Fiction in a Minute: Dude, Part 4

Editor’s note: you can read Part 3 here. The smell of diesel fuel and exhaust hit Neil’s nose, then gave way to the disinfectant and alcohol smell of the emergency room. Last time Neil was in an emergency room, his mother was still alive, a cut on her head needing stitches on Christmas Day. They weren’t at this particular emergency room, but something about these waiting rooms made them all the same. Slow, tense places serving as holding pens for the big show behind closed doors.  About thirty people sat in clusters of two and three, in straight-backed chairs designed with cheapness not aesthetics in mind. Fear and worry thickened […]

Fiction in a Minute: Dude, Part 3

Editor’s note: You can read part 2 here. Still in shock, Neil found himself walking ten blocks back to his car, a dark green Toyota mini-pickup, not sure how it had come to be that he would to take Melly to the hospital. There’d been some confusion after Linus was shot, during which the ambulance left without her, sirens screaming.  And she’d stood there, in the middle of the bar, arms folded over her chest and her face puffy and wet from crying. “I’m too upset to drive,” she said. It also turned out that she and Linus didn’t have a car. The sun was too bright, and the others on the […]

Fiction in a minute: Dude, Part 2

[Editor’s note: you can read part 1 here.] Feeling some trepidation at following a stranger to an unknown location, Neil trailed behind Linus, his guitar case banging against his thigh. The other man carried Neil’s mini-amp in one hand, the extension cord draped around his neck like a thin, black snake.  They crossed the street and headed north on Main. They walked for blocks in silence, until gluten-free pie bakeries and forty-dollar T-shirt stores gave way to liquor stores and apartment buildings begging for fresh paint. Neil cleared his throat. “So, are we almost there yet?” “Almost there,” Linus said without turning to face him. “Longer walk than I expected,” Neil said, and when Linus […]

Why I’ll Likely Self-Publish

I’ve been struggling to find a literary agent for one of my two fiction novels for more than a year now. I’ve pitched the story at conferences and via email, and received a steady trickle of rejections. Mostly formulaic responses, some nicer than others, one or two with encouraging words, but all the same rejection in the end. People tell me to take heart. Kathryn Stockett was rejected 60 times before finding someone to accept her debut novel, The Help. Others tell me to self-publish. After all, the greatest thing about the Internet and the print-on-demand technology is that I don’t have to rely on someone else to “give me […]

Fiction in a minute: Dude, Part 1

Neil crunched through the chords of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” on the corner of Hill Street and Main in Santa Monica, the mini-amplifier stealing power from the corporate coffee seller without gaining the attention of its many baristas. If the caffeine junkies sitting outside noticed the theft of electricity, they didn’t care. Nor did they care about Neil’s guitar playing. Two pairs of women talked non-stop, while the singles at the other tables stared into the abyss of whatever electronic device they brought with them. A green striped polo shirt blocked Neil’s line of vision to the cars obeying the corner’s stop sign. “All right, du-u-ude!” The man clapped his hands and […]

Fiction in a minute: Letting go

I’m hiking the steepest part of Wildwood Canyon in the late afternoon. My muscles are screaming for oxygen but each gulp of air seems to bring only dust. This hike is both real and in my head, for I am scaling the internal terrain of my disappointment with Liam. He walks ahead of me, leaving his excuses behind for me to gather, like tinder to stoke the fire of my fury. I stab him in the back with my angry words, but he just skitters away like a tiny lizard, looking for the next sunny rock. My anger crests like the hill I am climbing. I cannot even keep Liam’s […]

Fiction in a minute: Atmosphere

“Nanga Parbat. It’s one of the tallest mountains in the world at 26,000 feet,” Brooks said, his voice rising in pitch and in speed as he told me about the book on the Himalayas he was reading. “But it’s the sherpas that really get me. They were so devoted, so honorable. One stayed with a fallen climber on a ridge, facing sure death, just because he would not leave the man to die alone. He could have saved himself. Think about that! And he stayed.” Brooks slammed his hand on the kitchen table with a thwack that made my coffee shiver in its mug. “I have to show you the […]

Fiction in a minute: Up on a roof

Dylan Brody stood on the rooftop of his North Hollywood apartment with his telescope and notebook, looking for what unkind people referred to as “little green men.” The science of ufology was so misunderstood, and he hadn’t done much to help it gain mainstream traction. He still winced inside when he remembered his speech at the computer hacker’s convention in Menlo Park three years ago, back when he garnered respect rather than ridicule. Between midnight and four a.m. in the half-gentrified NoHo Arts District was cluttered with police cars, the chop-chop of helicopter blades and drunk art students, dancers and actors in their twenties lurching between bars and house parties. […]

Fiction in a minute: Unlikely aid

Bradlee felt thick with lack of sleep. Her body was moving at the speed of sludge and her mind couldn’t keep up even with that. Her keys should have been on the counter by the door, but they weren’t. Merry babbled in her baby carrier, her hands bouncing in the air like she was conducting an invisible orchestra. “Dyah ba ba ba da,” Merry said. “Ah er kay ba ba.” Bradlee bent at the waist to give the baby a kiss on her cherry red lips. “And then what happened, sweetie? Tell me the rest of your story,” she said. “Ba ba ba mwah be,” Merry said. If only she […]

Fiction in a minute: Fight

They called them points for a reason, Marlene thought, because that’s how you keep score in a fight. And without the score, how do you know who won? Her husband Carlos kept score by how he felt. The fights made Marlene feel safer and more in control, which was odd, because they were having the opposite effect on Carlos. With each incrimination, he drew further from her. When he finally packed a bag and told her he was leaving, she hurled insults and accusations, and when that didn’t work, she hurled the crystal bowl they had received as a wedding gift three years prior. Carlos felt the starlight mints from […]