Thursday, March 19, 2009

Flash Fiction News: Behold the Dreamer

Flash Fiction News: Short fiction tales taken from the headlines.

Behold the Dreamer
By Nordette Adams aka Verite Parlant

the screamWe all have stories. We all have pain. That’s what Miss Sharma Simms had wanted to explain to David when she joined him for coffee at Ralph’s Diner Thursday. He hadn’t asked for her company, but she’d been watching him for nearly a week. How she knew she didn’t know exactly, but he was ripe for a fit of madness. She couldn’t say he had an aura because she didn’t have visions so grand, but when she’d seen him in the Piggly Wiggly Monday night, picking up butter and a jar of Maxwell House Instant for his mother, Mama Jo Vincent, hatred framed his face and covered his head.

He paced the coffee aisle for a moment, rubbing one calloused hand through his fine, straight, sandy brown hair. For a second he looked sweet, innocent, and younger than his 27 years. He looked like the boy she remembered who learned his Bible verses faster than anyone else in her class.

She saw him walk to the cash register, appearing no different than other young men in Tipwood Springs. He was average height, medium build. A ring of keys hung from the side belt loop of his grungy, blue Wranglers, and he wore a red and blue short-sleeved, plaid shirt open, revealing a plain white tee beneath. On his feet, muddy work boots. But he was different. No whistling of a country tune or nodding his head to rap from earplugs and one of those tiny music players, not a wink at Darlene, the little curvy blonde who checked him out..

A dark mist hovered over his chest and snaked its way up to the crown of his soul’s countenance. She recognized it. A soul’s body could smile from the face, but if it held hate, the lips were never right. They were thinned and drawn up on the verge of a snarl, but it looked like smiling. It looked like smiling to the dull. A hidden pit of sadness looked similar, but she knew the difference well.

On Wednesday afternoon, she’d seen him at Jack’s Road House when she delivered the chocolate fudge they sold for her at the counter. Some people liked dipping fudge in beer, which she thought was disgusting, but her fudge sold better at the Jack’s than at Junebug Sweet Shop on Cypress Street.

David sat at the bar drinking hard lemonade, wearing his rage like a shroud. To the dull, he looked pleasant, calm even. Still, nobody talked to him. People had been ignoring him since he was about nine, thought he was shy. But he wasn’t. He just didn’t like his neighbors, not a one.

By the time she sat down with him at Ralph’s Diner, he’d worsened. His face appeared to her as though draped by sheer black muslin. That’s how dark his soul was. He flinched when she slid into the booth opposite him, and she felt guilty. She had never really tried to make friends with him since he was a boy, and today it took courage to sit near him because loathing rolled off him like the stench of road kill in summer heat. Its thickness nauseated her.

“Heard you quit the chicken factory, Dave,” she said.

“Yes’m.”

“Young man like you need a job, don’t he? Life in this town ain’t gonna get easier with no job.”

“Yes’ m,” he said and looked down at his coffee that was nearly gone. She turned over the extra white cup and poured herself a few swallows. The coffee was complimentary at Ralph’s.

“I don’t mean to pry, son, but I got a heaviness in my heart for you.” Shadowed dreams, she thought but didn’t say. “I want to help you. You know me, right? I used to teach your Sunday School class.”

“Yes’m. You smelled like honeysuckle water.”

Sharma nodded and smiled. “You have a good memory. I ain’t worn honeysuckle water in ‘bout 15 or so years.” She searched what she could see of his eyes, but his lids lowered, hooding his heart’s window.

“We used to pray, remember that?” she asked.

“Yes’m.”

“Could I pray with you now?”

“No, ma’m. I don’t think you can.” He refilled his coffee cup from the carafe on the table, and then gulped down the steaming brew without stopping. Standing, he placed the coffee cup on the table, looked down at her, and grinned. The curling of his lips, the brief revelation of teeth, terrified her, and he walked from the diner into the morning sun.

Two days later she was still thinking of his smile as she drove home from noon prayer. Pausing at the stop sign, she nodded at Jonathan Stokes, one of three town deputies. He sat in his green and white cruiser at the corner of Cypress and Bayou Lane, hoping to catch speeders in Tipwood Springs’s only planned subdivison. That’s when she heard the popping sound and then the crack against her driver’s side fender.

Someone had shot at her. Stokes heard it also. He turned on his lights and siren, and then shouted, “Are you hurt?” She shook her head “no,” He zoomed off after the small, red pick-up truck. The arm of its sandy-haired driver rested on the bottom of the driver’s side window frame, and the driver was in no rush until Stokes’s car neared him. One in pursuit of the other, the two sped down Cypress, which would turn into Highway 19 soon and lead to Feldman’s Chicken Packing Company.

Sharma’s dream flooded her head, the one she’d had weeks ago that made her join her old Sunday School student at Ralph’s. It came crisp with light. Shadowless, the dead lay all over Tipwood Springs, damp bodies in pools of fresh, red blood.

“Jesus, Jesus!” She shuddered and flung open her car door. Jerking sideward she nearly fell but turned and caught herself as she vomited her stomach juices onto the tar road.

(c) 2009 Nordette Adams aka Verite Parlant

4 comments:

underOvr (aka The U) said...

I enjoyed reading this story of David and Sharma. David's character has a mysterious sinister description. Sharma is sensitive, empathetic and concerned; she also appears to have clairvoyant abilities.

Is it David who shoots at Sharma? Why? What changed the Sunday School boy into the man he has seemingly become?

U

Vérité Parlant said...

Thank you, U. This is flash fiction (fiction less than 1,000 words) based on a recent news story that made headlines. It's a fictional take on the Samson, Ala., massacre and the shooter Michael McLendon. He was 28, his neighbors said he was nice but shy, and additional information suggests he was somewhat isolated due to people thinking "he was shy." Info also indicates he was possibly teased about a break-up with his girlfriend. He quit his job a few days before he went on his shooting spree, murdering his mother first, it seems.

One small detail of the story is that he shot at someone in a car that happened to be near a police officer's cruiser and the cop chased him. So, this short piece of fiction is inspired by that news story.

Lovebabz said...

WOW! powerful stuff!

Chean said...

The thing about basing flash fiction on a news headline is that no matter how much you want the fictional situation to turn out well (I really wanted Sharma to be able to help David toward healing - I thought maybe since she saw the madness coming, she might have had the power to prevent it), it still retains the real-life ending (if you don't change the basic facts, that is). I have not seen the story upon which you based this f.f., but I suppose I should not have expected a happy ending, since I had already been warned that it was based on a news headline...

At any rate, I enjoyed the story - it was well written. You caused me to become intrigued and emotionally involved with the characters within a short space of time.

Also, I liked the fudge and beer thing (never heard of that, do people really do that?) - it's the little details which often make the story, which draw us in. Your vehicle for bringing this headline to life - the postulation that oncoming madness can be detected in the supernatural spectrum - was also a major draw. I wondered about Sharma, that she believed she could not see auras, but she could see souls - or at least his. That's a fine line, right there, and I wonder if she's splitting hairs, and how or why does she consider seeing auras to be "grand visions" and why is it different or somehow more than being able to see the shroud of soul-madness on a man?