Fiction in a minute: Haunted

The man in the Edgar Allen Poe tshirt wasn’t acting. He was actually bleeding to death on the grounds of Minta Deek’s Haunted Playground. But the drunken revelers ignored the moans and gurgles escaping from his slit throat. One even stepped over him and then called his performance “inauthentic.”  Everyone’s a critic, Richard thought, wiping the knife handle on his shirt then tossing it in the thorns of an ugly shrub. Though, he had to admit, he had witnessed some pretty lackluster performances from the zombie crew by the swimming pool. Minta didn’t pay enough to attract top talent. It was one of the things they fought about as early […]

Spooky dooky

The power went out and with it every electrical form of entertainment that kept Anna and Jackson and their babysitter Makenna occupied. Makenna didn’t like the way the darkness turned the potted plants into monsters or the way it amplified the old house’s unfamiliar creaks. But she worked so hard to convince her parents that she was responsible enough to babysit at the ripe old age of 13, so no way was she going to let on that she was scared by a little power outage. Rubbing the stone of courage on her charm bracelet, Makenna forced a big smile. “I’ve got a fun idea! Let’s play spooky dooky,” she said. “It’s like hide and […]

Fiction in a minute: Method acting

“Surprised!” Grayson typed in the caption box under the selfie he just posted. It was part of his “emotional expression” series of self-portraits he was posting on his blog, a reaction to a casting director who recently said his facial expressions weren’t subtle enough for on-camera work. Jerk. The doorknob on his apartment door rattled. He clutched the phone in the palm of his hand and rose from the couch. It was too early for his roommate Elijiah to be back from the movie premiere. Metal on metal clicks, a catch and the bolt sliding out of the lock. He tried to peer through the peephole but saw nothing but […]

Fiction in a minute: Killer app

Ashley and Calvin stood behind their orange shopping cart, arms touching but eyes fixed on their smart phones as they waited for the one Big Lots cashier to work her way through a line of 20 customers. “That candy corn display has me thinking,” Ashley said. “Let’s go to one of those haunted house thingeys. There is a zombie one at Universal Studios.” “I’m so over zombies,” he said, his eyes flicking through football scores on the tiny screen. “Anyway, tickets to that are, like fifty-five dollars. We don’t have that kind of money.” Ashley sighed. He was right. The ramen noodles, no-name laundry detergent, and scratchy toilet paper in […]

Fiction in a Minute: Target practice

Safety reasons. That was what I told everyone at Gunslingers firing range that morning when they asked why I wanted to learn how to shoot a gun. It was a lie. Julianne and I were there to meet men, but saying that out loud makes you look desperate. Saying we needed protection was the perfect answer. No one was going to ask us any more questions. They were afraid we had sad stories to tell. The truly clever bit is that everyone knows guys can’t resist a damsel in distress. Go read Sleeping Beauty or Twilight or see a James Bond movie and you’ll see I’m right. Last night Julianne and me did a little manhunting at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. It was […]

Fiction in a minute: North Hollywood Park

The normals abandoned the park to the squirrels and the homeless that white hot afternoon. They retreated to air-conditioned hinterlands with their fancy red headphones and silly dogs and trilling smart phones and neon sneakers, and left in their wake an easy and welcome camaraderie among the urban campers who called this patch of city land home. Squinting in the sun on the doorstep of his shabby RV, James was relieved to be free of the ever-present normals. Their sidelong glances barely masked their quick judgments about people who lived in vehicles parked along Tujunga Boulevard. And their whispers were so easy to overhear. I can’t imagine living like that, […]

Fiction in a minute: Gardner’s chill pills

Doc Wimple loved to diagnose the curious fair goers who came to his traveling medicine show, and this show in Jamestown was no different, despite the heat and threat of rain. After quickly sizing up a teenage girl with eczema and a baby with colic, he focused on the tiny, wasp-waisted lady who with a swish of skirts and a snap of her fan pushed her way to the front. Her dark eyes bored through him like thread through the eye of a needle. Woman’s troubles were the obvious choice for a high strung filly like her, Doc thought, but that was too simple. He ruled out headache or back […]

Fiction in a minute: Voodoo Hoodoo

The tidy parlor smelled of decay and burning. Hand over her nose, Eustace scanned the floors, furniture and walls for the smell’s source. But the only disorder in her orderly room was the jumble of toys the twins left on the sofa. The boys were gone, but somehow she still felt their presence with an animal sense. They often hid at bath time. Her nephews inherited their father’s violet eyes, blond hair, and his tendency to flee any responsibility. “Rene, I want you to leave now,” Eustace said to the old man sitting on her grandmother’s favorite chair. “You filled the twins’ heads with enough voodoo nonsense.” “There’s the matter […]

Fiction in a minute: Straw hat

She waved at me today. The girl in the straw hat and red skirt stood on the roof of the abandoned Tolliver lace factory. She looked like Audrey Hepburn going a garden party instead of the usual street kid looking for a place to squat. She saw me staring at her from my apartment window for the third day in a row, and she smiled and waved. That mute invitation was all I needed. So I went, through a hole in a wire fence, down a dark path and through a door wrenched from its hinges, into the factory’s crumbling shell. Maybe the girl was a writer like me, trying […]

Drunken lit in real life

Ever read that melancholy writing that romanticizes alcoholic, desolate characters as broken geniuses hiding their light under dirty hair and scruffy clothes? I’ve heard it called drunken literature. Charles Bukowski and William Burroughs owned the genre. I just finished reading a short story along those lines, so I was intrigued to stumble upon a real life example. A stoned, disheveled man and woman sat outside a sandwich shop in North Hollywood where I was having lunch. They had been nursing one salad between them for so long that the lettuce was turning brown along the edges. I couldn’t decide if they were mother and son or drinking buddies. The woman […]