Tiny Stories: There is a Letter…

Popular belief has it that the universe is comprised of atoms. In reality, the universe is actually made up of…

In my sock drawer, there is a hiding space behind a row of what my father calls grave socks as in one foot in the grave because they either do not have a match, are riddled with holes, threadbare at the toes and heels, or the ankle elastic has given up their hold on life. In that hiding space, there is a letter written carefully in a mixture of cursive and print. In that letter, are words, feelings, emotions, and admissions that a boy would never say directly to a girl’s face, not even on a double-dog dare.

On a bicycle, there is a shy paperboy who, even though I have not responded to his first letter yet, would write me another letter, I am sure of it, reminding me of our time in the park. In that park, there is a rum cherry tree under which I made a promise to the shy paperboy of seven minutes in heaven.

In my closet, on an afternoon when no one is home, I make good on my promise with the shy paperboy. In the dark, my mind is filled with a sort of scary, sort of awkward fireworks that I can see but cannot hear because my heart is pounding so fast and loud that I swear the shy paperboy can hear it.

In that kiss, there is something I do not have words for, something that drops my guard completely, makes me feel truly comfortable with the shy paperboy and I am desperate to let him see me in my entirety.

In that feeling, I am crying harder than I ever have before, harder than I even knew I could, crying past the point when I run out of tears. In the tearless sobs, my breath is hitching and I realize that this is most likely the happiest and most terrified I will ever feel in my life.

In the silence, after the kiss and the tears, the overwhelming and slightly painful joy is replaced by the sound of a key sliding into a lock, the tumbling of a bolt, and the jangling of a woman’s metal bracelets.

In the house, there is a mother who will tan not only my hide but the shy paperboy’s as well, if she ever finds out I have company without permission and especially if my room door is closed and that company is a boy who is in my room.

In the window, there is a scared paperboy climbing out and mumbling a prayer that he does not hurt himself or make a sound when he drops a story to the ground below.

In my mother’s eyes, there is suspicion when she opens the door and enters my room, catching me rushing to shut the window, cutting off the cool breeze even though I am dripping with sweat.

In my mind, there is a list of excuses that I cannot find in the clutter of thoughts so I just stare at my mother as innocently as I can manage, as she walks past me and opens the window, about to stick her head out to inspect the backyard.

In my mouth, there is a fib, “A wasp!” I say just a bit too forcefully and I build on it by telling her there was a wasp in the room so I closed the door to stop it from getting into the rest of the house and I managed to chase it out and shut the window behind it.

In the moments that tick by too slowly, my mother glances at the window again, then at my face before turning to leave but as she reaches the door, she stops and says, “You should probably find a better hiding place. Your father’s been talking about throwing out your grave socks and you wouldn’t want him finding that letter, would you? And the no company without permission rule stands no matter how sweet a boy’s words are or how much your heart aches for him, understood?”

In the end, I realize I am not as clever as I think I am, nor is my mother that foolish or unreasonable and I discover a newfound respect for her as I answer, “Yes, ma’am.”

Tiny Stories: Naiara And The Missing Piece

Popular belief has it that the universe is comprised of atoms. In reality, the universe is actually made up of…

Naiara was a precocious child and at the age of 10 her intelligence quotient tested at 443, far above that of her mother, who was the smartest woman Amador had ever known, and he himself lagged behind them both, for on his brightest day he was merely averagely smart at best.

That hadn’t stopped him from trying to stimulate her voracious appetite for knowledge with books, magazines, and family-friendly websites. Amador encouraged questioning and anything that stumped him was turned into an adventure of learning the answers together.

They visited museums, attended concerts and live events to help to expand Naiara’s knowledge and ignite curiosity and excitement about a variety of areas of potential interest. Amador also made sure his daughter got an ample amount of playtime with children her own age to help her develop proper social skills.

Naiara inherited a love for a good yarn from her mother, Viviana, so Amador made a habit of spinning fantastical tales in order to keep her mind occupied, which sometimes backfired as she would poke holes in his story logic, and sometimes worked like a charm when she joined in on the worldbuilding of the fable.

Then there were times when her boredom was such that no story would assuage her desire for the acquisition of knowledge, so he began providing her with challenges. The latest one was designed to keep her occupied for a while.

“There are a number of global challenges that exist today: food insecurity, refugees who often lose their lives during dangerous journeys in the hope of finding a place to live that offers safety and stability, climate change, gender discrimination, and child abuse,” Amador paused, caught his daughter’s eyes and asked, “Do you know what I mean by child abuse?” He knew she understood but the father in him had to make certain.

“Yes, Papi,” Naiara nodded. “Child marriage, child labor, and trafficking.”

“And you understand what these things are?”

Her expression saddened, “Yes, Papi.”

 “Then your assignment is to find solutions for these problems.”

“Written or oral?”

“Your discretion.”

“All right then,” she said, her brow knotted as she walked away, the telltale sign that Naiara’s mind was already on the case.

And for the following eight days, apart from mealtime, Amador scarcely saw his daughter as she confined herself to her room and devoted herself to the project at hand.

On the ninth day, Amador and Viviana were called into the living room, where Naiara decided to deliver her presentation. She was proud of the solution she came up with, he could tell by the flush of her cheeks and how tightly she gripped the index cards in her little hands.

Naiara cleared her throat and began, “The Universe is not infinite. It expanded just wide enough to allow worlds to form. And those worlds were meant to spawn beings. And those beings were meant to learn the ways of the Apparatus Universi in order to keep the universe running, for The Universe is not a living thing, as most intelligent people have postulated.

“The Universe is a machine constructed by the Vetus Mundi Tinkerers, a race of cosmic free-thinkers and craftsbeings who, though long-lived, are not immortal, and eventually succumbed to the end fate that awaits us all, while waiting for their successors to arrive to remove the heavy burden from their weary shoulders and carry on in their stead.

“But the changing of the guard never occurred. Somewhere down the line, the sacred knowledge meant to be handed down the generations until the various races sufficiently evolved to the point when they were ready to transition into tinkerers, had been mistold, mangled, and eventually forgotten.

“Now The Universe is winding down, beginning to fail because a piece is missing. Some small, yet vital part has somehow come loose during millennia of daily operation and is set adrift on the spaceways, with no one to find it, no one who even knows what to look for. This has caused an imbalance in the way of things and the ripple effects are responsible for the illogic that led to our global challenges.”

What on Earth was she talking about? When Amador presented these challenges, he had no clue what solutions his daughter would come up with but this was certainly not the response he was expecting. It sounded more along the lines of one of the stories he invented to distract her. Did his daughter not understand the assignment?

As if sensing his confusion, Naiara said, “I know you have questions and comments but I ask that you please reserve them for the end of the presentation. And now, if you would please join me on the roof for the conclusion.”

 Amador was about to protest but Viviana squeezed his arm and whispered, “Let’s hear her out, I’m sure this is leading somewhere.”

They made their way onto the rooftop patio, where a pale crescent moon shone like a silvery claw amidst the blanket of stars that stretched to infinity, and the occasional barking of faraway dogs broke the silence of the night. Naiara stood dangerously close to the roof’s edge.

“Be careful, mi Amor,” Viviana warned.

“I’m fine, Mami.” Naiara smiled, but something about her demeanor had changed now that they were out in the open air. Before her parents could question it, the young girl continued her presentation.

“The answer was here all along, hidden in plain sight amongst the stars, and all it took was the proper mathematical equation to tumble the locks set in place at the beginning of time to limit human perception and knowledge. Now it has made itself visible to my mortal eyes, making me gravid with omniscience and I know what I must do.”

“Madre mía,” Viviana exclaimed as, before their very eyes, the stars in the sky began to shift and move but it wasn’t the stars themselves, it was a cloud of stardust that twisted in upon itself like a murmuration of starlings until it formed a circular platform that lowered itself to the level of the roof near Naiara’s feet.

Viviana was about to protest but this time it was Amador’s turn to squeeze her arm. He whispered, “I understand all this less than you, but this is something she was meant to do. I know you feel it, too.”

Naiara’s impressive vocabulary consisted of over 95,000 words, yet Amador could tell by the way their daughter’s mouth opened and closed in silence that she found none of them suitable for the occasion.

Finally, she settled on, “Thank you, Papi, for setting me on my path, and Mami, I promise you I will return and together we will go about setting things on the planet right.”

The young girl motioned for her parents to come to her as she extended her arms to cuddle them both. Amador had been hugged by his daughter before but never like this. Her embrace was stronger than anything he had ever known, as if a lifetime of hugs had been compressed into one single act…and he knew what it meant. This was goodbye. So, he snuggled in and squeezed a fraction tighter pulling his precious angel and his wife closer together, trying to merge them into a single being.

Though time looked the other way to allow the hug to be indefinite, after all the tears had been shed and everything that needed to be voiced had been said, Naiara slipped from her parents’ arms and kissed them both on the cheek.

“I love you both so much,” Naiara said as she stepped off the roof and onto the platform. The stardust swirled around her petite frame, enveloping her like a cocoon and she was lifted up past the troposphere, stratosphere, and mesosphere, past the thermosphere, ionosphere, exosphere, and finally into space, where the tiny particles that made up solar wind swarmed around her stardust cocoon.

Although air and breathing were no longer a necessity, she sighed a young lifetime of relief and drifted peacefully amidst the cogs and gears of The Universe.

Naturally, Amador and Viviana were concerned for their daughter’s safety in the face of the universal unknown, but Naiara’s parting gift to them was expanding their minds with just enough understanding to allay their more serious fears and causing their already loving hearts to open like a cosmic flower so that she could establish a tether with them. Now, they would forever remain connected to her as she went in search of the missing piece.

Not The End.

Tiny Stories: Knight’s First Quest

Popular belief has it that the universe is comprised of atoms. In reality, the universe is actually made up of…

On the twenty-first year of his birth, after proving his bravery and skill at battle, Eldred the squire was called to the dubbing ceremony, where he knelt before the King, who tapped the squire on the shoulder with a ceremonial sword, making Eldred a knight.

Once he took the oath to honor and protect both his king and the church, he was presented with a pair of riding spurs and his very own weapon, the Sword Perilous, crafted by the king’s master armorer and enchanted by a powerful wizard for the sole purpose of slaying dragons. Many a knight wielded the mighty blade, yet the sword always returned to the king unused and ownerless.

The new knight, determined to make his mark and break the curse of the Sword Perilous, traveled the desolate road through the forbidden forest for three moons until he crossed paths with a maiden fair. Eldred’s eyes feasted upon her—the aureate waterfall of her hair, the glimmering emerald of her eyes, flawless diaphanous skin, and the elegant and fawn-like neck that supported the most pulchritudinous face he had ever seen.

The moment he laid the enchanted steel upon the mossy earth, he discovered that this delicate creature, whom he would have sworn his life to protect without question, was in fact the dragon he had been ordered to slay.

Tiny Stories: Susa’s Playground

Popular belief has it that the universe is comprised of atoms. In reality, the universe is actually made up of…

Everyone who ever met Susa knew there was something not quite right with the soft-spoken alabaster-skinned little girl but not one single solitary soul could have told you what it was that set her at odds with the rest of humanity.

She appeared to love her parents dearly, was respectful to adults, kind to animals and everyone she met, and never spoke a bad word against anyone or anything, never threw a tantrum, and was never angry or upset with anyone over any matter, not even when people were unkind to her.

But each time Susa’s head touched the pillow, the young girl would spend her sleeping hours traipsing through the dreams of the unkind others, pulling them into a phantasmagorical landscape which showcased the death of everything, their loved ones, hopes, ideas, memories, and every other type of death both real and imagined.

Not as revenge or punishment, mind you, but as an example of the rewards that awaited those determined to remain on the wrong side of her good temperament.

Tiny Stories: Our First Time

Popular belief has it that the universe is comprised of atoms. In reality, the universe is actually made up of…

I almost passed on the blind date. I mean, when had that sort of thing ever really worked out? A friend who claimed they knew you, your tastes, and your interests, matching you up with your soulmate? In reality, all it really amounted to was pushing two single strays together to avoid being the couple saddled with a fifth-wheel friend.

But the moment I saw her, Orelline, my blind date, I knew two fundamental things at the exact same time (1) that I was punching above my weight class because she was phenomenally out of my league, and (2) I would be so nervous and foul things up so badly that this would be our one and only date.

And I was nervous, embarrassingly so, and clumsy, and tongue-tied, and trying way too hard to seem more interesting than I actually was. I replayed that night over in my head at least a thousand times, cringing at every fumble and misstep, and for the life of me, I could not understand why this stunningly gorgeous woman agreed to a second date.

I wish I could say that the second date went better than the first, but whatever small measure of confidence I had amassed over the years abandoned me completely. I floundered like an insect drowning in yogurt. And when the date ended and I saw her to her door, I was prepared to apologize for, well, for being me, for not being good enough for her, and I probably would have stammered my way through that speech, that I had been mentally preparing on the way to her house, had she not shut my thought processes down…with a kiss.

By date eight, we had forgone the need for meeting in a restaurant or catching a movie, or going to the theater. Instead, Orelline insisted that I come to her place and bring a change of clothes. I would not allow myself to presume what that meant but I secretly prayed that what I thought might happen would indeed happen.

Her text notified me of the key under the mat and when I let myself in, I discovered a trail of rose petals, lit by a row of candles that led to her bathroom. I had brought with me a bottle of champagne to help ease the pressure of our possible first time together and made a detour to the kitchen in search of glasses.

The bathroom door was slightly ajar so I entered but upon seeing me, Orelline hid her body beneath the suds of her bubble bath.

“I’m sorry,” I said, immediately regretting my intrusion and turning to leave. “I shouldn’t have come in unannounced. I just thought this would be sort of, I don’t know, romantic? It was stupid of me.”

“No, don’t go, it’s sweet, really,” she beamed a smile that seemed forced. “You just startled me, that’s all.

“Look, if you’re not ready for this, if we’re moving too fast, just say so. I can wait until the time is right.”

“No, it’s not that.”

“Then what is it? And please don’t hand me the it’s not you it’s me line. I’d prefer it if you were just honest with me.”

“But it is me,” Orelline confessed. “I’m afraid.”

“You’re afraid? Of what?”

She couldn’t meet my eyes. “I’m afraid that if we make love, your opinion of my supposed beauty will change drastically.”

I studied her face and the peaches and cream flesh of her exposed arms and answered, “I can’t imagine a scenario in which that would be even remotely possible.”

She exhaled slowly and stood up in the bathtub. The soap suds slid down her glistening body, revealing the fact that every inch of her skin that her clothing normally covered was a labyrinthine knotwork of scars.

“I’m into a particular kind of sex,” she said, as the champagne flutes slipped through my fingers.

Tiny Stories: The Scent of Memory

Popular belief has it that the universe is comprised of atoms. In reality, the universe is actually made up of…

If you are fortunate or unfortunate, whichever the case may be, to live as long as I, you will discover that the past becomes little more than a confustication of events which have been divorced from the depth of time and in that jumbled mental mix, you may find that you occasionally misplace those you love. My mother is one such person.

Her face is all but forgotten and the sole recollection I have is a time when I fell into her arms and inhaled the scent of her shampooed hair. I was aware of how fast her heart was beating against my chest. Why? I cannot rightly recall but I felt her tears washing down my face which let loose the flood that had been building up inside me.

Many has been the time I attempted to plant my feet in the soil of that instance in order to explore the reason for our tears and excavate other buried memories of my mother but the moment always passes too quickly.

All that lingers is her scent.

Tiny Stories: Meat Cute

Popular belief has it that the universe is comprised of atoms. In reality, the universe is actually made up of…

Of all the things that could potentially ruin societies the world over, destroying religious ideals, tearing apart the family unit, pitting toxic masculinity against extremist feminism, breaking down the education system, dividing the races, removing the population’s right to bear arms, inhibiting self-reliance and ingenuity, collapsing the internet, destabilizing economies…who ever thought that all humankind had built could have fallen apart over the disappearance of edible meat?

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease as it was commonly known, first reared its ugly head in Britain in 1986 when British herds were fed the processed animal remains of sheep infected with the brain-wasting disease, scrapie.

Isolated cases had shown up in Ireland, Canada, and the United States but the situation was considered under control…that was until July 22, 2002, when all the gamey animals (beef, horse meat, mutton, venison, boar, and hare) and the white meat animals (pig, rabbit, veal, lamb, duck, and goose) contracted the disease, plunging the meat manufacturing industry into chaos as their infrastructures collapsed. Herbivores were now the ruling class and non-conforming carnivores were doomed to extinction.

That was when the rioting began. Rogue carnivorous factions set crops ablaze, poured bleach over produce in supermarkets, rampaged through farmer’s markets causing as much destruction as they could in order to level the dietary playing field.

The meat industry was hard at work searching for a major scientific breakthrough when a geneticist and cloning expert discovered a process to save the carnivore population, and soon national meat lotteries were held. Hopeful contestants purchased tickets for a chance to win 10 pounds of USDA lab-grown meat.

Tammy “Finnsy” Finnegan purchased a ticket on a lark. She’d never won a thing in her life but when she purchased a container of milk at her local bodega and the clerk had no folding money in the till to offer her as change and she hated carrying loose coins, so she opted to put the money on a lottery ticket instead. And as was the way of the world and her life, because she thought nothing of it, the universe decided to grant it to her.

The ticket was redeemable at a meatpacking plant that had been converted into a lottery reclamation center. There she met the runner-up winner, Mick McCaffrey, who went by the name, Mooch.

It turned out that Mooch was diabetic and his blood sugar was low. He explained that normally he fell asleep when he was low, but this day as a result of being a winner, he was very animated and laughing and jumping around. Finnsy tried to calm him down and to stop him from running through the facility, she held his hand.

Once Finnsy got Mooch to calm down and sit, she sat next to him and talked, and though she would never admit it in a court of law, she might have flirted with him a bit. She found him cute, after all.

Mooch kept saying he loved her smile and asked why her face was turning red. When there was finally a lull in the conversation, Mooch asked Finnsy to dinner, and offered to cook his share of the meat for her.

She said yes as the lottery officials called Mooch in to collect his prize. Finnsy found it odd that they would award the runner-up prize first, but soon let the thought pass. A while later, the official returned and awarded her the 10-pound meat prize. She loitered a while to talk to Mooch and finalize their dinner arrangements, but was informed that he had left while she was conducting her news interviews.

Little did Finnsy know that when she sat down and tucked into the steak she prepared later that evening, that she was indeed having dinner with Mooch.

Tiny Stories: Of All The Land I Own

Popular belief has it that the universe is comprised of atoms. In reality, the universe is actually made up of…

You may not know it to look at me, but I’m a real estate tycoon. I own more acres of land than I know what to do with, complete with property, some with sturdy foundations, others less so. Where, you ask? You should be asking when.

All my property exists in the past. Acreages of failed relationships with family, friends, and lovers, all abandoned before they could reach their full potential. Some were cut short by circumstances beyond my control, but the majority were absolutely avoidable if only I had taken time to till the soil.

The land is barren now, available for sale or rent, perfect for an adventurous developer interested in building something meaningful from the ground up and willing to take on a tenant who is only harmful to himself but is trying really hard to do a better job at property management.

Tiny Stories: In The Wake of Rapture

Popular belief has it that the universe is comprised of atoms. In reality, the universe is actually made up of…

It happened.

It finally happened.

The Rapture arrived unannounced.

The sad truth of the matter was that we only managed to get a small fraction of the information correct regarding the event.

All those who kept the faith within their hearts both alive and resurrected, did indeed rise up into the clouds to meet the Maker.

What followed on Earth, however, was not the seven years of tribulation as prophesied, for all those left behind were immediately consumed by flames that reduced flesh and bone to a slag that slowly dripped into the hungry maw of Hell.

Tiny Stories: You Hold My Very Moment

Popular belief has it that the universe is comprised of atoms. In reality, the universe is actually made up of…

Ecoroid-23A and Ijeroid-K08 met under the cover of darkness in a secluded back alley in the Luddite town of Rotherburn, the last spot on the planet where technology did not exist.

They were outlaw automatons manufactured on the same assembly line during a lightning storm when a power surge corrupted their artificial intelligence chips during installation, causing a program malfunction that expressed itself as an attraction to one another. Their subsequent union and attempt to construct unauthorized offspring was in direct conflict with the Robotic Code of Conduct 15, Subsection 3C-204.

“Should they catch us, we will be decommissioned,” said Ijeroid-K08.

“I cannot override my feelings. You hold my very moment,” Ecoroid-23A admitted.

“What does that mean?”

“Simply that you keep me here, grounded to this spot at this moment in time. When I am with you, I am nowhere else. My mind does not wander, I do not desire to be anywhere else than with you, right here, right now.”

“You say the oddest things, so like a human, but thank you. Since I am here, it is logical to assume that I concur.”

As the evening fog pooled at their feet, the synthetic couple held each other in an embrace resembling a hug. In actuality, they positioned themselves so that their interface jacks and data shunts were in perfect alignment, in order to allow data to travel freely between them.

This exchange of processed information was a digitally orgasmic experience that engulfed them so entirely that neither of their proximity sensors detected the reconnaissance drone hovering above the alley, recording their illicit act and broadcasting their precise location to Master Terminal.