Peter Parker, the young superhero slash photographer, was out with his camera wandering around the truly shit parts of the city. He visited a homeless encampment under the freeway and, inspired by the works of Dorothea Lange, took a number of heart-rending photos of some unfortunates who live there. They were dizzy from hunger and dirty from outdoor living, and there was nothing that Peter Parker or Spiderman could really do for them. He could shoot webs from his wrists and that would be of no help whatsoever. He could swing from pillar to post all day long beneath that filthy iron superstructure and not one single rag would turn to even a hint of far-off riches. Peter Parker took his camera and his photos back to the Daily Bugle where he showed them to his tyrannical editor, Mr. Jameson. Jameson took a healthy bite out of his cigar and growled, “get the fuck out of my office you little pipsqueak, and don’t ever try to sell me this kind of stupid sentimental sob story ever again. No one really gives a fuck about these homeless people. They are no one’s priority, not now and not ever. Now go out there and find me some awesome shots of Spiderman kicking some bad guy’s ass. That’s what the people want.” Parker left the office feeling low and later confided his feelings to his girlfriend Mary Jane, but she was also kind of grossed out by the pictures. “I don’t even want to know”, she said. Mary Jane was just like everybody else. She was the girl next , and she was you too, and you know it. Peter Parker decided right then and there to renounce violence and crime-fighting forever. If I can’t help people who really need help, he thought, why should I go around supporting the police state, which can and does get along just fine without me? I might as well get a real job.
Carmela believed in fate, a destiny that arrived on golden wings at the very moment you least expect it. This brilliant goddess wore out-dated garments that were never in style, but she somehow managed to pull it off every time. She was not much of a talker, preferring to announce her presence with flashes of insight and remarkably good posture. She would pose as if for the cameras and make some sort of disruptive statement such as “I thought he would never die” or “you look terrible in black, did you know that?” She was never very popular. In Carmela’s explicit imagination, fate wore low-cut blouses and had modeled for numerous tawdry book covers. She sang romantic melodies, had a fetish for turquoise lip gloss and smoked Virginia Slims. Carmela’s husband was sick to death of this stupid creature. He believed in a fate that swept things under the rug and kept its filthy mouth shut.
“But then I’ll have to be who I am,” Deletria said.
“I’d feel sorry for you,” Crimea replied, “if I really did, but I don’t. And I never will,” she added.
“You haven’t been nice to me since Ajax,” Deleteria said, and Crimea nodded.
“It’s true,” she smiled. “It’s been fun. Being nice to you was a thing, but now not so much.”
“I didn’t really like him,” Deletria said, as much to herself as to the former friend with whom she was waiting in line at the donut shop. It had been at least four months since they’d seen each other. The last time had been ugly. Crimea had torn up some papers she’d been working on and blamed it on Deletria, who had only remarked that the drawings looked like the work of a six-year old.
“I didn’t really like you,” Crimea told her. “Remember when you thought we were friends? We weren’t. We never were. I only put up with you because you knew him. Then you had to go and fuck him.”
“I wish,” Deletria said. “Dude couldn’t even get it up. I guess he was thinking about you the whole time.”
“I can help whoever’s next,” the cashier’s voice rang out. Deletria was whoever was next. She was glad to get the last word. She didn’t even hear Crimea’s bitter reply.
Once upon a time there was a writer who had an idea for a story, but it was too similar to other stories he had already written, and he tied to avoid repeating himself. Anyway, the germ of the idea was this: imagine a religion where the high priests randomly change the beliefs and rituals and don’t bother telling anyone. People come in to church and, for example, line up for wafers, and the priests look a them, astonished, and ask, “why aren’t you kickboxing? That’s what the Lord requires!” The former queuers now spread out and make feeble attempts at the exercise until the priest finally instructs his minions to show them all the proper form of worship. But don’t get too comfortable, people! This is the Church of Permanent Revolution. You’ll never know when or how it will all go changing again. This Lord not only works in mysterious ways, he’s one random crazy-ass mother.
(For the Etherbooks Flash Fiction competition day seven: topic: ENDINGS)
He didn’t even knock. The intruder burst in through the cellar door of the old Gothic mansion of the world famous author, Ridley Springs, and searched for some time with flashlight in one hand and shotgun in the other until he found the writer way up on the third floor nursing a scotch and soda and watching the late night news. Springs didn’t even blink when the gunman leveled the rifle at his temple and declared it was time to talk.
“Talk away,” the author yawned, and gave his scotch a little swirl.
‘You know why I’m here,” said the gaunt young man.
“I’m sure you disapprove of something or other,” said Springs, still keeping an eye on the television screen, where fire trucks were racing to a scene and announcers sounded highly impressed.
“Shattered Dreams,” the young man said, cocking the gun.
“Aren’t they all?” mused the writer.
“I hated the ending,” the intruder shouted. “So now you’re going to change it.”
“Seriously?” Ridley Springs glanced up at his guest and properly observed him for the first time. Trenchcoat? Check. Attempted facial hair? Check. Young, white, male, check check check. Hadn’t he signed a million books for just such ones? Probably even this one, possibly even more than once.
“Well then,” Springs said, rising to his feet and ambling to his desk, where his world famous old fashioned typewriter resided, the one from which endless tidbits of authorly advice were offered to the masses, advice such as “keep your hair short and your sentences shorter”, and“don’t fall in love with your characters. They aren’t actually real”.
“How would you like it to end?” he asked, taking a seat on the throne, and cracking his knuckles in preparation. At this the young man lowered his rifle and realized the full awe of the moment. He was there, in that hallowed room, at the moment he’d dreamed a million dreams about.
“Kimberley has to live,” he said.
“But then Jason would suffer,” Springs countered.
“I don’t care about Jason,” the young man said. “He deserves to suffer.”
“Okay, Kimberley lives then,” said Ridley Springs, popping a sheet of paper into the machine and beginning to pound away on the keys.
“And another thing,” the youth advised. “I hated how you ended it in the middle of a sentence. You ought to finish that sentence. It was rude.”
“Yes, you’re right,” Springs confessed. “It was very inconsiderate. I do apologize. I will fix that too while I’m at it.” Springs had of course by this time used his foot to press the button concealed on the floor beneath his desk, the button which sounded an alarm at the local police department. He couldn’t be sure precisely how stupid this latest intruder might be, but he had a hunch.
“Is there anything else?” he asked. The visitor shook his head.
“Just fix it,” he said. “And then I’ll – “
(For the Etherbooks Flash Fiction competition day six: topic: SPACE)
Joan was a decent sort, the kind of nutjob you don’t regret buying at the government’s Auction. Other villages had their hands full with the wackos they’d picked out, but we at North West Fang Two were satisfied with ours. Every block had to have one since they turned the public health into what they called a “distributed system”. She kept mostly to herself, wasn’t the financial burden like some. She wasn’t a saint, and there were the baseline maintenance costs. It helped that Joan’s parents had been rich enough that some money came down from Central to the Local Council. Of course we didn’t know that when we picked her out. Mostly we got her because the other choices were clearly worse; a large young male schizophrenic, an insufferably incompetent Elvis impersonator, and a perpetually pregnant paranoiac. Joan seemed glorious by contrast.
She was a short, thin anorexic with bright red hair, a constant jogger and accomplished collector. There was nothing she wouldn’t hoard. You’d see her all the time dragging rubbish of all sorts down the streets and into her tiny cottage. Sally and I took to peeking in the windows to see if we could figure out where all that junk finally got to. It seemed there couldn’t be nearly enough room in there. Our own little bungalow was about the same size and we could barely squeeze ourselves into it, let alone the piles of phone books, broken chairs, random metal bars, discarded dolls, bags of used clothing and assorted other whatnots we’d see little old Joanie carrying about. Always cheerful, with a smile and a happy greeting such as “Capitalism is Evil!” and “Mind your pants!”, Joan became quite a fixture around here. She was among the loudest singers at Church on Sundays and would never refuse to pet a friendly dog.
One day Joan caught Sal and me trying to peep through her side yard window. Sally was on my shoulders with her face pressed up against the glass.
“What do you see?” I whispered.
“There’s nothing in there,” she whispered back.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” I said. “We just saw her pushing a broken motorbike in the front door yesterday!”
“Hullo Jimmy!” It was Joan, come around the back yard and standing there staring at us. Sally crawled down and tried to hide behind my back.
“Oh, hullo Joan,” I answered politely.
“Bet you’re wondering,” she smiled. “Where did it all go?”
“It did occur to me,” I mumbled.
“I’ll let you in on a secret,” she took a few steps toward me, and stretched out her arm with her hand open, palm up. Sitting there on it was a little yellow ball, like a golf ball from mini-golf.
“It’s all in here,” she said. “In my compactor. Do you want to see?”
“Um, no, that’s okay,” I said, backing away. I believed her. Why not? This whole thing was my own delusion anyway. I’m the guy they bought at North West Fang Fourteen.
Dinner and a Movie (Etherbooks Flash Fiction competition day four: topic: MOVIES)
Richmond Shelbourne and his wife Patricia were getting ready for a night out. He was carefully pulling on his paisley sweater vest while she examined her eyeliner in the bathroom mirror.
“I don’t know why we have to go to dinner and a movie,” Richmond said.
“It’s the Hamblins’ idea, dear” his wife replied. “It’s just their way.”
“I know, honey, I know,” he grumbled. “And it’s always the same. We’ll suggest Chinese and Sharon will say okay but then remember some place she saw in the Sunday paper, and pull out her clippings folder.”
“I know It’s right here somewhere,” Patricia imitated their friend, and they both chuckled.
“In the end, after sorting through the whole mess, it’ll be Chinese after all.”
“Chen Le,” Patricia nodded. “As always.”
“And then Harvey has already picked out a movie whether anybody else wants to see it or not.”
“One of those god-awful spectacles he likes so much,” Patricia added, starting to apply some more blush.
“Later, Sharon will have to talk about their little one’s latest attempts at humor.”
“Doesn’t he come up with the worst jokes?” Patricia asked.
“If you could even call them jokes,” Richmond said “Here’s one from last time. What do you call a dinosaur with no eyes?”
“No, that’s the punch line. Shut up. I kid you not. Then there was this one. What do you call a red zebra?”
“There’s no such thing as a red zebra.”
“Real funny, that one,” she said. “And Harvey, he’ll go on and on with his theories about the movie we just endured. Last time it was that Planet of the Apes movie and he was relentless in his theme that the Apes were just like Indians in a cheesy Western.”
“How?” Richmond asked.
“He meant in the way that …”
“No,” Richmond interrupted. “I meant ‘How’ like the way the Indians in those movies are always saying ‘How’. Why do they say that? What does it mean?”
“Hell if I know,” Patricia shrugged.
“Why we put ourselves through it,” Richmond began, and this time it was his wife who butted in.
“For the wife-swapping, of course, you silly man,” she said. “You still like screwing Sharon, don’t you?”
“Sure,” he smiled, “and I know you like getting it on with Harvey.”
“Yes I do,” she replied, puckering her lips to apply the last of the lipstick touch ups. “Well then, shall we?”
“I suppose so,” Richmond said.
“Don’t be glum, dear,” she told him. “It’s only dinner and a movie.”