Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Disconnected: A Flash Fiction Eulogy



"You DON"T have to call me very day!" Walter slammed down the receiver. Holly was out of hand with her calls. He'd told her again and again that once a week was more than enough. Why was his eldest daughter so persistent?

All three of his kids hammered him about taking care of himself since Myrna had passed. What did they think he was trying to do, damn it?

He'd loved Myrna. Although he'd always been what she called "too gruff" for her, he knew she was just getting hung up on style. The substance of their marriage was what mattered, right? And he'd given her everything she'd wanted.

Now it was his time. Now he didn't have to deal with the rebuffs and the control, anymore. As much as he missed her, he enjoyed the freedom of not having to answer to his wife for everything he did. She had never gotten it through her head that being a stay-at-home, non-professional sort of woman, it was much more her job to defer to the needs of her very busy and accomplished husband. He hadn't become CEO of a nationwide chain like
Manley Hardware, by accident
!

Now, with his shares and discount still in place, he could buy anything he wanted, go where he wanted, bring anything into the house that he wanted. He'd finally bought himself some new tools, a set of pipes for his favorite tobacco, and a set of CDs with his favorite Swing music from the 40s. He'd hung a new cabinet in his downstairs shop and stocked it with new nails, screws, and bolts.

Why did his kids have to hound him and half ruin his nearly perfect, new life?

*****

Ah, two o'clock and time to head out. Some new steins for the fireplace mantle were next on his list of the things he'd been wanting for a long time.

"Son of a bistro-chef!" Walter hissed. "Where's my damned wallet?" Myrna would have found it for him, but then he would have had to be beholden to her for the rest of the day. That's how she was. She always wanted acknowledgement. He wouldn't have minded giving it to her if the things she had done had actually been in some way, important!

He opened the kitchen drawer, the one where he threw his wallet and keys those days he didn't bother walking as far as his desk in the den. Not there. Shoes on but not yet tied, he hobbled to his desk, opening one drawer after the other. Not there.

"Where the hell did I put my freaking wallet?" he boomed, so that his old male border collie, Shelton, slithered under the desk.

Walter was getting agitated. To make matters worse, the phone rang. "Again!!" he yelled.

He turned toward the living room and lunged for the receiver with a leap worthy an outfielder honing in on a high-fly ball. As he grabbed it off the shelf and hurled it to the floor, he tripped on Myrna's 4 x 5 foot oriental carpet, the burgundy and blue one with the coffee stain from his mother-in-law on the left-hand corner, and fell. He felt his thigh hit the floor and his knee bend--if knees could do that--within it's socket. In a moment he was writhing in pain. He lay there, stunned. The pain was in his right arm, too. Could it radiate all the way from his kneecap?

He reached for the receiver dangling a foot from his arm, but couldn't grab it. The darn thing hung there like a mad miniature bungee-jumper vibrating between the cliff and a hard landing. Grabbing for the phone again and again, proved futile. He tried to raise himself on his left arm, but that hurt too. "Ow!" he yelled. Was his dammed arm broken, too? He became exhausted and h
is movements gave way to a steady moaning.

Hours must have passed. Walter still lay on the floor. He was shivering now, probably from the sensation of icy cold that crept out from his knee and thigh and up to his spine, radiating out into his body.

"Holly!" he called out, full knowing she was neither present nor waiting on the other end of the phone line. Damn. Where were his kids when he really needed them? And that good-for-nothing dog Shelton was snoring under the coffee table, not the slightest bit concerned about Walter's plight.

Night fell. Walter was shivering uncontrollably, in spite of summer temperatures without the AC turned on. With his last ounce of strength, he summoned all his anger to push himself towards that phone. The wrinkled cord still dangled in front of him like unattainable treasure. This time he managed to raise himself just a bit on his right side and move maybe an inch closer to the boomeranging receiver. "Wanda!" he called again. "Dennis!" No one answered. No one was there.

Hours passed. Maybe a day or two. He didn't know. All he knew was that sometimes when he opened his eyes, the glare of daylight bored through his eyes and deep into his skull. Other times and more often, he felt he was in a kind of twilight when he managed to open his heavy lids. He wanted a hot dog and a cold beer, but that was out of the question. How could he make himself a meal if he couldn't get off the floor?

Lying in the dark in pain, his eyes filled with sudden tears as it dawned on him that he might die right there, alone, in a crippled heap of agony. Would any of the three of them call again? Not likely, as he'd told them all off in no uncertain terms, just the other day at Dennis' house when his wife Lori served up one of her over-spiced pasta dishes. No, they wouldn't call again for at least a few days....

Walter squinted in the dark, trying to get his bearings for a last look. He comforted himself by the thought that at least he would die surrounded by his favorite collectibles. Too bad he hadn't had time to purchase those new steins before his number was up.

Note to my readers: This is my first attempt at flash fiction. I wanted to write a short, short story that would convey some sense of character and some meaning, as well. I hope it kept your interest! I appreciate your taking the time to read it.


All images and text c Lynda Lehmann. If you would like to view more of my art or make a purchase, please visit Lynda Lehmann Painting and Photography or my gallery at Imagekind, where you can choose from several sizes and paper types or buy my prints plain or matted and framed.

17 comments:

  1. Very interesting, realistic and well written story!
    I really enjoyed reading it.

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  2. this was a great piece of fiction. sometimes getting what we want isn't always what we want after all. i bet he wished he hadn't told them not to call while he was suffering on the floor. hope all is well.

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  3. That's so true what Naquillity says -- "What we want isn't always what we want after all."

    I loved reading this Lynda. How was this firsty for you? You had my interest... and still do. Now I want to know what happens to Walter.

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  4. DUTA - Thank you for reading it and giving me your feedback! I'm glad you enjoyed it. To me, it seems like a big challenge just to write something that will hold the reader's interest, especially when a long and more developed plot is not propelling the story!

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  5. Naquillity - That was one of the points I was hoping to bring across, so I'm glad it worked! I was also hoping for a touch of irony and a compelling character.

    As for me in real life, I think I HAVE learned to watch what I wish for!

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  6. Sad but very good. It put me in mind of O. Henry's "Gift of the Magi" (where she cuts her hair and he sells his watch), only in reverse. It's obvious he never gave much thought to his wife's happiness, and in selfishly thinking only of his own, he did himself in. Hope the dog made it out alive!

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  7. DAVINA - I don't know what will happen to Walter. And I want the reader to speculate on that. If I can get the audience wondering, maybe it's an effective short story. Do you think it stands alone, as a narrative?

    If I were going to develop it more, I'd make the character more full, the stakes higher, and of course, introduce a lot of plot complications.

    I've written four novels, Davina, and some short stories, during the years when our daughter was in school or napping, etc. I submitted two of my books and got good feedback from major publishers, but no sale at that point.

    Marketing concerns discourage the purchase of a lot of new novels. I know it takes years and that some very prolific and successful writers had to submit DOZENS of times.

    I should have kept submitting, but I needed to do my art, which I'd been neglecting. I did and still DO, love writing. One day I'll revisit those manuscripts and try to market them again.

    One in particular is VERY close to my heart, with its feminist and Earth stewardship themes.

    Sorry for the long answer...lol...

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  8. Melody - Your comment made me laugh out loud! I'm still chuckling. Yes, the dog is right here by my feet! (just kidding, I would love a canine but it's not the right time to have another dog.)

    Thank you so much for reading and commenting! My hope was to embed a kernel or two of truth in a flash story, and your comment, along with the others, makes me believe I did that!

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  9. Even with the possibility of impending death Walter's true character shows through right to the last line. Good write Lynda - I enjoyed reading this.

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  10. @Everyone - I don't know what's happening but tonight I've lost two comments. They did not appear on this page after I moderated them.

    Janice, I just got yours and it won't publish to this page. Thank you so much for reading my "story," and for your very good observation!

    Peace to you.

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  11. Lynda, what I most enjoy about reading is being able to live in another's shoes for a while; I certainly felt this with your story. I also felt empathy for Walter; he really wasn't able to help himself - literally or figuratively. Good job!

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  12. Lynda:

    I liked it. I like the metaphors. I liked the story and I liked the way to plotted it out. And to hold my wondering attention, you have to be nothing less than the claws of life. And you did just that. Well done.

    Happy trails.

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  13. Swubird, thanks for reading it and commenting. I always have "the claws" to write, but am just not fast enough to do everything I want to do!

    I appreciate your feedback and value your writer's viewpoint! You are so good at grabbing our attention with your posts...

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  14. Hi Lynda,

    Well written, with a message to be transmitted.
    I actually felt sorry for him, in the end. But I hope he has learned his lesson lol.

    First attempt, you said? Well, I say keep on writing, girl :D!

    Have a gorgeous weekend!

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  15. Kia ora Lynda,
    Wow, this was an awesome surprise to come across. A very gripping read - reminds me of the old adage Be careful what you wish for! And how at times our own self importance makes us miss and appreciate the moments we should the most. Kia kaha Lynda!
    Aroha,
    Robb

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  16. Robb - I have definitely learned to watch what I wish for! Thanks for reading it. I'm always amazed if I manage to communicate anything at all, out of the chaos going on in my head.

    I hope your healing is still going well and I'll be over to read your latest news.

    I'm SO upset about the oil spill. I don't know if the food chain will ever recover. Why can't they just drop a huge flat piece of ledge or boulder over the pipe? Then they can add further weight and fill in around it. Don't you think that might work?

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  17. Kia ora Lynda,
    I think the sheer depth and movement of water prevents any simple solution from being taken. Those whom have asked questions about the safety of such operations have always been assured the technology in place to shut these things down is world class. Well, it is not. And the further into the bowels of the Earth we have to go to eviscerate the materials we need to sustain our consumerist system, the more likely it is we will see this happening. Obama has suspended off shore drilling for six months, the oil companies will happily let the money they spend there accrue interest or work else where. Until this blows over, the price of oil rises again, and we clamour for more and cheaper oil, and they will start again. Very sad. Kia kaha.
    Aroha,
    Robb

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