Midweek Fiction Archives - Filets to Fishsticks

Early Midweek Fiction: In the Airport

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Because Early is better than late. I wrote this in an airport (obviously).

In the Airport

He stared at the man over the back of the seat.
His skin was dark, his eyes darker.
He watched the man grab a bag of roasted cashews,
following his hand.
He watched him drink from a plastic cup.
The man watched as well, but the boy didn’t notice.

The man watched.
The boy watched.

He watched the man tear the plastic package.
He watched the scraps. He saw them.
He watched him eat. Hand to mouth.
He wondered why the man put the wrapper pieces
back in the bag. 

The bag was empty.
The man watched.
The boy watched.

The man tucked the wrapper under the handle of his bag.
The boy wondered.
The boy watched the wrapper. Not the man.

The man watched.

Midweek Fiction

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Another taste of NaNoWriMo 2011. I’ve tweaked it a bit (just a bit). I like this scene.

Butter (titled for reference here)

The last time I went was with him, just over three years ago. We met there. After a long conversation on a Friday. We met there on Saturday. I brought Nathan. It’s one of the best memories I’d even made with him and it will likely be the best memory he ever has of his grandfather. We sat at our table for four hours. Three generations in one spot. It was as close to a phone call as I ever got in person. Odd to compare a call to a face to face conversation, but the phone was where my dad really took off and duplicating the depth of one of those calls was incredible.

Nathan had never been a part of one of our discussions, but he kept up and he contributed. Our table consisted of four conversations that all wound around and existed together. The conversation between my dad and I. The one I held with Nathan. The one he held with my dad. And the conversation between the three of us that hung mainly on the food and the smell of the bread.

That bread was all they did well. The other food as okay, but I kept going for the bread. We talked about that. About the golden foil of the butter that came with it. Nathan spent 10 minutes studying the creases in order to assemble the wrap without butter to fill it. My dad loved that butter. It’s a specific brand. I’ve never been able to remember the name. I should have just written it down, but when I go to write it, I can’t justify doing it. I can’t justify trying to remember. The type was red and the house that marked the front of the small pat was a blotted brown. The print was always blurred.

The restaurant jammed them in a small dish on the table and there was never one fully wrapped. From manufacturing to ill treatment on the part of the server and the rush and carelessness of the each diner, every pat always seemed to have one of its four corners slightly askew. I sorted through in search of the one with the least exposed surface, but he just grabbed one and opened it. If it was cold, he’d press it gently between his thumb and the pair composed of his index and middle fingers.

He did it without thinking. He did it all without breaking stride in his speech or loosing eye contact. It was satisfying to him. You could see it in his face if you watched the whole process. He’d smile when he saw the dish. When he’d reach out to grab one. He’d smirk if he had to warm it to a spreadable consistency. If I watched, really watched every step, let him do the talking so that I wouldn’t break my concentration, I’d marvel at his simplicity.

It didn’t come through often, but when it did it helped me to remember who my father actually was. A simple man harboring more complexities than anyone I have ever encountered. If everything else about him was stripped away, I was able to see the man that was left. The old man with a pressed shirt, a tweet blazer, and a pair of well-worn denim.

Before we left he ran his finger slowly around the rim of the dish before tapping his fingers lightly on the textured gold foil and taking another two that would go in his shirt pocket. Nathan watched him do this, alternating his stares from my face to the dance of his grandfather’s fingers on the dish. He laughed. My dad noticed and he laughed as well. Wiping the gleam of butter from his fingertips he stretched across the table to ruffle his hair. Nathan grinned. This was their relationship.

Midweek Fiction

Posted by | Day to Day, Midweek Fiction, Writing | No Comments

I found this on My phone while browsing through old notes late last night in My hotel room. It’s from November of 2010 and I wrote it while walking to the car after seeing someone eating McDonalds near a stairwell on campus. I don’t write poetry, so you’re free to judge, laugh, mock, etc.


She ate beneath the stairwell.
Alone and open,
Luke warm food,
Grease, bread, water.

Almost Midweek Fiction

Posted by | Midweek Fiction, Writing | 4 Comments

Here’s another round of fiction. This time from NaNoWriMo last year. It’s completely unedited (the tense is all over the place!). I apologize in advance. I’m not crazy about this one as a whole, but I like some of what I have so I thought I’d put it out there for some feedback. I wanted to post Wednesday (being the true midweek mark), but I got caught up in blah blah blah and I didn’t.


He worked third shift until I was twelve. He had two week days off. My mother was a teacher at the middle school. She dropped us off, picked us up, and kept everything together at home. He slept during the day. I woke him up at quarter passed six. My mother planned dinner so that I’d finish in time to wash my hands and wake him. I think he looked forward to it. Not being woken up, but me doing the waking.

Sometimes he would get right out of bed. Other days he’d roll over and I’d clime in the bed next to him. I’d talk, he wouldn’t. Then she would come in a few minutes later to wake him. Sometimes I’d sneak in early just to lay there. It was the only time I saw him. A brief twenty minutes of his morning and my evening. He slept on his right side, facing the window. The curtains were always cracked. It wasn’t night and he didn’t need to think that it was. That was always his argument when my mother suggested he keep the curtains drawn.

His side of the bed was furthest from the door. I’d walk through the room, around the foot of the bed and into the light from the open window before having a chance to wake him. I wanted to see him, but I knew enough not to run or jump on the bed. It wasn’t a happy good morning on a Saturday. It was a call to action and he hated his job. I didn’t know he hated it, or I didn’t know how much he hated it, until much later, until I moved out and got my first post college job.

When he finally woke up enough to speak he’d acknowledge me with a smile and a ruffle of my hair. I’d shadow him in the bedroom. Out of bed, to the dresser, the bathroom, the closet. It was the only time I got to spend with him. He’d ask me questions about my day and I’d answer before he finished speaking. He was never awake all the way. Sometimes I think I annoyed him. Not me, really, but my energy. My eagerness. I had had all day to get ready for this conversation, he had all night. That wasn’t the same.

If he shaves, I watch from the food of the bed. I can’t see all the way in the bathroom. I can’t see more that his legs if he leans over the sink, but I can see him arms when he stands upright to shave. I can tell by the way he moves what he’s doing. His arms don’t move much, but the muscles do. They tense and so does his back. I talk to him while he’s doing it. The whole time. Most I just talk, sometimes I ask questions. He’ll answer with a grunt or an uh-um that will trail off into the mirror. I’ll hold onto his socks until he’s don’t. I hold the socks but I leave his shirts on the bed. One white and one a dark green. Both had no wrinkles.

My mother didn’t wash these shirts. She took them somewhere to be cleaned. It got rid of the yellow armpits. That’s what she said. I don’t think my dad really cared, but she did, so he let it be. Clean and smooth. The white shirt is folded, the green is laid flat on the bed with the hanger still trapped inside. He’ll shave and brush his teeth without his shirt on. If he’s not running late, sometimes he’ll sit beside me on the bed to talk before he finishes getting dressed. That doesn’t usually happen. That’s not happening today.

He comes out of the bathroom and puts on his white shirt. First over his head, then left then right. Then the green shirt, one button at a time starting at the top. He doesn’t do anything in a hurry, but he was always in motion before work. Every day I have about thirty minutes with him. It depends on how long it takes him to get out of bed. If I lay in bed with him, he never has time. I don’t count laying in bed as time because he’s not awake. Then he hurries, but it doesn’t look like it. I can tell because I spend every morning with him.

He’ll ruffle my hair again before he leaves the bedroom. I’ll be right behind him when he leaves. To the kitchen, the living room, the front closet, the shoes, coat, hat, thermos. Right to the door. He’ll hug my mother before he leaves and they’ll kiss. Zachary won’t watch. I roll my eyes, more at Zachary than at them. I’ll do the same thing tomorrow. He’ll ruffle my hair once more before he goes, then Zachary’s, then he’ll hug us both and leave.

If I’m allowed, I’ll wait for him to pull out of the driveway. Sometimes I’ll watch, sometimes I’ll just listen. Usually I just listen now. I know the sounds. His feet, heavy on their own and even heavier in his boots, smack the pavement, then the grass, then the asphalt. Then the car door clicks to open and there is a delay. First he sets his bag on the passenger seat, then he checks for his wallet. Then he sits.

The car clunks. It’s old.

Another long delay while he positions himself in the seat. Then the slam of the door. A few moments later the car starts. There’s a rattle and a dull whine from the engine. It quiets, clunks into gear, and backs out of the driveway. The wheels squeak as he turns on to the road. Another clunk and he’s gone.

If I got up early, when the house was still dark, I could hear him come home. All the same sounds in reverse order. The only new sound is the keys in the door. A jingle, the sound of the pins falling to meet the key, a click, the pins forced off the key, then the door. Once he was in the house I had trouble hearing anything. He was silent. I didn’t know how he did. I asked my mother once how he was so quiet. She didn’t answer me.

I always wanted to know.

I didn’t usually wake up that early though. Not on the school days at least. I woke up early on the weekend so my mother would make breakfast. I looked forward to that. She would make it if I slept in, but it would happen faster if I didn’t and she was always happy when I came down the stairs first. She was probably happy when Zachary came down the stairs first too. He never woke up very early though. Never.

She would only turn on one light in the kitchen and one in the living room. The one by the end of the couch. That’s where she would read. The kitchen would be bright. All the lights on. She won’t be cooking, the lights will be on.

Even if she doesn’t make something special, she’ll make something for me. A bowl of cereal and a glass of juice. A scrambled egg and toast. Sometimes egg in a frame, where the egg is in the middle of a piece of bread, lightly toasted in a pan. Sometimes yogurt. It didn’t really matter. I was up before Zachary which means I got breakfast and the TV.

My mother would read and I would get the remote. He’d argue with me when he got up, but I could usually make it through my breakfast and one full show. I would. My mother would read, but she’d watch, too. She’d watch me. She’d watch me watching TV and I’d watch TV while watching her out of the corner of my eye.

I don’t know why she watches me. Whenever I catch her doing it she’s smiling with her eyes but not her mouth. If she saw me she’d continue reading. One of the few times with just the two of us. Not the only but one of the few.

I don’t sit next to her. I lay on the couch with my feet on her leg to keep them warm. I’ll have a blanket from my bed because I’ll know it’s early. I’ll watch cartoons on the couch and she’ll read. I’ll laugh and she’ll watch me, I’ll hide the remote under the blanket so Zachary can’t get it. I’ll fall back asleep.

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.