Eclectic short fiction in less than a hundred words.
Author: Monica McHenney
Writing fiction since 2015 with three fiction projects in progress. A novel about three generations of a San Francisco family and two books of linked short stories. One explores the story of a PhD candidate who is on the autistic spectrum, the other is a trauma narrative modeled on Taming of the Shrew.
I hold my five year old’s hand and say, “Surprise me.” Eyes closed, remembering a stubbed toe, my bare feet inch forward expecting Matchbox cars left on the carpet.
Though I can’t see, I can feel the closeness of a hall. Maybe it leads to the playroom where the floor is littered with Legos, Brios, and baby dolls having tea next to stuffed bears. “You can open your eyes, Mama.” The space is neat, the blocks stacked in their chest, the animals lounging on shelves. Picnic’s black button nose glints white. Jaimie holds him tight and says, “We cleaned up.”
“Bright and breezy, ham and cheesy,”1 I says to him. Big fellow he were. Blimey! He were a bit Mum and Dad2. So I steps away. He’s talking with a Gooseberry Puddin’3, a right attractive bird. She’s Toby Tugging4 a suitcase and he’s going all Wayne Rooney5 on her. He says, “Come back and Jabberwok6.” If only he’d see how it looks. Needs a ‘Enry7. A big, fat doobie. Might calm him some. Lor’ luv a duck. Kept i’ ter meself. Bear’s Paw8 ‘e were a cop. Nuff said.
At the moment the latest Supreme Court nominee took the oath of office, Lady Liberty felt a hand grope her under the tattered robes of democracy she wore for the occasion. It was a small hand. A hand practiced at conspiracy, graft and corruption.
In front of the assembled crowd, she began to crumble. Her head fell off. Then her arms. The concrete at the foundations of her feet turned to sand. The audience morphed into animal figures that resembled the twisted cubes of pain and fear in Picasso’s Guernica. When the onlookers appeared in grayscale, America’s destruction was complete.
Anticipation is a feeling that I have when waiting for the red icon on the street sign to turn green. Across the street, a left turn. Across again. Walk three blocks through ranch style houses, their yards a riot of fall color. Occasionally, they look like our yard, their grass burned out and shriveled from drought. I think of xeriscaping the whole thing or maybe paving it with concrete. When I open the door, I will find you in your scanty robe. I will hold you close. You will fuss over me, feed me scones and tea. Then to bed.
Anticipation is a feeling I have when the horses are racing, really when anything is close to the finish. Well, not the dishes. Not sweeping or mowing the lawn. Something new. Something unique, even if I’ve done it before. Something where the outcome is unknown. Like the darkening of an eclipse. Or the sudden smile on a baby’s lips after a tantrum. Like flipping an omelet. Even with practice, you never know how it will turn out. Or the end of an argument. The stakes are high there. Sometimes too high to start one. Sometimes too high not to try.
Anticipation is a feeling I have when I try to talk myself out of the blues. I take a walk. Maybe there will be dogs at the park and I can watch them getting the frisbee, bringing it back, tugging it the way my mutt did until I would walk away and the dog would drop into a crouch that said, “Let’s play.” I remember that crouch. It went from downward dog to child’s pose to Zen dog tail wagging and then we would leave the house, jogging along, him eager to reach a place where he could run free.
Anticipation is a feeling you have when you walk into your classroom at the beginning of the year, the whiteboards pristine, the chairs and tables lined up just so. You start the first discussion, not knowing your students, nor how they will react to the topic or to each other. Inevitably, someone asks a question that makes you wary because it might be controversial and you don’t want to tread on toes. Or maybe you are brave. Maybe you test for fault lines. Or maybe you take the tried and true approach, saying, “What do the rest of you think?”