Thursday, March 4, 2010

Flash Fiction: "This Is the Note..."

This is the flash fiction (that's a story of 500-1000 words, if you didn't know) that I spontaneously wrote tonight. I'm not sure why; I've been so busy with nonfiction writing lo the 15-or-so years I've never even completed any fiction in that entire time. I figured 1,000 words was easy enough to get back in the swing, so... what the hell, I might as well.

In any event, here it is, after the jump:

This Is the Note You'd Be Reading If I'd Committed Suicide

Dear Mom.
Dear Phil.
This is the note you’d be reading if I'd committed suicide.
Well, not this part. If I actually had committed suicide, this part wouldn't be here. If I'd raided Mom's doctor-shopped Percocet stash or gotten intimate with your walk-in closet Walther – girls don't shoot themselves, typically, but you know I hate stereotypes – I'd get right to "you never knew the real me" or whatever else makes for a fitting farewell.
But relax. I'm with friends, warm and safe. So don't freak out like when I ran off after our trip to the emergency room and didn't answer the phone for two days. (I still don’t get that, Mom. You care nothing about my everyday life, but you have Amber Alert on speed dial.)
Aunt Judy says it's a control thing, that you've been like that since you two were kids. It's weird how easily I can picture you as a kid. I guess what I've forgotten is how to picture you as an adult.
But I digress.
By now you'll have called me a few times and now you’re calling again. Don't bother; I can't take calls here. But I kept my promise: You told me to never put my phone on "silent," and I promised I wouldn't unless I was completely safe.
Instead, just read this note. Because you know writing is the only thing I do well, which is awesome for a high school senior in 2010.
I don't know why I'm wasting sarcasm on you two. You don't read. You drink and watch TV and drink, yet you remain under the delusion that I could work at a newspaper or magazine. (Which, apparently, you’ll never read.) But that's hopeless. All newspapers and magazines are dying or dead. Nobody needs the one thing I do well.
Go ahead and pour your nightcap, Phil. Mom, go ahead and have your ninth or twelfth or whatever you're up to by this point. Guess it depends on how early you two slalomed the Taurus back from O'Bannon's tonight.
But I digress.
Aunt Judy gave me the inspiration. For the note, I mean. She saw how angry I was. (Don't worry, I didn’t share our secrets.) So she told me: If you’re holding a lot inside but it wouldn’t be "prudent" to speak freely – that’s how she put it, "prudent" – you should write a long note, get it all off your chest. Then tear it up, undelivered.
Obviously I ignored that last part. But I did tear up a few drafts of this note. Everything sounded so cliché, so common: I'm sad. I'm angry. You did awful things to me. Blah, blah, blah.
My mind wandered. I started thinking about how I'd do it, and where: It had to be someplace very special. Also, I didn’t want that open-eyed, staring into space look. What if my eyes spontaneously opened when I died? Can that happen? I Googled it, but I came up empty.
(Hey, Phil: Maybe you could look that up for us. You like spending hours every night on the internet, doing something you don't want to share with us. That’s why you turned the monitor so it faces the wall, right?)
My mind kept coming back to Old Stinky. We call it that, but I love the smell. Phil, you probably don’t know that’s what we used to call Grandma’s cedar chest, the chest you’re standing over now, the chest to which I taped this very note.
But how could you? You were never interested in our stories about when my Dad was alive, or anytime that preceded your arrival. It was like Dad was a 1990s Batman and you were the new-and-improved, Christian Bale Batman. Let’s pretend the batsuit never had nipples, Jack was never the Joker and Lando Calrissian was never Harvey Dent.
But you don't even get that reference, do you, Phil? You never liked the old Star Wars films. You like all this CGI crap with baby Anakin and baby Boba Fett and Sam Jackson playing someone whose name I can’t remember and you can’t either.
Dad loved the old Star Wars, you know. I'd sit in his lap and we'd eat Orville Redenbacher and we’d scream and cheer and laugh and that’s how we watched The Empire Strikes Back start to finish dozens of times! It was great, Phil. That movie was made a decade before I was alive and I love it. You were there for that. And you couldn’t care less.
I feel sorry for you, Phil.
Despite the many times you hurt me, sneaking into my room when Mom was passed out on Ketel One and "medicine," I still feel sorry for you. Because someone did something awful to you, Phil. Someone must have done something awful to make you do awful things to me. Someone did something awful to you, because – though you’re a common drunk and a common pervert and a common abuser – it takes a truly twisted bastard not to love The Empire Strikes Back.
Didn’t you feel anything? When Luke faced the evil outside and the evil growing within, when he realized he still had a choice and leapt, sacrificially, into the void? Didn’t you feel anything?
Because I did, Phil. I felt it every time, Phil.
I felt it every single time.
But I digress.
If I actually did it, you know, I'd climb into this wonderful old chest. It smells like Grandma, and Dad.
I'd prop up it open with my foot, so when it was over, the lid would fall shut and I'd be enclosed in darkness. I'd finally have peace. I'd be protected. I'd be with Grandma and Dad. I'd be warm and safe.
So maybe this actually isn’t the note you’d be reading if I'd committed suicide.
But maybe it is.
So maybe you should pour yourself another drink.
And then you should take a look.


  1. I feel like I can almost see this girls face. My emotion all the way through was heightened but I had to read it more than once because the images at the end made me take steps back through the piece.The letter grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and and dropped me on the floor at the end. The glimpses of background were delivered with a sharp edge and I could feel her 'nothing to lose' tone. You never get a moment when you feel shes going to let you exhale. The 'I digress' hits hard both times too. A lets get back to it line that made me shiver. An uncomfortable read in the best possible way. Very hard hitting and very, very good.

  2. I have to admit, when I started reading, I thought wondered if a girl in her senior year of high school would write like this - but I reread it, and that feeling dissolved with the first "But I digress".

    I wish I knew more about of this Aunt Judy, but her memories of her father are beautiful, and there's just enough about Phil for me to hate him. And I could almost smell the old chest by the end.

    Wonderfully written and an intense read. Look forward to reading more of your work.

  3. @Mel: Thank you for your excellent feedback. I appreciate you taking the time. This is a quite a different discipline for me and it's very helpful to have your thoughts. I was hoping the letter conveyed a building dread, and apparently it worked, at least for you.

    @Jess: Thank you also for your excellent feedback. Your original concern over "voice" is totally valid. I'm not sure I have the tone right at all for a teenage girl -- but yeah, my take on her is that she's (sadly) grown up very quickly in her last few years, and she's smart and brutally self-aware and filled with repressed rage, so she wouldn't come off like most girls her age (especially in this context).

    In any event, the comments from both of you are extremely appreciated. Your notes embolden me to try my hand at a little more short fiction. I'll try to make the next one a little more amusing. :)

  4. Kind of a hard read, like you want to know what happens but almost hiding your face behind your hand at the same time, much like in a horror movie.

    The questions she asks Phil are, to me, the most hitting and "fitting" for such a character. The anger and hurt in her tone.

    Well done. Anything that makes you feel SOMETHING is a success in itself.


  5. The fact that this disturbed me so much is indicative of an extremely well-written piece, Rick. Having known a 19-year-old boy (he had been the ringbearer at my wedding) who killed himself, this writing jolted me. I think you have the teen angst down pat.

  6. Thanks for your thoughts, Julie and Nikki. If it succeeded in being disturbing, good. That's what it's supposed to do. That actually wasn't necessarily the plan when I started writing it, but sometimes the characters just start telling you who they are, and you have to stick with the truth of that and run with it.

    Yeah, that sounded really fucking pretentious. Clearly I need to get back to telling dirty jokes. :)

    Seriously though, thanks for checking it out.

  7. interestingly disturbing horror angst.... nice use of iconic family history set pieces(star wars) i like that you don't find out what happens.. its more horrific if an hour or two later you think and wonder again what happened. not sure if the voice works totally as a teenage girl. it sounded more like a teenage boy to me.. dale c. (aka @flickerfumes)