There are stories that make me proud I wrote them and there’s this one. Writing sometimes takes me places that aren’t pleasant, with characters who are unlikable, where a scalding shower might be needed to wash off the scum. Fortunately, there are journals like Close To The Bone who love this kind of stuff.
This story was first published in August 2018, nestled within a forest of pieces in The Writers’ Cafe Magazine. Walk quietly or you might frighten it. The theme of Issue 11 was “Into The Woods” and you’ll find an amazing amount of quality poems and stories to read. My story is reprinted below.
by DL Shirey
Trees masked the remains of daylight, the forest floor now darker than the sky. Greens and browns of pine and fir barely colored the cold, gray shadows. It was time to camp, but a distant, interminable howl kept me hiking forward. This was animal sound; a creature’s lament, the last, weak fragments of pain. There was no other noise, not even wind. Nothing but still, feral death.
Went on two trips recently, both lending significant portions to this piece of fiction. The church came from Santa Fe, NM. The musicians came from Austin, TX. Together they formed the backbone of this story. It was published by Wild Musette Journal in their “Vegetable Pulp” issue. Copies are available in paperback and ebook formats. Please support Wild Musette, an independent publisher that focuses on music, dance and storytelling.
This piece is less about being a band geek in high school and more about adolescent humor and bad judgement. It stars my pal Charlie Banks and kindly published in July 2018 by Twenty-Two Twenty-Eight.
by DL Shirey
It went like this: Two high school buddies square off in mock confrontation, voices brimming with testosterone. Mine’s longer than yours. No way, mine’s longer. Belts are unbuckled, giving the impression to nearby girls of an imminent comparison of penises. They are whipped out with a flourish–the belts, I mean–and held up to one another to see who wins.
This was foreplay in 1973, when I had no idea what it took to attract the opposite sex. Acting the buffoon was a way to get attention, as was ’70s fashion statements like bell-bottom Levi’s, flower-print shirt and a white belt. I even had a pair of platform shoes, which, thank God, went out of fashion before the year was up.
This Drabble, a story exactly 100 words long, was published in September 2018 by Friday Flash Fiction. It’s a tale of an unnecessary medical procedure. Unnecessary because, well, that would be a spoiler.
by DL Shirey
The MRI hums to life and the technician says, “don’t move.” I do. I smirk. The thing that nests inside my head isn’t easily fooled. It doesn’t move very fast but is always a step ahead of the doctors.
The machine clanks and chirps in earnest. Too late. The soft, warm bed atop my left parietal lobe is empty. No telltale traces will be found where it slipped down my brainpan, nor handprints on the ladder of my spine.
I can feel it now, spidering to the back of my ribs where it will stay until the test is over.
Those who expect something speculative will find this a change of pace, a sweet story about a little girl and her auntie. This short story was first published in July 2018 by Ariel Chart.
The Sleep Game
by DL Shirey
This is wrong, stealing money from Aunt Maybelle. At month’s end, no less, when choices get made by the day, by what’s needed most. Like last night, Mom shuffled the pile of envelopes on the kitchen table. “Pay that,” said Mom and tossed it with ones that had big red-stamped words. “Not that,” as she put the envelope on the taller stack.
Here at Aunt Maybelle’s, choices are different. “Child, bring me my pills,” and I do. It’s a long plastic holder—sort of like my pencil box—with snaps covering divides, each decorated with letters like M, T, W. Auntie chooses not to take all the pills under F. And this morning she saved the bowl of dry cereal Mom and I brought her. She hasn’t eaten yet.
In August 2018, Zeroflash published my story on the stand alone flash pieces page of their website. You’ll have to scroll down the page a bit to find it. Or read it below. This is a story of a photo found in the trash and a remembrance of the moment it was taken.
by DL Shirey
Her eyes flame from the camera flash. Mother looks like she saw the devil and is just about to scream. In the picture she’s with her sisters. Beck is celebrating thirty, Maggie six years older, Mother in the middle. Beck’s puffed cheeks prepare to blow candles. Maggie, always talking, is caught mid-sentence, so her teeth show like a grin. Mother has seen the camera, a blurred wine glass rushes to block her face, the flat of her irises reflecting fire.
Halves of this photo, found in the garbage, are now whole under yellowed cellophane tape.
The picture taker was seven. He now knows why Mother got so angry. Why people were family one minute, then the anger made them act like strangers. But at seven he wondered why parties were never at his house, and when everyone did get together, why his folks were always first to leave. Dad said it was the long drive back. Mother didn’t say anything, had her arms folded tight against her chest.
It was a long drive. Me in the back seat. Dad never talked, his eyes hard ahead in the rearview mirror. Mother was slumped beside him, softly snoring.