure you wanna say that?”
          “I’m sure.”
          She tossed her head, sending blond hair spraying in all directions. “Well, Mouse, Seems to me a rat’s superior to a mouse, so what do you think.”
          “So you like the tough guy thing?”
          “I like macho, sweetie. And Finn’s got it in spades.”
          I left and retreated to my figurative corner.


          No way was I gonna give up Roseanna without a fight. And fight with Rat was something I’d never done, had no idea how to do it. So I sulked through their Friday night date and through the weekend. By Monday, I’d figured out how to proceed. I waited about a block away from the shack on an otherwise vacant lot that served as the Rodent’s headquarters—Rodents… get it? Rat, Mouse—until Neal came along. Neal, alias Pudge, was more or less Rat’s second in command, although there wasn’t really a command structure.
          “Hey, guy,” I joined Pudge on the sidewalk as he made his way toward the Rat’s Nest, which was our shack. Rat carried the theme all the way through, I’ll say that for him. “Sorry about the other day.”
          Pudge lumbered to a halt. “Sorry about what?”
          “Sorry my brother dissed you in front of the others like he did.” Rat had noted that Pudge was packing on the pounds.
          “Aw, that’s just Rat being Rat.”
          “If you say so. Just sayin….”


          I caught up with Billy—gang name “Goat”—as we broke up that afternoon. He was a skinny tough with a sharp chin.
          “Sorry about my brother dissing you today.” Rat had said in the club house just a few minutes earlier that a real goat would have chin whiskers. Goat probably couldn’t raise whiskers anywhere.
          “Dissing me?”
          “You know about the whiskers.”
          “He didn’t mean nothing. You know how he is.”
          “Yeah, I know. Puts us all down.”

          There were six of us in the club, and by the end of the week, I’d talked to all of them except for Gene, who went by the name of Randy. And if you want to know what I think, he was “randy” for Rat. He idolized my brother, and a couple of times I thought Randy’s britches got fuller when he was gazing adoringly at Rat. Wouldn’t surprise me if my bro wasn’t letting Randy have his way once in a while, but that’s not my business. Course it would make things simpler if Rat paid more attention to Randy and less to Roseanna.
          Things were a little tense around the house, especially when Rat went on a second date with my girl. We didn’t talk to one another so much that Mom asked what was the matter? We both brushed it off.


          I made my move at our Monday meeting. We hung around together every day, but on Monday, Rat insisted we have a “meeting” to plan the week’s mischief. Since he’d gotten so wrapped up in Roseanna, he wasn’t doing so much planning, which fit right into my plan.
          “I got something to say,” I announced after Rat finished spouting a lot of nothing.
          He gave me the fish-eye. “And what’s that?”
          “Things aren’t going too good lately, Rat. Not since you got so pussy-whipped.”
          Rat turned red in the face. “What the hell you talking about?”
          “If you’re gonna spend so much time with your chick, somebody else oughta lead the club.”
          “Somebody like you, for instance?”
          “Well… yeah. Me or Pudge. We both got ideas of how to make things better.”
          “Like what?”
          “Well, we all oughta have one of them telephones you carry around with you. Those cell phones. And the club oughta pay for them. And what kinda name is ‘Rodents’ for a club?”
          “You got a better one? And how’s the club gonna pay for six cell phones?”
          “You’re making my point for me,” I said. “You used to come up with ways for us to turn a few coins, but not no more. Now I got a few ideas that’ll keep us in beer for a while.”
          He raised an eyebrow. “Like?”
          “Like if I tell you, you’ll claim it was your idea. Like you always do. You diss us all, Rat, and we’re tired of it. It’s time for a change.”
          “And that change is you, huh?”
          I shrugged. “Why not? At least I got some leadership qualities besides beating everybody into line. And we’re sick of that, Finn.”
          “So what are you gonna do about it?”
          “We’re gonna have a meeting and choose a new leader, that’s what.”
          “You’n who else, little brother?”
          I got up off the crate I was sitting on and planted my feet. “Who’s with me?”
          Everybody got up and came over to stand behind me except for Randy. Rat looked shocked but he didn’t put up a fuss.
          “From now on, we’re the Hustlers, and I’m the leader. I got a sign we’re gonna put over the door that says so. And that’s what we’re gonna do, hustle our asses and make some money. Old man Maloney’s got a yard full of junk he says we can cart off and sell. It’s got lots of metal in it, and I know where to take it. That oughta get us our telephones. Then I’ll figure out how to pay for the service. What do you say to that?”


           Finn didn’t have much to say, which surprised me. And he wasn’t Rat anymore, which meant I could become Ralph. When I caught up with Roseanna in the library, she already knew something was happening.
          “Rat isn’t Rat anymore,” she said.
          “Nope. He’s Finn. And I’m Ralph, and I don’t care how plain you think that name is. It’s me, you hear?”
          “Sure, Mo… uh, Ralph.”
          “No more Finn. Make up your mind about which brother you want.”
          “That’s easy. I want you.”
          There’s something to be said for being tough… up to a point.

*****

Brains over brawn, they say. Worked for Ralph. Wish I could get it to work for me. Hope you enjoyed the story.

The advance buy link for The Voxlightner Scandal follows:  http://www.dsppublications.com/books/upcoming-releases-c

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say, so say it!

My personal links: (Note the change in the Email address because I’m still getting remarks on the old dontravis21@gmail.com. PLEASE DON’T USE THAT ONE.)
                                                                                                    
Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982
Twitter: @dontravis3

Buy links to Abaddon’s Locusts:


See you next week.

Don



Thursday, October 10, 2019

Comeuppance—Nicely Delivered


dontravis.com blog post #357
 
Courtesy of Pxhere.com
Dennis Kastendiek and I co-teach a free writing course called Wordwrights at the North Domingo Baca Multigenerational Center in Albuquerque every Monday afternoon. It’s a nice group of people. We’re an open class, so anyone is free to attend at any time… or skip sessions if life interferes.

The last hour-and-a-half of the two-hour course is given over to comments on material submitted by class members for review… be they poems or fiction or memoir or essay. After a reading to the class by the author, our members are invited to give their comments. We get caught up in writing rules and how to break writing rules and does the material grip the reader… the usual things one would expect in a writing class.

But every once in a while someone comes along and puts us in our place by reminding us that everyone does not march to the beat of the same drum. Our class member, Joe Lovato—a quiet, unassuming, talented writer—delivered the class its comeuppance with the following poem he’s graciously permitted me to reproduce in my blog.

*****

THE WRITING CLASS
By Joe Lovato

As he sat and scribbled crazy thoughts
He wondered what the sane would think.
Will he love it, will she hate it, does it stink?

Two kind shepherds tried to
guide one lost lamb
out of the forest of doubt.
The lamb asks the trees for help.

And they said:

“I liked it, but that part
was a little vague, and redundant
I didn’t understand,
It stopped me,
I had to think.”

And the lamb bleated:

“Why must we
try to reach everyone,
have conflict at all costs,
always advance the story,
bleach thought with clarity?
You don’t have to be literal to be literate.
Why must the blood on the rose be edible?
Cookie-cutters don’t make the cookies taste better.

We’re not going to make it to the bigs.
If we did we’d be like that old ball player,
the luckiest man on the face of the earth guy
who died of Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Anyway, success might be more glorious… posthumously.”

And they said:

 “We criticize the work not the writer,
 but we can’t let one little pig build a straw house.”

And the lamb bleated:

“I’m a lamb!  This isn’t calculus it’s ego therapy. 
Don’t cry to be understood
understand what you’re feeling.”


The furrowed boughs on the frowning ferns
revealed their stoic thoughts.

The lamb thought, I’ve used the word thought too much.  
They won’t like it, but it’s a good word,
deserves recognition.
This probably took them out of it,
at least I’ve killed their apathy.

The lamb turned away shaking his shaggy head.
He pitied the pedantic poets
lost in the throes of perfection.

But then he thought,
crazy lambs never understand
why they’re not understood.

*****

Like I say… a comeuppance—nicely delivered. Good job, Joe

The advance buy link for The Voxlightner Scandal follows:  http://www.dsppublications.com/books/upcoming-releases-c

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say, so say it!

My personal links: (Note the change in the Email address because I’m still getting remarks on the old dontravis21@gmail.com. PLEASE DON’T USE THAT ONE.)
                                                                                                    
Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982
Twitter: @dontravis3

Buy links to Abaddon’s Locusts:


See you next week.

Don


Thursday, October 3, 2019

The Moon and the Sun, (Conclusion)


dontravis.com blog post #356

Sun-Moon Eclipse
Courtesy of Pixabay.com
Here’s the rest of Mark’s short story. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s one of his best. Let’s see how he ends the work. We take up right where we left off at the end of installment one.

*****

THE SUN AND THE MOON
Part 2
By Mark Wildyr
The notebook slipped from my fingers as the truth struck me. Jesus! “Sunshine!” Every morning he called me “Sunshine.” Helios, the sun! He’d used sun in the Greek and Roman and Egyptian personifications. Among all the other nationalities flowing in my veins, those were the ones we had talked about most! And that “green Phoeban fire”…bright green fire? I had green eyes. And I would singe his touch, shrivel his kiss, turn his passion to ash!
Oh, my Lord! Mike loved me! Loved me in a different way! I always missed the hell out of him when the Laniers went to their cabin on the lake each summer, but his yearning went beyond what I’d understood. Eros! He mentioned Eros. That was the god of Love. And Apollo, he wasn’t only the Sun god, he was handsome and desirable. Mike always told me how handsome I was, but he did it in such a way that I never suspected. “Gee, Mitch, you look like a million bucks today” was one of his favorites.
Thus is Venus fated to orbit second in his precious vortex.
Venus, the second planet from the sun. He knew that someday I’d get married, and he’d be second forever in my life. Venus? Wasn’t the she also the goddess of something? Love. He cast himself in the female role.
Did I really know Mike Lanier so little? Was he a total stranger to me? No! I knew him better than anyone in the world, his family included. We shared secrets they’d never know. How could I have been so dense?
I picked up the notebook and sat back in my chair. How would I have reacted? Right at the moment, I’d give him anything he wanted! Come back, Mike, and I’ll surrender it all. Give you everything! That was easy to say, even easy to mean. He was in the grave. Back then I’d probably have exploded and told him to grow up.
Moving in a trance, I collected my notes and his book and left. Halfway down the library steps, I almost dropped everything. I hadn’t considered the second part of the poem! Luna…the Moon. Had there really been a male Luna in his life? I plopped my butt down in the grass beneath a tree and opened to the poem again.
This sibling of Eros accepts my touch, my kiss, my timid caress.…
Yes, there was a Moon in his sky. And they got together. They... they made love.
 Enriching my aura with a molten, milk-white nimbus.
I fought with my stomach, amazed such a fierce jealousy gripped me. Jealousy, not revulsion. “Oh, Mike! Why didn’t you let me know?”
The answer was crystal clear and unerringly on the mark. Because he knew me too well. He knew me better than I knew him. Sadly, I went back to the poem.
Selene’s time is tender but fleeting. Then again Hyperion’s son ascends…
Hyperion was a Titan and the father of Helios and Selene and Eros. “... obscuring my silver-footed king whose taste is oh so sweet, except… he is not my Roman Sol.”
Overcome by unidentifiable emotions, I closed my eyes and wept silent tears, uncaring who observed them. I wished I’d known he wanted something more; it would have been easy to accept his touch at that moment. Maybe that would have banked the fire.
After the school year ended, I worked up the nerve to ask Mike’s parents about the lakeside cabin where they usually spent the hot season. Still broken up over the loss of their son, they weren’t ready to return to the place where he’d spent his last decent summer, but they generously offered me the use of the place. After thinking it over for a week, I accepted. So instead of working as planned after my freshman year, I headed to a mountain lake or “tarn,” as my poetic friend would have termed it, on a sojourn for the truth.


Coming to the lake had been a mistake; Mike was everywhere in the cabin. There were pictures of us in his room. His twenty-two-rifle hung over the fireplace, his fishing rod and reel, his floppy hat, his very spirit inhabited the place. I masturbated that first night with a photo of a laughing, handsome Michael Lanier before me. What would it have been like with him in person? Then I tossed until I finally slept, waking once in the night to the eerie feeling of a presence in the room. Unafraid, I grinned lazily into the inky darkness and went back to sleep.
I used the Lanier’s canoe to visit everyone on the incredibly beautiful mountain lake. It was a smooth, blue-gray mirror about a mile wide, set in a small valley crammed with towering mixed conifers. I found a few handsome people, but none I could picture as the “silver-footed king.” Gradually, I wormed my way into the heartbeat of the small summer community to pursue my quest. I met a girl whose folks probably saved me from starvation since I’m not much of a cook. Julie was fun and knew all the summer folks. On the second Monday of my stay, I gnawed barbecue ribs while perched beside her in their lawn swing.
“You’ve met everyone.” She was doubtless exasperated I seemed more interested in others than in her. “Except Sam, of course.”
“Sam?” My ears pricked up.
“Sam Pritchard. He lives here year-round and takes care of the cabins over the winter. He always goes to visit his dad for a week or so after most of the summer folks arrive. He’s everybody’s handyman. Most of us can’t even turn on our own water pumps, much less repair them. So when everyone’s settled in, he takes off.”
“Doesn’t sound like my guy.” I relaxed muscles I hadn’t realized had gone taut.
“Your guy? You’re looking for someone in particular?”
“Just someone who was friends with Mike.”
“Mike was friends with everyone. He was a good guy Anyway, Sam just back to the lake.”
I smiled and changed the subject. It was easy; we just talked about Julie.
Meeting this errant caretaker proved no problem at all. The next morning, as I was trying to fry my third egg over easy without turning the yolk into something like dried plaster, a knock drew me to the front of the cabin. Who in the hell could that be?
I opened the door and stood face to face with Mike’s Artemis.


*****

Mark ends his story here, leaving us to wonder if Mitch and Sam discovered anything between them. I’d say Mitch was primed, so who knows? A great story.

The advance buy link for The Voxlightner Scandal follows:  http://www.dsppublications.com/books/upcoming-releases-c

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say, so say it!

My personal links: (Note the change in the Email address because I’m still getting remarks on the old dontravis21@gmail.com. PLEASE DON’T USE THAT ONE.)
                                                                                                    
Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982
Twitter: @dontravis3

Buy links to Abaddon’s Locusts:


See you next week.

Don

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.


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