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 […]

Fiction in a minute: Panhandling

Mark made it halfway through the first day of his construction job before deciding he wouldn’t make it back the next day. Not because Joe would fire him. Joe was the owner of a construction company and a good guy who saw Mark panhandling outside the diner two days ago. “Swing by the job site if you want honest work,” he said. No, Joe would probably give him a second, third and even fourth chance to make things right. Mark had met good guys like Joe before, and he knew what Joe wanted – the satisfaction of offering the helping hand. But it only took thirty minutes of back-breaking work […]

Fiction in a minute: Bigfoot’s announcement

Bigfoot tapped the microphone set on the table in front of him. “Testing, testing,” he said, his voice low and guttural. The sound guy shook his head and rushed over to fiddle with the dials and wires of the audio set-up for the hastily arranged press conference. The public relations woman leaned in to one of his furry ears. “If you can work in a few messages on the need for public funding for Oregon state parks, I’ve prepared some talking points for you. Just a few facts…” Bigfoot had a weak spot for pretty women. He took the paper from her in both paws and set it down as […]

Fiction in a minute: Je suis Charlie

Robert had gone slack-jawed and moody from watching the news coverage of the shootings at a satirical magazine offices just a few kilometers from the apartment he shared with Cybille. The shaky footage shot by a passerby who heard cries of “Allah Akbar!” then the horrible rat-ta-tat-tat of automatic weapons had aired so many times that his outrage and disgust had numbed into weariness and fatigue. What could anyone do against those who reply to insults with bullets? Cybille burst through the front door with a bag of groceries and a blast of fresh air. “People are out in the streets tonight,” she said. “Everywhere I went was clogged with […]

Fiction in a minute: Warning

My phone blared a low-pitched tone that woke me up faster than reveille ever did when I was in the Army. The clock said three eleven a.m. I rubbed the sleep crust out of my eyes and made myself focus on my surroundings. Light from the full moon slipped through the cracks of the cheap plastic blinds and onto the dark green wool blanket in a tangle around my legs. I was alone. A robot man voice replaced the tone. They never used robot lady voices for these messages. Someone once told me that male voices have more authority. I didn’t buy the argument. If they used a voice like […]

Fiction in a minute: Starling

She was already late to work for a job she did not love. Stress thrummed in her head like smoke-colored static, focusing her attention inward. The static muted the pleasures of her favorite song on the radio, of the plop of raindrops on the windshield, of the friction of tires spinning against the road. With every half-breath she felt the abstract fear of not measuring up to some vacillating standard. Of being an imposter. Of not making her time on this earth matter. She was afraid to fill her lungs for then she would take more air than she deserved. A yellow-beaked starling swooped in front of the windshield of […]

Fiction in a minute: Breaking glass

I am made of glass and icy tears flow in my veins where blood should be.  He looks right through me at the new curtains and doesn’t see the hours of picking out the fabric, measuring and cutting, pinning and hemming. He doesn’t see me balanced on the stepladder with a yardstick and a pencil, measuring distances and checking levels. He doesn’t consider for a moment that I was trying to please him. “Those curtains are butt-ugly,” he snarls and my heart sinks into my stomach and burns in its acid.  The tears that are my blood pop to the surface like condensation. In the swirl of emotions in my […]