These two short stories are about possibility, but more about inner, uncontrollable fantasy. What's being envisioned says a lot about the world that these individuals live in or perceive that they live in: Grim, deadly worlds that may or may not actually be. Power lines decimate a family. A man destroys himself. But a quick wave or a note sometimes makes the difference between despair and respite.
Keep sending your short shorts (500 words or less) to [email protected] so that our readers can continue enjoying these epiphanies (flash fiction's forte). The next edition of Short Shorts will appear August 19.
Love by Catherine Kasper
He had been waiting for her to hit him. What had taken her so long? He was pretty sure he loved her, but didn't know for certain anymore. That's what he said. And another thing. He didn't like his job. He hadn't liked any of his jobs for as long as he could remember. This one was like the others. He didn't blame the jobs themselves. He knew the thing they had in common.
He said he would try to put her out of his mind, but he didn't. He liked talking to her in the back recesses of the hallway and over stacks of paper on his desk. He liked sending her a note now and then about her hair or clothing. It broke up his day. It gave him something to look forward to besides lunch.
In the plaza, he sat on the stairs in the sun, encouraging a melanoma. It didn't matter since he had decided he was finished with everything. Everything but this new girl and the nothing that was about her. She filed papers in the office and answered phones. At night, she acted in the theater. She took the messages from his wife.
He liked to picture them speaking to each other, their voices responding without knowing. He thought about this often, on the stairs and at his desk. Once they knew, he thought about their voices colliding, plying each other. The threats his wife would level against her. But his wife made no threats. And the girl never knew what was coming on.
He had a window in his office where he would look down onto the plaza. On the stairs below, he could see himself sitting, the top of his sunburned head surrounded by tiered concrete. He could drop anything on that head from this height, his computer, his stapler. He could push his whole desk to the window, remove the screen, and shove it out across the ledge. It would take only a second.
Transmission Lines by Bill Merrill
Every day she went on her walk, through the neighborhood and under the high voltage lines. On breezy days, the wind whistled eerily through the wires and made a kind of music. Walking there, she thought about the common belief that living under high voltage could cause harm. A happy young family of three lived in one of the homes near the lines. She knew them only on nodding and waving terms, but her mind laid out an entire future for the voltage dwellers. Smiling, friendly Dad would lose his hair at 32, with teeth gradually falling out by 35. He would then be prone to dizzy spells and eventually confined to a wheelchair. Mom, a busy front-yard gardener, would pick up an alarming cough, increasing in frequency until blood began appearing in the cloths she held to her mouth. She would be hospitalized, never returning to the house under the lines. Currently toddling along and curiously examining everything around him, the Son's growth would be stunted and he would be prone to mysterious seizures. Just now she neared the house, noting Mom and Son engaged in washing the family automobile. Grins and waves were exchanged, and she walked on.