Archive for the ‘AJ’s Short Stories’ Category:
I’m good with advertising. I get that the whole point is to make whatever you are selling the smoothest, or hottest, or bestest thing out there. Go for it! Make me want to buy.
But, before you get started trying to get into my subconscious and make me just have to have your product, lets talk about a few things that aren’t going to work in your favor.
Product placement is – in my mind – a genius idea. If my favorite characters have your product, then so should I. It was great in the remake of “The Italian Job”. The thieves used Mini Coopers because they could drive them through the bad guy’s house. And they made it cool to own a car you might accidentally crush if you didn’t watch where you step. But bad product placements abound, too. Recently, “Bones” has been talking up minivans, perhaps a bit unconvincingly? I’ve been peeved that the “Iron Man 2” trailers turned out to not be trailers at all, but Audi ads. And I think “Alias” may have gone off the air in part due to their incessant pushing of Fords. Because really, I’m going to spout off the full name of a car when I’m running from bullets? “Take the Ford F150 King Cab Extended.” Try this: “Get in the truck!”
It’s not just product placements – tag lines have suffered, too. And I don’t just mean the funny ones (see “Tag Toyota’s It” (posted 3/13/10) There are a lot that are just bad. Coors Light wants me to ‘taste the rockies’. That line has been around long enough that no one questions it anymore. But trust me, at their very best, the Rockies taste like dirt.
Four years later
Steve slumped onto the couch, the same one that Patsy had left them. Though Drew thought of the things as left behind by Lydia, Steve had always considered them bequeathed by Patsy. But the couch was tired and sagging. And so was his heart.
His mother had begun talking to him two years ago. She didn’t ask about boyfriends and he didn’t offer. No one had ever stuck anyway, so why hurt his mom with things that weren’t going to matter in the end? But this was the first time she had spoken of his father.
Dad had cancer, and to his shame, Steve had cared. The man had been bitter and thrown him out just for saying he was gay. Nevermind that he had been gay all along. His mother had stood by the old man. In the days after they kicked him to the curb, he had waited for them to simmer down, instead he saw them piling his things in boxes and taking his stuff to Goodwill. Worse, he had seen pictures from when he was a child taken out with the winter clothes and his bike.
His mother had stopped and even fought with his father after a few days. But she hadn’t called, hadn’t tried to find him. Even his younger brother hadn’t stood by him. No, Phillip had gotten mad at him for breaking up the family and making mom and dad fight.
No one had cared about Steve. So, when his mother called and said his dad was sick and wanted to make things right, Steve had yelled. “He doesn’t get to love me on his schedule! I am his child.”
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One year later
The knock at the door was a surprise. All the kids came and went without knocking and most of their friends did the same. Drew didn’t think anyone had knocked on Patsy’s door in years. And that was how she still thought of it, even as she pulled the door wide open on her surprise . . . it was Patsy’s house she stood in, lived in. And Patsy’s work she continued.
“Jason!” Drew almost moved to throw her arms around his neck, then remembered that she wouldn’t have given or accepted a hug during the years she’d known Jason. He wouldn’t expect it from her and would likely pull back if she tried. “I haven’t seen you in . . . almost ten years!”
Her smile grew as he darted a small one at her. Probably his best effort. Drew remembered how he had grown up. The same way she had, booted from one house to another until she had landed here with Patsy. Jason hadn’t.
“Hey Drew.” He seemed reserved, but interested in her house. So she covered the awkwardness with chatter showing him around and pointing out a few nice things that had belonged to Patsy. Lydia had sold them everything in the house . . . probably just because she was too lazy to bother cleaning it out, but it had pleased Drew and Steve.
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2 years later.
Steve and Drew sat side by side on the old couch. Though the crocheted throw was as ugly as it had always been, he wanted it. Drew simply wanted to cry in the room that had once been hers. But Lydia was here now. And Lydia was a reminder that the room had never really belonged to her.
Though Patsy’s family milled about, the conversation turned only occasionally to what an amazing woman she had been. Instead, they all asked Lydia what she was going to do with the house.
“Like I know.” Perfect in an expensive black dress and matching heels, Lydia shrugged. “I was expecting her to leave it to one of those foster kids she had. I wasn’t enough for her when she was alive, why would she give me anything now?”
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They sat around the table not saying anything. They didn’t know what to say. Patsy had set a generous table. Mostly American home-cooked fare, but that was what she knew how to make. And surely the monk hadn’t traveled all this way to eat the cold rice mash he usually ate at home. She had no goat’s milk and she likely wouldn’t be able to find any in this little town just outside Little Rock. Though she had checked the internet and seen that some sects of monks ate only one kind of food at each meal, Patsy couldn’t fathom serving this holy man only fried chicken or only mashed potatoes. So she had fixed what she knew how to do well and sat quietly while they all politely ate.
Her friends were as silent as she was – none of them knew what to do to change the course of the meal. Drew kept her mouth closed. She had rehearsed a thousand ways to ask the monk to bless the necklace she always wore. It had been a gift from her grandfather just days before he had died and the blessing would make it that much more special. Unfortunately, of all the openings she had practiced, none was right for breaking such a long silence.
Steve had hoped for conversation, he desperately wanted to learn something worthy. He wanted to be worthy. And so he had worn his best shirt, a pale blue bordering on purple with a nearly matching silk tie, only to discover that he clashed garishly with the yellow and orangey-red robes the monk wore. It seemed none of this made a difference to the monk.
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Lee was at the bar taking the last swallows of his inheritance when they found him. He hadn’t been hiding. In fact, he’d been waiting.
The day before, they had called him from work and suggested he come back in, as they had for the past three days. The voice on his machine said it was time to start working. He didn’t have anything keeping him any more. He’d been appalled as he listened to the message. He’d been appalled by a number of things. Like the fact that he was half upside down, his head half in the toilet as he vomited up what felt like his actual stomach rather than just the contents of it.
He’d hardly heard the phone ring. Another wave of nausea had prevented him from even attempting to pick up the line. And he’d emptied his stomach for the fourth time in less than twenty minutes when the voice came through the air as the old machine recorded it.
After the voice ended, Lee sat back on his heels and shook. Whether it was tremors from the alcohol, the fear, or the callous reminder that he had no one at home now, he didn’t know. But he sat on the cold bathroom tile and vomited repeatedly for another twenty minutes before he even considered taking off his jacket and tie.
She was becoming.
She was no longer Cyndy and never would be again. What, or who, she was becoming, she wasn’t sure. But she was changing. Even as she walked through the woods, cheap sneakers crunching leaves, she felt things sharpening inside.
There were twinges and tugs where injuries pulled at her. She’d picked a fight at school just for the purpose of getting bruises. That way no one would notice any new ones after tonight. The damage was both an asset and a liability. But she wouldn’t let it hurt.
In the dark, her vision had changed to the grayscale world that the night allowed. But even in the depth of night she could see the house was painted a sunny yellow. A big Victorian with white trim, it loomed over her.
The backyard stretched before her, beckoning her out, calling to her where she stood at the edge of the trees. Sliding back into the cover of the woods, she slipped what she needed out of her pockets. A black hat had been jammed into one, and she now forced her ponytail up under it. Several attempts were required to make it stay and all the while she was fighting with it she was cataloguing better options – a haircut, braids, hairspray – because this would not be the last time she had to do this.