Friday, March 23, 2012

Flash Fiction VII—That Damned Dog

The worst calls are the neighbor disputes. You've got two kings (or queens) of the castle, you've got boundary issues both literal and figurative, you've got long-simmering resentment. But what's a small-town cop to do? We get the crimes we hope for; I am usually grateful.

The temperature was running 20 degrees above normal so you have figure there was an epidemic of spring fever and that dance Venus and Jupiter have been doing for the past month has been pulling out the crazy in everyone. We’d had calls about the usual stuff: vandalized mailboxes, missing booze, youths gathering in the library parking lot. I had 10 minutes left on my shift.

“Report of a menacing dog over on Willow, on Will-ow. Do you read?” Brenda likes to add drama to her dispatches.


“The dog is allegedly menacing. Do you copy?”

“I’m on my way.”

“Copy that.”

She was one of those tall women who haven't finished a full meal in 25 years, silver gray hair pulled into a ferocious bun my wife calls “a poor woman’s facelift,” but the clothes proved she could afford to go under the knife the way most of us can afford to go for coffee. The shotgun looked like a prop. “That dog is a menace. I’ve been warning him for months.”

“Ma’am, I need you to hand over the firearm.”

“This? Don’t be absurd; this is an heirloom.”

“Regardless, until this gets resolved I need you to hand over the firearm.” She made a little noise at the top of her throat but she gave it to me. “Now, the dog?”

She pointed and I thought I’d have to get the body bag out of the trunk (which adds at least half an hour to the call). But the dog was alive. So was the owner, though I’m pretty sure he could have died of embarrassment. Crouching behind a decoratively decrepit pony cart is never good for the self-esteem.

“She tried to kill me!”

“Don’t be absurd, I’m simply making a point,” she told him. “This is what it takes,” she told me.

I had to arrest them both. That’s going to be at least two hours overtime.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Flash Fiction VI(a)—The Bicycle Thief

(this entry is the actual post for March 22 for some complex reason related to the cascading effect of having missed March 20)

My mother’s bicycle was pretty basic: seat covered in brown leatherette; handlebars sporting grips that complemented the faded candy blue frame; three gears, the thumb-drive shifter mounted so there was no need to move a hand off the right grip; pedal brakes. She had added a wire basket that perched above the front wheel, though the rear pannier rack was standard; the basket was needed for the padlock’s thick chain and the Tour de France U-lock. “Toouurrr de Frahncsh,” she’d brag, though the longest she’d ever ridden was 40 hill-less blocks. To her credit, she did it in heels, but still.

She called me after she’d locked it to the U-shaped bike rack outside the museum. “U-shaped! Don’t you love the synchronicity?”

“That’s great, Mom.”

The Tour de France always secured the front wheel, the chain went on the back. She took a photo with her smartphone and sent it to her sister, my sister and me. I texted back that her tires looked a little soft. “Nxt, bk shp 4 new.” My mother understood texting much earlier than I did; I still use punctuation.

She was devastated, of course, when she discovered her bike had been stolen. She didn’t get angry until she logged on to the Times website—my mother gave up the paper edition as soon as it was feasible—and clicked on the Style section home page.

The subject line of the emails she sent to her sister, my sister and me was “My BIKE!” We dutifully clicked on the link, started the slideshow ( The first photo was nearly identical to the one she’d sent before the theft.

My sister replied all: “Do you think they’ll give you the lamp? If they do, can I have it?”

Flash Fiction VI—Cruise

They had wanted to go to somewhere, had needed to get away because the winter had been rugged, and while no one would say they were in trouble, a change would do them good. When Steven suggested one of those Cruises-to-Nowhere, Benni balked. “Did you just flinch?”


“You did. It’s three days; completely manageable. My sister will watch the cat.”

She packed bathing suits though that much warmth was unimaginable. How far could one get in three days? No shopping for this; she wouldn’t ever see these people again, after all. One bag for each of them because he folds and she rolls and sharing just doesn’t work out.

The stateroom had a porch (is that right?) where they had breakfast that first day, fleeced, with socks and scarves, watching the steel sea churn by. Steven wore his watch cap. “There are indoor pools.”

They went to the gym. The sweat, a turnoff at home, was an inspiration (though maybe it was just the sea air or the envelope of complete anonymity they’d folded themselves into). A fruity cocktail for her, beer for him. “Incredible food.” Another round, then another, then a nap. Because they were on vacation, right?

When they woke up the sun was shining, the water the green of a sour apple jelly bean.

It was her idea to have sex on the porch (that can’t be right); they were on the eastern side of the ship and she suddenly craved that warmth on her skin. “I love this.”

How do you get a body off a ship? The crew handles the details; the ship doctor arriving, stewards wrapping a blanket around you because your teeth will not stop chattering and there’s a wax museum Steve and there’s the proof that death is a kind of release and then Steve is gone and the captain escorts you to a different stateroom (interior, no porch) and since it is a Cruise-to-Nowhere all you can do is lie on this king-size bed and wait for the ship to return to port where what had been Steve is rolled down the cargo gangway on a gurney just before the recycling.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Flash Fiction V—The Late Edition

March 20. It was the first day of Spring. That’s when I ought to have posted this entry, but things happen. “Things” being, in this case, a combination of the sudden onset of Spring Fever and a mass of papers to comment upon (and grade). I was overtaken by a desire to sit in the sun making daisy chains—in spite of the lack of daisies to link together and, I must confess, in spite of possessing no practical knowledge of how to make a daisy chain. This made the grading of papers that much more challenging, as if that was necessary or even possible.

“So take the papers outside and grade them.” This is a reasonable suggestion. It doesn’t work, though; I’m not the kind of person who can focus in that way. I get distracted by the snippets of conversations of passersby, and cloud formations, and the seduction of the sun’s warmth, the tickle of the breeze, the aroma of all that burgeoning green. Does. Not. Work. Much more efficient to stay in my office—windowless, airless, sterile (in the sense of lacking visual interest)—and get the job done.

I know myself that well, at least. I am a woman who does not know how to make daisy chains. I am a woman who remains childishly distractible. I am a woman who works best in a closed environment.

None of this is news. The news in this post begins and ends with this statement: It was the first day of Spring.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Flash Nonfiction IV—The Good News!

Everyone loves food; even those pinch-faced (and they are always pinch-faced) ascetics who claim they “eat to live” hold dear some dish that they favor above all others. I know that I take my love of food to the extreme. I know that there is something outright dysfunctional going on in this relationship. I know that this is a story too-often told. This same-old-same-old does, however, explain why the “news” that inspired today’s post is not based in journalism. It is, rather, news that gets delivered to my inbox Thursdays through Mondays of each week.

It is, always, good news.

It is the daily dinner menu for Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc.

I won’t be having dinner at Ad Hoc tonight because I’m in Connecticut, it’s in Yountville, California and Spring Break is over so I have classes. But I welcome the arrival of the dinner menu every time it appears; the idea that food this good is happening in the world seems like good news to me, even if the price of dinner is a solid and non-negotiable $52—and they charge extra if you want the (+) item. More good news: although I don’t have access to the same ingredients used at the restaurant, I do have the recipes for a lot of these dishes so I can make them at home at a substantial savings (though I won’t because the fried chicken needs a lot of pre-prep and I would have had to start yesterday).

I’m pretty certain that even those ascetics could find something to enjoy on this menu; if not today’s, then some other day’s. So, enjoy (and please note that any typos in the menu are not mine).

Dinner Menu for Monday, March 19th

Broccolini & Crescenza Salad
black olives, marinated mushrooms
fried chickpeas, red endive
lemon-honey vinaigrette


Buttermilk Fried Chicken
rancho gordo red beans and rice with sausage
sauteed romaine, english peas and carrots
chive oil


Prosciutto and Melted Onion Bruschetta
palladin toast, goat gouda
red radishes, rocket arugula



San Joaquin Gold
pickled rhubarb
california strawberry and pear sald
piced mixed nuts


Pineapple Floats
vanilla ice cream, pineapple sorbet
huckleberry soda

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Flash Fiction III—Gawd!

Yes, I did buy tickets for the midnight showing of “The Hunger Games” on Friday. I bought four for Saturday, too.

Mother, that’s ridiculous. Britney and I are going with Ali and Stef and I said I’d order the tickets online because I’m the only one who has an iPhone.

You need the iPhone because it has the app for buying tickets.

I don’t know why their phones don’t have the app; I don’t invent these things.

Gawd! I don’t have an attitude.

Daddy said he’d drive us.

Yes, I assume that means both ways.

I have no idea. Can’t you bring us?

I swear, you never once mentioned a half-marathon. I would have remembered that.

I totally would have remembered. Why isn’t it on the family calendar?

In red? You wrote it in red? No one can read red pen.

I don’t have an attitude. Gawd!

Well, what time will you be done do you think?

What? I was just asking!

Never mind; maybe Jen’s mom can drive us.

That’s because she’s not coming with us on Friday night; she’s going with other people on Friday night.

I don’t know what other people. Other people, that’s all.

There’s no way that was “a tone.” I don’t even know what “a tone” means.

I don’t know, it just wasn’t, that’s all.

Have you ever even run a half-marathon before?

Really? When have you been doing that?

Isn’t it cold out that early? And dark? Aren’t you afraid to go out in the dark? What if you, like, broke your ankle or something and no one could see you because the sun wasn’t even up?

Mom, I don’t think you should go out running in the middle of the night like that.

No, it’s completely different than going to the midnight showing of “The Hunger Games.” There’ll be a million people there; you go out all by yourself. You need to be careful in this world.

No, really, I mean it, Mommy. Things could happen and that would be tragic.

I’m not crying. I just had a little chill, that’s all, and so my eyes are watering.

I don’t need a hug. Gawd, you’re so weird!