Fiction Archives - Filets to Fishsticks

Madison Alice Price

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A story in process.

With her back to the ground and her legs accommodating so her feet can rest to match, Madison, a girl of nearly six, lays in her yard with her thoughts, small as they may be, wandering toward something unfamiliar. She digs her nails into the earth, wiggling her toes and fingers in the uniform blades of an almost artificial lawn, a living comb in a familiar dance, feeling the cold soil against her skin, waiting for something to happen, hearing the grit of the earth against her nails. From a distance, even the relatively short distance that lay between her and the rich stain of the back porch – an excessive outdoor space that dances the line between gaudy and foolish – she looks like nothing more than a girl in a yard watching the clouds. Her frame is too small to highlight her straining, and even the arching of her back, when mixed with the grass and the angle of view from the house, couldn’t bee seen as anything abnormal.

But eventually, with her eyes on the clouds and her thoughts focused on the ground at her back, her fingers and toes drive into the soil. Her body constricts as her reach expands, and that feeling – a familiar, natural, uncomfortable feeling – returns. A sudden hurry in her body as much as in her head, a winding spring. The tips of her fingers and the soft spheres of tissue at the ends of her toes split and reach, a naked white in the earth, veining into the soil as the barren branches vein into the sky above her.

She feels her fingers in those branches as her skin warms in the cold, aching like a wintered hand beneath a steaming tap. She feels a sense of belonging that doesn’t feel right. A tingling in her limbs, a faintness in her now rapid breath. Shallowness in her gut. A comfortable nervousness in the most uncomfortable way. For a moment, made even briefer by her inability to understand it, she feels outside of herself.

Then nothing.

Her fingers and toes withdraw from the earth without warning, sending her arms and legs toward her chest. She’s left alone and breathless and curled on her side in the lawn, shivering in the cold, too confused to respond to her mother yelling from the porch, demanding that she put on her coat and socks and, for God’s sake, her shoes, because it’s time to go. Madison can smell the dirt in the yard like she can smell it in herself. The earth she doesn’t want to be a part of. She can feel the steady breathing of the ground, a steady rhythm borrowed from her own or borrowed just the same in the other direction.

Eventually she does as she’s told, ignoring the ache in her fingers and the hole in her stomach. By the time she’s put on her last shoe, her mother is walking toward her asking why she insists on taking off her shoes and socks and what was she doing out there anyway. Madison shrugs in response and looks at the ground and feels her face go flush. She ignores a remark about the brilliance of her eyes as she walks in hand with her mother out of the yard and across the patterned brick driveway to the wagon, ignoring also the pull she feels behind her, a set of eyes on her back.

Madison Alice Price, named for popularity, heritage, and the patriarchal dominance of the family name – not to mention her father’s hobby-driven love of topography – lays bundled for the weather in a wagon. Despite the clever fabric origami of a folded blanket, the makeshift padding curls up both metal sides of the aged four-wheel pull-along, decreasing her space and her comfort. She says nothing of her irritation, preferring instead to constantly molest the fabric in an attempt to correct the issue, knowing full well it’s of little use. She is also longer than the wagon, a problem she fixes through the use of minor contortions and simple leg placement, making her situation far from ideal. But standards of ideal, assume her parents, vary with age, and they take no notice.

The year is 1991. The wagon is a Radio Flyer with muted red paint and a black handle that’s riddled with dents. There’s rust, a red much deeper and much dirtier than the paint itself, the blood of the wagon, on the under side of each edge, and age shows through from where her sister laid in much the same manner before her.

The Gulf war is in full swing somewhere in the world and Madison’s father has made it very clear on several occasions that he disagrees with the whole damn thing. Though her mother never vocalizes her opinion, she nods from time to time out of respect. But none of this makes the least bit of different to Madison as she lies in her hand-me-down wagon and stares up at the sky and the leafless branches that comprise her view. Her sister runs ahead, her father pulls the wagon, and her mother talks about fall, about the change of colors, while keeping one hand under her now undeniably pregnant belly out of habit or instinct or fear.

Despite her general enjoyment of the wagon and the effortless change of scenery it offers, she dislikes the confinement. She’s happiest in the grass, close to the earth and the soil and each time this notion crosses her mind and her small nose catches the smell of the earth in the air, she grows uneasy and her unspoken irritation with the wagon increases. She thinks of nothing other than the ground itself.

From her vantage point, as supine as possible given her circumstances, she counts the nests now sitting exposed in the barren branch system that webs the sky. Her counting, made inaccurate by both the sporadic placement of the nest and her wiliness to accept all ignorable distractions, is muffled and broken by the sound of her father’s voice. Attempting to express his political opinions, based largely on heresy and headlines rather than education or the articles to which said titles are attached, he speaks with excitement and wild hand gesture, occasionally swaying Madison from side to side, much to her amusement.

And again, without warning, her mother asks her what she was doing in the yard. And why did she have to remove not only her coat, but her socks and shoes as well? Before Madison can begin to ignore the questions and count additional nests, her mother peers back over her shoulder with a smile and a cocked look.

Madison doesn’t take notice of the look just as she neglects to notice her mother’s hand. But there, two down from the wedding band that sits audaciously on her finger, is dirt. A hint of black earth between her mother’s French manicured nail and her naked skin. A bit missed in cleaning perhaps. A bit left beneath the nail of a woman who sets neither foot nor hand in the garden.

But little Madison, caught in her wagon, counting the nests in the trees, misses these things. And her father does as well. Despite his good intentions and the love he feels for his daughters, a love so protective and focused that dreaming of the future causes a very real pain, he serves little purpose. But he is a good man and Madison’s mother knows that is his purpose.

Of course her mother also knows that the baby kicking about in her womb, a girl to be named after a great grandmother she’ll never have the opportunity to meet, has no direct relationship to this man walking beside her and, aside from the carrying and delivery, no direct relation to herself. And she knows that she is from the same vein that gave life to her daughters and to her own mother before her. But to say she understands any of it for what it is would be false, if not ignorant. She understands the process, the uncertainty, and the warming cold. She knows her role as it could be written on paper. She knows the term mother and she knows what it implies. But she still finds herself alone in the yard trying to figure out what it means and why she enjoys disliking it.

Newest MAC Line Threatens Instagram Servers

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Instagram just hit 100 million active users, marking a major milestone for the relatively young social platform. As an active user, I was excited by this news. My feed has been flooded with #instagrammeanstome posts, sentimental stories, and brief waves of congratulations. It’s a good time had by all.

But is this announcement simply a touting of success or is it covering up a crippling threat to the Instagram of today?

As the days roll forward and the “Explore” page becomes further suffocated with photos of perfect manicures and totally fly nails, some are beginning to wonder. But what’s causing this recent and building surge of popular nail art on a social photography platform may surprise you.

Earlier this month, New York based MAC Cosmetics released it’s limited edition lines of Betty and Veronica Nail Lacquer and Instagram was set ablaze with French tips, Double Trouble purples, and delicate feminine hands clutching new bottles of lacquer, invisible hockey pucks, or their other hand featuring a complimentary polish pattern. Sure, not all users are featuring MAC products, but the relationship between this surge in photos and the release of both collections is more than coincidental.

“We had no intention of straining Instagram’s servers,” notes a MAC Cosmetics representative who wished to remain nameless, “we make a good product and we’re glad people enjoy it, but we never meant for things to get out of hand.” But they definitely aren’t out of hand. In fact, they’re on hand.

Stripes, polka dots, diamonds, one-off thumbs, complete replications of The Last Supper. There seems to be no stopping this juggernaut. We reached out to Instagram for comment but all we got were grunts from the server room as all available hands worked feverishly to keep the service up and running. With any luck. they’ll get things under control in the coming weeks and the remainder of Instagram’s active users will once again be able to “Explore” a wider variety of photos including those featuring cleavage, blurry puppies, trendy outfits, and really inspiring quotes.

“As the days roll forward and the “Explore” page becomes further suffocated with photos of perfect manicures and totally fly nails…”

With One Small Tweet, Man Curses New York into Eternal Winter

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New York has had a rough six months with weather. From Hurricane Sandy, to snow immediately following the devastating storm, to endless gray skies, it’s been grim. So it’s no surprise that New Yorkers everywhere are welcoming the recent forcast with 40s and sun as far as the eye can see.

But rejoice no more, New York.

Earlier today, Chris Connolly made a grave error and released the below Tweet, effectively cursing New York into eternal winter.

Soon the city will plunge back into winter, back into the gray and the cold, with the temperatures dropping into the mid teens where they will stay indefinitely. As New York residents woke to see this tweet, groans echoed from the Upper West Side to Coney Island and everywhere in between. Reports of several storefronts in Williamsburg closing their doors for good have also surfaced.

I recently caught up with Chris to ask him about this tweet, about the despair he has brought to so many. “I didn’t mean anything by it,” he said, defeated, his head hung, “I was just happy to hang up my coat for a while.” Before I could get any additional details, he walked off, without any purpose or winter gear, into the last flicker of sunshine that New York will see for years to come.

As New York residents woke to see this tweet, groans echoed from the Upper West Side to Coney Island and everywhere in between.

Midweek Fiction

Posted by | Fiction, Midweek Fiction, Writing | 2 Comments

This is a bit from My 2010 NaNoWriMo. I like the overall story and I’m spending some time with it, but I’m struggling to get the voice to a comfortable point. It feels like bad noir. It won’t feel that way forever. I edit more each day and I continue to get closer to the tone that I’m looking for. This is not complete.

Midweek Fiction

It was too hot to sleep so he sat on the roof and smoked to distract himself. That’s how he justified it. He doesn’t like smoking. It’s a time filler more than it is an addiction. An activity to accompany a glass of wine at 2AM. A hobby that he picked up after retiring. It was something and it was better than tossing in bed for the next few hours. He lights one after another and shares a bottle with himself. “Beautiful city,” he thinks, wiping his forehead. “Just so damn hot!” This time he speaks, half in his glass and half enraged. It was late spring and not even the heavy bricks of the 1960’s building can resist the heat from the day that radiates from the roof and pulses in waves from the walls over the streets that are doing the same. It does it every spring. One major round of heat before summer. The oppression in the air takes whatever’s left from the day and leaves it exhausted by morning.

He blamed his own exhaustion on the heat rather than his lack of sleep and the only relief for that is water, submersion, but the closest he is to a pool is the wine in his now empty glass, so he pours one after another to compensate. He sits by himself as his wife works another erratic schedule at the hospital as there was nothing inside to draw him in. The nights were his. He didn’t like it, but it had been the same for years, on and off. In fairness to her, it’s been better over the last three or four years, but the nights are still hard and when he can’t sleep he drags himself to the roof with a bottle of wine and the pack of cigarettes he keeps hidden under the lip of the air conditioner mount. It’s self medication through self destruction.

He has no schedule so he sits awake. It was good, and he knew that. He had a busy schedule for over 30 years, from college to career to family. This calm was good but it’s what kept him pacing during the day when she was sleeping and it’s what kept him up when she was gone. He wasn’t the type to retire in the first place. Now 63 years into life and he doesn’t have a single obligation. His grandkids don’t live close with Scott having moved half way across the state and Steph won’t have kids. She can barely find her keys in the morning. But he knows how fast things can change. Leaning on the edge he follows the streets and rooftops out to the lake.

“Just a breeze,” he spoke to the neighboring buildings, “just a small breeze.” He spoke aloud but he swallowed his words as he always did when people weren’t around to listen. Even for Chicago it was hot, but he liked the roof as much then as he did when they bought the unit and he dealt with it. Their condo is on the 10th floor and they are the only residents in the building to have roof access. It was part of the home and it’s what sold them on it.

Back then it was for the party possibilities. He was 28, Carol 24, and kids were a few years off, if ever, but the roof made for great parties. Then the kids came and the roof took on a space of its own. No one seemed to mind the roof paper after a few beers but, with the kids, they sketched out a couple plans and turned the space into something liveable.

That’s where they spent most of their summers and, though it wasn’t of much use in the winter, he built a small gazebo which he lit with a few strings of white lights every Christmas. He never really saw them, but the neighboring high-rises did, so he put them up figuring that it contributed in some way to the overall cheer of the holidays. Even now, with both the kids gone, he hung a few stands or, rather, he left a few up. He told Carol it was because he never got around to it, but really he liked them being there. It was festive in the winter, in the summer it was ambiance, and on these nights it wass a night-light on the roof at 2AM.

He looked at his watch. Carol should have been home nearly an hour ago, with the commute. She must be staying late again he though. It was beginning to seem like she worked late every night, like she was slipping back to how she used to be. Last time she didn’t come home till almost 5AM. This wasn’t the retirement everyone talked about and it wasn’t the retirement he heard about at his party. There were supposed to be trips, vacations, dinners out. He hadn’t taken advantage of any of that. There had been excitement, but now he wanted a retirement with her. He knew he’d never get one. Carol loved her job. She was good at what she did and he liked watching her leave with the same energy she’d always had. It gave her life. He liked that, but he hadn’t planned on retiring alone. He also hadn’t planned on smoking. He hadn’t planned on much of anything that happened post retirement.

He took another long sip of wine and flicked the remains of his cigarette off the edge of the building, watching until it put itself out on the fall. He didn’t like being out there when Carol got home. She worried about him wandering around the roof at night and the fact that he had taken up smoking wasn’t something she liked knowing. He brought the wine inside, fully intending to finish it. He was of the mentality that a bottle should never be re-corked. This belief went back to his college days of guarding booze, which meant drinking it. The wine he had now was better than his beverage of choice in college, and no one was going to take it, but he couldn’t let it go of the habit.

He was tall, bordering on lanky, and his walk was marked with long, full strides which gave the illusion that both feet frequently left the ground in unison. His arms, which swung in beat with silence, only added to this image that portrayed him as casual, simple, and ambivalent, though only two traits could accurately be applied. He carried himself well despite his lanky appearance, and his methodic, almost rhythmic movements suited him because they matched his practicality. Even walking into the condo, halfway through a bottle, he moved without breaking stride, without having to correct a single motion.