Fiction

Read more of Ann’s flash fiction in the Indies Unlimited 2017 Editors’ Choice Flash Fiction Anthology – Kindle edition available on Amazon

the Indies Unlimited 2018 Editors’ Choice Flash Fiction Anthology – Kindle edition available on Amazon

the Indies Unlimited 2019 Editors’ Choice Flash Fiction Anthology – Kindle edition available on Amazon.

Click here for science fiction.

 Flowers for Mother’s Day

I decide to call a truce and buy flowers for my mother.  I didn’t even acknowledge Mother’s Day last year.

I recall the last argument with her, over my brother.  I told my mother that he was an alcoholic, a deadbeat, a mooch.  I tallied the bank statements and credit cards, showed how many thousands of dollars he’d taken.  I warned her that the stress was making her sick.  She’d responded in the same old way.  “I can’t tell him ‘no’.”

I slammed the door and left the threat hanging in the air, “Him or me, Mom.”

Now, finally, it seems so stupid — to lose my mother over him.

I enter the florist’s shop.  A small breeze follows me through the door and swirls the fragrances around.  I walk over to the roses, lean down and breathe in their scent, especially the white ones.  My dad gave Mom a white rose every year on their anniversary.  Thirty-nine white roses.  Perhaps I should have continued that tradition after he died.

Then I notice the pink carnations, dozens of bouquets prepared to honor mothers everywhere.  A tiny card clings to the green plastic.  “Carnation, pink: I’ll never forget you.”  No wonder these are the Mother’s Day flowers.  I glance around, see more little cards.  “Daisy: Loyal love.  Calla lily: Beauty.”

But I wonder if a plant might be better.  Cut flowers wilt and die so quickly.  I move toward the potted plants, smell an azalea, read the card, “Take care of yourself for me.”  Next to the azaleas are mums – “Chrysanthemum, white: Truth.”  A freesia on the lower shelf offers, “Trust.”  What about  “Tulip, red: “Believe me”?

Then I spot the purple hyacinths.  Their delicate scent wafts over me.  The blossoms cluster around the stem like chicks around a hen.  I check the card, “Hyacinth, purple: I’m sorry.  Forgive me.”  I buy the hyacinth.

I place it on the front seat of the car.  I drive carefully, slowly around corners, so I won’t tip the precious plant.  As I turn into the lane, I smell cut grass and lilacs.  I park the car, lift out the flower, and carry it across the perfectly trimmed lawn.  The breeze dries my contacts, making my eyes water.  Then I kneel and place the purple hyacinth on the mound before my mother’s headstone.  I whisper, “Happy Mother’s Day.”

published on Long Story Short

When My Mother Calls

Whenever my mother calls, she talks about dead people.

This morning I am laying bacon strips on the microwave dish when the phone rings.  I check the caller ID.  My mother.  I cradle the phone against my shoulder and continue fixing breakfast.

Within seconds she asks, “You remember Gladys Berger?

“Who?”

“You know – she always wore that flowered hat.  She sat in the back pew at church.”

I haven’t attended her church in 30 years.  I certainly don’t know Gladys.  “Sure,” I say, as I crack four eggs into the frying pan, then drop bread into the toaster.

I wonder if Stan’s still sleeping upstairs.  He usually wakes early on the weekend, especially when he smells bacon.

“Well,” my mother continues, “she’s a widow.  Her husband dropped dead yesterday.  Got out of bed and keeled over, right there.  Gladys found him.  Cerebral hemorrhage, they said.”

“Uh uh,” I mutter, “That’s a shame.”  I think, at her age, she’s gotten used to losing people.  I slide the eggs onto plates, burn my fingers picking up the bacon, then begin buttering the toast.

She says, “He was only 56.  Same as Stan.”

“Really?” I say.  And I wonder again what’s keeping him.

Suddenly, I hear a loud thud above me.  I cover the phone and yell, “Stan?”  No answer.

My mother is saying, “Those hemorrhages can happen to anyone, you know, even young people.”

Another thump, louder.  I drop the knife.  It clatters to the floor.  “Gotta go, Mom.”  I toss the phone onto a chair.  I huff up the stairs.  My blood pulses in my temples.  My hand trembles as I twist the doorknob.  Will my husband be crumpled on the floor?

Still dressed in pajamas, he sits on the edge of the bed.  He holds his black shoe in his hand.

I catch my breath, sigh.

“Stan, what’s going on?”

He grins boyishly, turns the shoe over.  I see a dark, smashed object on the heel.

“Black Widow,” he says.

published on Smokelong Quarterly

Mice in the Attic

Shortly before, or maybe after, he went mad, my grandfather blasted a hole in his bedroom ceiling with a shotgun.  He wanted to kill the mice scratching in his attic.

Now there are mice in my attic.

“I heard them again last night,” she says.

I pour milk on Wheaties.  “Didn’t hear anything.”

“You wouldn’t.”

She often teases about my perfect sleep, says she could bring a lover into our bed in the middle of the night and I’d never wake up.

After she leaves for work, I dress and walk to the hardware store.  I buy one mousetrap.  That evening I prepare the trap.  In the kitchen, I slice a chunk of cheese.

“I told you to use peanut butter,” she says.  “You never listen.”

While I am in the attic placing my trap, she goes to bed.  She has to get up early for work.

When I check my trap the next day, I find a tiny gray body, neck snapped, legs splayed, head twisted, eyes bulging, pink tongue protruding.  I put on my gloves to carry it to the garbage can.  I throw away the trap, too.

She works late that night.  I eat Wheaties for dinner.  I go to bed before she gets home.  In the morning she shakes me awake.  “There are more mice,” she says.  I roll over and go back to sleep.

This time I buy three traps.  She comes home while I am smearing peanut butter on one of the traps.  She strolls through the dining room and points to the fist-sized hole in the drywall.  “Are you ever going to fix that?” she asks.

“Sure, soon as there’s time.”

She laughs, her snorting laugh.  Doesn’t she know her nagging caused the hole in the first place?  “Get a job. . . Take your medicine. . . Catch the mice.”  It’s a lot to ask.

Within a few days, I have killed two more mice.  As I climb the ladder into the attic with my last trap, she walks into the bedroom.  “I’m leaving you,” she says.

I almost fling the trap at her head.  But I stop myself.  “Why?” I ask, “Because of the mice?”

“God, no,” she says.  “You are so clueless.”  She hurries down the stairs.

My legs tremble as I jump off the ladder.  I watch her join her lover on the front walk.

It is so quiet in the attic now.  I can’t sleep.  I wait for more mice.  I have my grandfather’s gun.

published on Spelk

Happily Ever After

Katy thinks she and Dan have had a good life together.  Yet, sometimes she wishes he could be a little more considerate.

She always wanted to take a beach vacation, but Dan countered with numerous excuses.  He couldn’t swim.  He hated the heat.  Sunburns cause skin cancer.

So she surrendered to his desires.   Instead of relaxing in Hawaii or the Bahamas, they went cross-country skiing and horseback riding, mountain climbing and salt flats racing, bungee jumping and sky diving.  He loved adventure, not a dull beach.

Now, as they approach life’s end, they are choosing their afterlife VR scenarios.  This is where their mental engrams will reside after their bodies are depleted.  She crafts a lovely beach with gentle waves lapping the fine white sand.  The sun shines intensely and palm trees sway in a warm breeze.

When she glances at Dan’s screen, she sees a boulder-strewn mountain with a dark blue lake at its base.  A sheer cliff descends from one side of the mountain while a thick forest covers the other side.  Hot air balloons and hang gliders dot the sky.

When he completes the final touches to his scene, he turns to look at hers.  His wide grin transforms into a frown as he views the peaceful ocean and beach.

“Why would you think I’d want to spend eternity in a place like that?” Dan asks.  “You know I wouldn’t even vacation there.”

“We’ve had more than our share of excitement,” she answers.  “I think I deserve a little tranquility.”

“Well, think again,” he huffs.  “I suppose we could add some sand and beach chairs around my lake for you.  But I’m not interested in eternal boredom.”

Katy smiles.  “I know,” she says.  “I’m not inviting you along.”

published on Brilliant Flash Fiction

Fog

Fog surrounds our seaside home and fills my father’s mind.  He doesn’t understand that I alone ward off the nursing home.

He tries to escape to his army camp.  Following his footprints, I reach the water.  A knot cramps my chest.  Dropping to my knees, I think he’s calling me.

published on Fifty Words

Time Enough

Seventy years ago they had all the time in the world.  He’d come safely home from that terrible war in Europe.  They had time to marry, enjoy a beautiful honeymoon in the Poconos, build a house with their own hands, start a family.  Over the years, they weathered good times and bad, raised two fine children, and cherished several grandchildren.

But now, in their twilight years, he feels time slipping by more and more quickly.  With each passing day, Alzheimer’s steals another bit of her away from him.  She rocks endlessly and stares at nothing.  No longer the university lecturer, fluent in three languages, she has lost all words.  And he’s become just another kindly stranger in her life.

Today the caregiver fails to arrive.  He makes a bold decision.  He will drive from their Bloomsburg home to the Crescent Lodge in the Poconos.  He will show her, once again, that magical place where their great love began.

They’ve rescinded his driver’s license because macular degeneration impairs his vision.  But he will just drive very carefully.

After wheeling her down the ramp, he helps her into the car.  As they drive along Interstate 80, he chats about the scenery.  She sits contentedly, watches through her window, and hums happily.  He knows that car rides calm and entertain her.  But the caregivers transport them only to medical appointments.

As they travel, he reminds her of their honeymoon and the wonderful time they spent in the Poconos.  He talks about their walks and picnics in the woods, the romantic dinners, and row boating on Tobyhanna Lake.  She does not respond.

When he turns off the main highway, he worries about his memory.  It has been so many years, but he thinks he can find the way.

After several wrong turns and backtracks, he finally spies the Crescent Lodge on the left.  He points and waves his hand excitedly.  She glances at the old building.

Then she turns slowly toward him with a smile he’s not seen in years.  With her unused voice she croaks, “Love you.”

His chest tightens and he barely breathes as he hears those words.  Tears blur his failing vision even more.  It is the best of times.

When he looks back at the road, the huge tree looms directly in front of them.  His reflexes are far too slow to swerve.  One final thought fills his mind, “together again.”

published on Persimmon Tree

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