16-16 Work Sample

Dear tNY,

Last year I made myself write a flash fiction piece every day of the year. Each story or formal dalliance had to be prompted by the Merriam-Webster.com Word of the Day. I’ve always been interested in a wide spectrum of styles, from conventional realism to absurdist comedy, and this project gave me plenty of wiggle room to explore. The following selections are from that year.

Thanks for reading and for offering such a unique, out-there opportunity!



The Plaintiff’s Chronology

(March 1: “plaintiff”)

Year 0, he was crying, like a baby, but not merely like a baby: rather, like a baby.

Year 4, he was breaking his toys to feel strong and then whining that they weren’t as strong as him.

Year 8, he was spitting his mother’s tit out of his mouth, complaining that the milk tasted sour.

Year 12, he was camping, and he bemoaned the woods for being too bosky, because he had just learned that word.

Year 16, he was fucking for the first time and lamenting aloud how the girl’s pleasure noises didn’t sound like the ones he had heard in the pornographic videos with which he had prepared.

Year 20, he was talking to a lawyer about suing his parents, hoping to file a “wrongful birth” claim, as he had never asked to be born, which was true; however, the only alternative to such was, of course, impossible, so the case never left that consultation meeting.

Year 80, he was trying to sue me for “wrongful characterization”, for not giving him an arc.


Outline of a Body

(April 3: “cadge”)

In exchange for the sex that he and his hormones would beg of her, she and her hormones would absorb the sense of self for which they respectively begged. Though both bodies ended up with orgasms and a loss of identity, they would carry on like this until each decided with concurrency that it was not an even trade. Two hands raced and reached for the gun under the pillow only to find that it was already smoking.

When the Forensics team showed up to chalk the outline and dust the gun, the man and the woman interrupted each other’s confessions, both naked bodies begging and demanding in unison, “Don’t bother! Don’t bother! Those are my fingerprints!”


The Pusillanimous Gene

(February 1: “pusillanimous”)

I knew we were going to get divorced long before I proposed.


Minutia and The One That Got Away 

(April 21: “minutia”)

Stippling is the process by which an artist forms an image through a complex investigation of patterns within shading represented by the use of small dots.

In about the same time it took for Her to get married and give birth twice, the Artist was able to complete one major work: a black and white portrait that ran the length and height of one studio wall.

The subject’s eyes each had a pupil the size of a human heart, and they seemed to stare at him with enormity as he took patient steps backward. He had parted her lips slightly; it looked as though she might be poised to either ask a question or swallow him up.

“Why should I pay any attention to you?” He asked, the words spoken out loud for no ears but his own to hear. “You’re not a detail.”

He set the pen down and thought about colors he had once known to stain his clothes and fingertips. Maybe he wasn’t working in images at all. Anymore.

Maybe this was simply a piece of prose: a novel of periods.


Photograph of a Tangerine

(February 23: “tangerine”)

For a moment, the tangerine was a metaphor in his hand, but by the time he began peeling it, the thought had left him voided of any sense of the internal world’s expressive meaning associated with the fruit.

The wrinkles in his forehead had intensified their ridges. Mere seconds had passed. Whatever it was, it had been powerful.

The investigation sat crisply in the foreground, in shallow focus while the slices of tangerine disappeared into the bokeh of his mouth. When he gave up, he had gained nothing but the citric stickiness on his hand and the faint aftertaste of what he’d just consumed on his tastebuds.

The healthy treat seemed to have vanished. An existential waste. He stomped to the kitchen sink to wash his hands, and he vowed never to eat another tangerine until he could remember the metaphor.

50 years later, on his hover-death-bed, he said, “Eureka: I have it!”

But he didn’t really have it. He just wanted to taste one last tangerine. So he did. It was great! But then he died, and his hover-children were like, “Gross. Dead dad.”

The eldest hover-son took a stereoscopic “3D” photo with his EyePhone contact lenses, squinted a retro filter on to it that made his father’s corpse look orange with a reddish haze, and then left-winked it onto Facebook below a frowny face caption. He double-blinked several times within the first minute, refreshing his timeline and relishing the anxiety that came with waiting to see the first red notification symbol, waiting for the second and the third, waiting to see just how many Likes of condolence it would earn.


“Magnum Opus”

(March 4:”magnum opus”)

“Well, actually, and not many people know this, but — the first novel I wrote was called Magnum Opus. It was about a playwright who thought he was writing, you guessed it, his most important work. It was supposed to be the one people remembered him for, et cetera. He had it all down on paper and got it financed to be put on by a small company way the fuck off Broadway called The Opus Theatre company, and it had a brief run. It was panned by the one critic who saw it. Skip ahead, and this guy is drinking himself a few ounces from death every night because he knows that he failed to write his great work. In fact, the work is so wretched to him after the fact that he decides to track down all copies and burn them, but that’s not enough. He tracks down all the copies of the little magazine that printed the review by breaking into the offices, taking the back issues and finding their subscriber list and stalking the few people on that list until he has them all, and he burns those too. Still not enough, whatever. He’s going nutty now. He returns to the office and kills the critic. Not just merely because of the review, (though he does seem to enjoy that aspect, apparent by some cheesy one-liners, like ‘You’ve got a deadline!’) but really it’s because he’s now on a quest to kill everyone who knows about it. This is how ashamed of the play he is. He needs to wipe it off his record so he can get on with a truly great work. So he stalks the cast and crew, blowing them all away with his .44 magnum – wink, wink — and he probably says, ‘It’s curtains for you’ before more than one kill, I’m sorry to say. By the end of his massacre, he turns himself in, but he’s completely insane by this point, so they can’t send him to prison. I hate to spoil it, but guess what, I’m never going to publish it. So it ends with him in a padded cell, straight-jacket, the whole thing, and he calmly reflects on how the killing spree was his true masterpiece.”

The writer grinned, feigning just a dash of embarrassment.

“But to answer your question more to the point: no, I don’t regret my first novel, nor do I regret my first published novel, the one to which you were referring. I may be embarrassed by them, but I hope someday down the line I’m embarrassed by the new one too — that said, please still buy it, everyone, okay? But seriously, I think it’s good to tip toward embarrassed rather than remorseful, because ultimately it’s a positive thing: it implies growth. To quote Paisley, ‘Repetition is death.’ And I believe that.”

There was neither laughter during this tangent during the Q & A, nor applause after — because there was no audience. There was only a young man in bed, daydreaming at night — so far in the future that he was picturing a scenario wherein he could show-off how humble he was about the novels he hadn’t actually written yet. The same ones he never would.

When he finally fell asleep, he dreamt of a turtle’s body outside of an empty shell, sticking its head inside.



(March 12: “artless”)

There was a man. He was rich. He thought art was neat. He bought a bunch of art. The art was not joy or love so he was sad. He thought “I will make the art this time!” And so he did. He made big art that looked nice. “Hey, I’m not sad now!” is what he said. A man who was not this rich man broke in the rich man’s house to look for things that would make him rich since he was so poor and sad. The poor man saw the art that the rich man had bought and he thought it was good art but he thought the art that the rich man had made was the best art of the house since that art looked like real stuff and not easy and fake like some of the art but he did not know the rich man had made the art that he liked the best. He thought this art was old and great and worth a lot of bucks so that was the art that he took when he stole from the rich guy. Then the rich guy woke up and said “Noooooo! My art!” When he thought for a bit though he thought “Hey at least some one liked my art!” And he was still not sad. Good for him. The end.


The Death of Antiquated Ideals Makes for Happy Wakes

(January 5: “scrutinize”)

A man’s blue truck grumbles, left-to-right, in and out of the frame in which I’d like you to picture this scene of a sun-drenched desert highway.

Now a moment. The silence of day.

A woman’s pink convertible screams in and out of this same frame, right-to-left, spiking your attention, testing your mind’s ear with the dazzling sounds of pop music whizzing by so quickly that neither you nor I could ever put our respective fingers on the name of the tune.

While we have another quiet moment, zoom or cut in closer, and you’ll see something across the road.

An ornate music box sits closed on the lip of the dust, the dirt-sand, and the grit of this passing, not quite touching the road’s black edge.

An engine can be heard. It’s coming from behind you, but not to worry. The vehicle seems to be coasting, slow and steady like our intertextual friend, the tortoise. Odd that it should be coming from this direction, from the mystery of the more-desert that exists behind your eyes. There’s a good chance that it looks so comparable to the landscape in front of you that you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, but one can never be sure. However, I urge you to resist your own urge to turn your mind’s head.

I beg of you, please: do not look away from the music box. Not yet.

The design of the box is breath-taking. If it hasn’t taken your breath from you yet, I’m afraid you are not doing your part. It’s so intricate and gorgeous that I fear tainting it with such a finite description, an eloquence of poetry, a verbal chemistry, or any arrangement of words whose bouquet strives for an implication of symbolic weight so relative to me that it would likely be wasted on you.

Please: examine the box for yourself. It’s stunning. I promise you this. My extreme hope is that you’ll take my word on this, for I cannot and I will not show instead of telling; I must tell, and you must show it to yourself.

Take a moment.

Aren’t the colors and/or lack of colors just remarkable? If you disagree, then you should take a longer moment, return to the beginning of this piece, or stop reading it entirely.

By the time you realize this is the most painstakingly artful music box ever constructed, the aforementioned car rolls in from underneath your frame of vision as you pull it back. It emerges without haste from the blurry depths of your lower periphery. The violet compact car parks curiously here, landing a perpendicular cross over the two yellow parallel lines that divide the lanes, that tell drivers not to merge.

This particular driver gets out of the car and squats down to inspect the details of the music box as you have just done. It takes the breath of the driver. The driver presumes the creation of the box is too perfect for it to have been intentional. The driver is right about this. Inside, the driver thinks there must be a new silence, empty with anti-melodies that move the heart with beautiful facts of peace. About this, the driver is mistaken, I’m afraid. But it’s a nice thought. And it’s pleasing enough to know that such a thing exists somewhere, even if just in the hope of thought.

If the driver opens the box, what do you suppose he and/or she hears?

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