Betrayal by the Things we Love Most

This is a dreamy short story.


 

The boundless ocean stretches ahead. Its jagged, mirror-like surface reflects back the pale orange sun. The boat moves at speed through gently rolling waves sending up a spray of fine mist. On every conceivable surface the salted droplets land, a coating of flaky, crumbly mineral grows. The salt covers my lips and arms with crystalline layers. My grip on the railing provides purchase against the cool wind and damp. The sun helps too. Water maids accompany me on this journey, swimming in the wake and ahead of the bow in the form of dolphins.

I peer to the upper deck, flying high above, well over the worst of the spray and wind. Perched upon this, my constant companion whom I couldn’t do without. She gazes out past the local scenery with the aid of binoculars, to some far off wonder beyond my grasp. From that outlook, another horizon is visible a bit farther than my own. She takes a more pedestrian view by carrying the eagle-eyed tool off to her side. Her other hand forms a shade visor over gleaming eyes. A shift in the oncoming rays turns Claire’s body into a silhouette of a goddess on the harsh radiating light of our life bringing sun.

She comes down from her heavenly perch, nestled upon the higher deck. The ease and grace with which she moves in nothing short of perfection. Claire is down at the deck to exchange words with me. The sweet sounds of her irresistible intonation wash over me. I hear her words, but that’s not everything. This exchange has the surprising quality to put me at ease.

Claire leads me to the deck cabin by her usual mannerisms — consisting of feather light touches on the inside of my palm and arm — knowing exactly how. The deck cabin bolsters a pendulum sort of door, swinging back and forth with the lightest of breezes. Claire pushes the door aside as I miss her contact for a brief moment, moving through the filter screen of a doorway. The door swings through on its pendulum arc.

In that instant, Claire disappears into the body of the ship. I push through the door expecting the truth of Claire behind, yet she is not to be seen in the darkened chamber. I walk through the room looking for her only to be disappointed. Claire is nowhere below or above decks. A looming dread comes over me. The rhythmic slapping of the door ends with a loud bang. I look back to see nothing — an empty wall in place of the door.

I look for an escape route from the dark, desolate chamber entombed within the ship. The transom windows are inches beyond my outstretched fingers. The blackness is held at bay by late evening light coming in. Chalk markings of an indecipherable and crude tongue graffiti the walls. Paper underfoot crumples and crunches with each step. I sink to the ground in a state befitting my current desolation.

Wetness encroaches my battlements from every front. A deep red sludge, a curse adding to my sad state. With each passing breath and moment, my heart fills with revulsion. The impending creep of the fluid sends me up and away. The red concoction comes higher, soaking into more of the paper under footing, turning it into a blood red mush. I end up tasting the fluid to verify my suspicion that this is blood from some massive creature.

The transoms let in something else, filling my prison just a bit faster. The golden amber liquid comes in by waterfall. The intense smell of liquor wafts up into my nose. The liquid flows in with the goal of drowning me as sewer rat. The onslaught goes on without a sign of relenting, intent on my destruction. There must be a method escaping my thoughts that can rid me of impending doom.

The transom is my salvation. I get myself soaked through and through grasping desperately at the window inches above my attempts. Wandering from light to light, I find a step where there is none to reach my salvation. I pull myself up with as much strength as my frame can manage, up to the deck. Halfway up, a tug on my leg slides me back. The next so forceful, my head reels up into glass transom. This, my end.

 

GK

 

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Photo credit: Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

Finding the Things You Want: Middle School

This is a short story about making friends.


 

I was daydreaming, sitting there at my desk, watching the other students, and imagining what their words meant beyond the words themselves. That was my typical day in middle school. I was the odd one out, because I wasn’t the same as everybody else — a social in-adept — a stranger in the ways of my age.

That’s when I saw her. It wasn’t like she was the most beautiful or the most popular. It felt like I knew her from across the room though. We had gone to the same schools for years. There wasn’t any back and forth — we’d never talked.  I wanted to be right there, in the thick of that conversation. It should’ve been easy, but they were talking about baseball.

I was out of place. I never fit in anywhere, because I was scared to be myself. That ruined me from the start. And it would take years of course correcting to change things.

That was the first of many encounters. In hallways, across the cafeteria, at football games, and the one class we had together — memories that haunted me and missed opportunities I’d never have back. If I wasn’t anti-social to the extreme, I had an in. I was smart — not study group smart. I was still a weirdo that couldn’t meet muster. The sidelines was where I would remain years on down the line.

Then things started to change. See, I had a few friends. I joined their study group. The hand of fate smiled on me, and I was in the study group with that girl the week after next.

Leaving things to fate was how I survived being my own man in a sea of conformity.

THE TRUTH:

I hid from the world, never allowing even those I knew best backstage passes.

 

GK

 

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Photo credit: Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

Finding Love Again on a Rooftop

This is a short love story.


 

It was a party in the City. Some miracle got me invited. It was one of those rooftop affairs, not that I’d ever been. Strings of mini-lights hung overhead. Music tickled our ears like the cool night. It was me and a few girlfriends in the middle of the roving throng.

That’s when he came over. Tina knew him. He smiled like a dozen stars, and I was seeing spots. Brad. Somehow the minutes ticked by, and we were alone surrounded by strangers.

“You look sexy as hell. Megan was it?”

A splash of heat rose to my face with my laugh and how he made me feel. His words would’ve been awkward, if I didn’t like him already. There I was, alone with the honest, handsome fellow. My yes was meek as a field mouse in the general din.

“Want to dance?”

“Anytime.” We laughed. Everyone was dancing, so why shouldn’t we?

How did I know Tina? What a wonderful party? What a night? It was quite something.

My girlfriends were absent or giggling at our flirtations. But it wasn’t bad in the hands of handsome Brad. It was something great.

We danced and danced, then drinks on the rooftop. It was the perfect night up there, above the bustling street. Our hands met after signaling back and forth. We turned to each other minutes later and tilted our heads. As our lips met, possibilities flashed before my eyes.

 

GK

 

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Photo credit: Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

Finding Love in the Chill of Winter

This is a short love story.


 

The snow drifted down — mini lanterns adrift on the wind, falling all around them until a fateful landing on the ice below. Glowing electricity cast light as well as shadow into the night where they stood on a frozen pond.

Her laughter filled the silent night muffled around them. Ronnie made her laugh like so few could. She could see it. A life filled with joy at every moment. But that wasn’t them yet. They were gliding along, holding hands, but apart — minutes away instead of a reach most nights.

The wind tore at them like the expectations of others — the pressure of ticking towards a happy life. Everything was chaos except the world created between them. Everything was simple inside their bubble of ebullient, jubilant love.

The darkness didn’t matter as they provided the light.

 

GK

 

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Photo credit: Photo by Annie Niemaszyk on Unsplash

The Rhyme and Meter of Love

This is a short love/loss story.


 

We used to be friends, but then we were together. Best friends knew each other like few others ever could. Crossing the line from friendship to love is a dangerous journey. But it worked. The fireworks of us together sparkled and shined bright like no other.

It wasn’t the same as it once was, now that the novelty of buried treasure was dug away. Being together is more than loving. Then the day when the truth fell from heaven — secrets that made love cleaven.

We once loved the other, but pursuing it a step further, ended in heartbreak ever after.

 

Gk

 

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Image credit: Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

The Trouble with Unwelcome Guests

This is a short story that turns out how you least expect.


 

Everything ends up reflected on the waxed hood lying outside the tinted windshield. The deep green of the thing itself colors everything that it shows me, any small groove showing black in the pure white vista and the reflections of the trees slipping across, bending and distorting to every curve and contour. The white snow hangs on the drooping branches of evergreens, immobile in the gently blowing winds. The freshly fallen snow stretches out ahead waiting for the oncoming wheels of car. The edge of the road just melts into the landscape under the white covering of snows past.

The two of us, Claire and I, reside within the confines, our means of conveyance, safely away from the cold outside. The warmth of the air resonates with the materials in easy grasp of both of us. The dark, rich woods accompanied by a trim of honed steel does nothing more than feed our senses. My hands firmly in hold of the soft leather intricately woven into the round steering wheel. The car eases through every twist, not once losing traction, until reaching our destination, my mother’s house.

We stop in the circular drive amidst a collection of four other’s such vehicles set upon this house for the same reason. I withdraw the keys and our gift from within the confines of this now sleeping car. Entering into the cutting chill from beyond these doors, my wool jacket provides a suitable battlement against the undeniably cold winds. The onslaught targets any points of weakness, hitting my face and hands with the biting cold that dominates the winter season. I move around the car admiring its quality and the fact that my black and burgundy choices are just skin deep, as the car’s looks. The belt line slopes up adding an aggressive look that means nothing more than that.

I go to Claire’s door, just a few steps from the house, and hold it open for her. Claire wears a long coat with a white scarf that keeps the warmth in. The lightest of touches shut the car doors. We proceed hand in hand up to the grand double door of beech framed by plaster columns. Mother greets us with Father not far behind. I remember her wearing the same thing last Christmas, a maroon dress with a matching scarf. Dad is in a forest green sweater with brown slacks. They seem happy to see us, if not a little relieved.

Claire attended many other occasions here in the familial home hence the memories of other, more innocent times. I rid myself of the jacket, now turned burden by the sudden warmth of inside. Claire takes off her scarf and coat revealing the comfortable but beautiful dress for this evening meal, a close resemblance to something found outside, a lily. It features two shades of the color orange, one dark and one bright, each of the two constructed into elongated/stretched out petals, making up the entire thing. The embroidered center crease from a reflective, almost metallic, light orange. The petals wrap around her body from her knees up in such a way that it just works. The upper extreme of two petals transform into the straps that lunge over her shoulders. She hides her hands inside the pockets at either side. I proffer up my hand that she then accepts. We enter into the dining room stuffed with guests and a bloated table of ornaments. I recognize everyone there to some degree, from people I know well to others I just know. Everyone is dressed for it.

The two empty seats at the other end of the table remain the only in pristine quality. We pass by every chair, not by convenience or choice, but by necessity to meet up again on the other side.

Irena, Claire’s absurdly young aunt sits in the first seat, across from her husband Gary, and next to my mother. The head of the table needs to stay empty for some reason I can’t think of. Irena models a dress inspired by rain with the embossed velvet and tear shape cutouts. A striking midnight blue almost as black as night itself highlights the embossed sections of a rich blue as processed indigo leaves. She looks happy and animated with the group conversation. Gary is in a black suit covering up a shirt, aquamarine as the shallow waters of a warm tropical sea.

I’m surprised to see Morris, Claire mysterious cousin in somber black like from a funeral party celebrating the life of someone no longer with us. Jenna, Claire’s twin sister dresses up in something strapless that I don’t even glance at. Rachael, an aunt of mine  ventured here in a white suit and black shirt. I pull a chair out for Claire, and seat myself next to Morris and across from Rachael. I look down the table at everything set up in all our names. A runner of leather lines the length of table and then some. The table dresses with candlesticks of silver holding nothing more than sand. Each place setting, a bowl housed over a silver charger.

We expatiate upon something incoherent but somehow understanding that it means something good. My mother leaves to get the meal out to all the visiting people and family. Her return is accompanied by a cessation, the complete body of idle conversation taking place. The green soup is passed around from person to person, each one scooping an amount into their bowls.

The meal is underway with the consumption of this blended concoction of leeks, potato, tomato, and pepper. The pleasing taste — reminding me of even better days — lulls me into a feeling of security besides the relatives I’m trying to impress. Everything around me lurches left then suddenly right. This turns into shifts in every direction that doesn’t make sense unless this is an earthquake table, which this house clearly isn’t. I feel myself lurching forward, commands to my body useless. I can’t stop myself with my arms or even my neck. I fall, headlong into the soup bowl. Luckily my head lands sideways, rendering just one eye and nostril useless. Someone comes up behind me. They lift up my head as if saving me from this loss of control, far from the aim of drowning me in soup. Soup drowning it is. My head is completely submerged in this heavenly soup despite my struggles against it. I can’t move anything except my face and breathing. I can’t get out, better to just accept it. I do.

Proustian Chronicles: The End of a Volume

 

I recently finished reading Swann’s Way, volume one of seven in Remembrances of Things Past or In Search of Lost Time. That volume is 600-something pages. I’m reading a guide at the same time. After each volume, I’m comparing my thoughts with the verdicts delivered by the reading guide. That isn’t exactly the best way to get the most from reading this but as the preparations for reading more literary work. I have my eyes on IQ83 by Haruki Murakami.

 

That’s a long way away or maybe sooner than I think. Anyway this is a summery/reaction to Swann’s Way and the reading guide the group’s using, Marcel Proust’s Search for Lost Time: A Reader’s Guide to Remembrance of Things Past by Patrick Alexander. The book is divided into three parts. The Overture, Combray, Swann in Love, and Place-names: The Name.

 

The Overture is a real bore in my mind. There are a few interesting tidbits in there, but forty pages seems overkill for a waking up sequence. It’s long but effectively primes you for the writing style you’re likely to experience. Brevity is a tad more important later on. It never reaches the expectations of today’s rapid gratification.

 

Combray is the memories Marcel has of his childhood. It details his experiences of visiting his ailing Aunt Léonie in the summers. There’s a lot there about his childhood desires and experiences. The guide refers to Combray as one of best childhood experiences in a novel of this era. Reading through, I noticed a few things. Marcel is ailing from some mysterious condition which I suspect is just getting colds that are quite severe. That sickness reduces his activity considerably. Still, he’d much rather stick his head into books. Marcel attributes good qualities to people he likes and people he would like to be like down the line. These memories Marcel remembers were triggered by eating something he enjoyed in those summers, lime tea and madeleines.

 

I like to think Marcel and I would be kindred spirits if we ever met. That makes me feel good, and that’s reason enough, but there’s more. I have Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy, and that enabled me to distance myself from peers. In addition, I loved reading. That love is what got me into writing. Then, I wanted to be like those charismatic people who can entertain an entire room without breaking out in sweat and make people like them. And I remember my past history to a similar extent. I think we’re pretty similar.

 

Swann in Love was my favorite part of Swann’s Way. According to the guide, it’s the closest that Proust gets to traditional story structure. I agree. There’s a beginning, a middle, and an end. Swann meets Odette. He doesn’t commit right away. Then, he’s in love with Odette. Swann gets jealous. He asks too many questions and finds difficult answers. In lack of love, he tries with another woman. That’s the plot of Swann in Love.

 

The beginning of this part was the first time I loved reading this book. It makes me a little sad that the other sections won’t follow the basic plot structure. And a theme of this book is love leads to jealousy. That’s true. Love always comes with some unwelcome jealousy as a bedfellow. That’s especially true if you have abandonment and anxiety issues. Jealousy can make love sweeter by contrast. Working on your self-worth might reduce these issues. Surely possessiveness makes the jealousy worse. That’s a theme in this book that bugs me. Any number of themes bug me, so that’s basically a given with anything I read.

 

Place-names: The Names wraps up everything. It cross applies the lessons learned in the previous sections of Marcel’s young life in Paris. Then, it echoes the fact much more is going to change.

 

Each section is like a novel in its own write except the transition sections: Overture and Place-names: The Name. That’s not the way any book is organized these days except memoirs. Because In Search of Lost Time is the very first memoir as far as I know.

 

rob-mulally-123849
Photo by Rob Mulally on Unsplash.

 

That method isn’t acceptable in fiction these days. I know it’s not fair to Marcel Proust, his many fans, and the English literature community to compare a book written something like 120 years ago to stories these days. That comparison is of paramount importance to current writers of fiction trying to learn from Proust. What elements of Remembrance of Things Past can be used to write fiction in the time we live in now? What elements won’t work? For example, putting two storylines in one piece of fiction. They need to smoothly merge from one to the other despite section breaks. Some things can end and be picked up later but never left hanging forever except at the end. Simultaneous story lines are permissible if they’re all pushed together.

 

I read an example of that recently. Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer. The title is uninspiring to me, but the writing is top notch. That story artfully combines numerous storyline to create a synergy more powerful than any one alone. For an example to a story continuing through section breaks check out The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon.  That’s the best example I can think of off the top of my head.

 

I didn’t get to my conclusions matching the guide: 4/7. That seems pretty good for a start. I’ll get better by the end of this.

 

See you around guys.

 

GK

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Cover photo credit: Photo by Dan Freeman on Unsplash.