Contentment Earned (Jane Doe Flash Fiction)

This one day makes the last five worthwhile.

Forcing herself to the grocery to stock up when she’s overwhelmed by a full workweek of politics and deadlines, senses raw from the onslaught of noise and movement. Barely edging the fenders past the posts in the underground garage, battling traffic and crowded aisles. The panic, the people.

All deposited against today, when she can stay in bed with the quiet, linger over coffee and sweet cream, plant flowers on the terrace high above the street. Dirt under her nails, the sun shining for her alone.

Far above the madding crowd.

terrace view unsplash pixabay
Unsplash/Pixabay

Every week, Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch hosts the Rough Writers and Friends flash fiction challenge. This week’s prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about feeling content. Great flashes from other writers are at the link.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (Book Review)

Big Little LiesBig Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“She probably gives him organic blow jobs” was my favorite line in the whole book. There. That either made you want to devour (ahem) the book immediately or give it a wide berth, but either way that’s pretty effective book reviewing, if I say so myself.

Bookshelves: chick-lit, current-social-issues, humor, women, mystery, poking-fun-at-serious-stuff, popular-fiction, multiple-povs

I was totally not expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did, considering my surprise that I even read it. Even the cover looks frothy. But I could not put it down.

There were a few nice surprises in this surprisingly deep bit of chick lit. First is how well Moriarty pulls off the range of issues she takes on, with both insight and humor. My favorites were the Blond Bobs, those sanctimonious, soccer-mom-ish bitches who clique around with their fingers in everything, only deigning to acknowledge you to bestow a you’re-a-bad-mother look when they see your child eating a processed cheese stick. The major issues (besides murder) include bullying and domestic violence, with realistic peeks inside the marriages and what’s going on in the the heads occupying those marriages; minor things include mommy wars and pretentiousness and taking motherhood so goddamn seriously in the first place. I mean, my generation turned out (mostly) fine without every last minute of our lives being scheduled and a parent hovering around every last thing we did. My generation, you know. We played with dirt, and we were happy, to quote Walter. We didn’t have “playdates.” We said, “Mom, can I go play with Carla?” and Mom said yes, so we ran across the street and knocked on Carla’s door and asked Mrs. Smith if Carla could play, and Mrs. Smith said yes, and then we played. Spontaneous, imaginative, not having every social encounter themed and choreographed and made into a competition. Maybe we spread Barbie dolls out on the lawn. Maybe we went to Paula’s house and watched the TV shows our own mothers considered unwholesome. (In 1967. Tell me what was so poisonous on television in 1967.) Maybe we took turns “skiing” in the middle of the street, one of us blistering at top speed on a bike, the other being towed on roller skates by holding on to the sissy bar, without helmets, and the neighbors didn’t care because that’s what a residential suburban neighborhood was all about, and if you don’t want to be careful of kids playing in the street, go buy a condominium somewhere. Nobody freaked out, even after we’d wiped out and blood was flowing (my knee; I still have the scar). And when we got caught playing I’ll-show-you-mine-if-you-show-me-yours, people didn’t lose their blooming minds and scream “sexual abuse” and call the police and lawyer up and try to ruin some curious child’s life. We were kids, and we were allowed to be kids.

Huh. Apparently there was a rant in there.

Back to the book.

The other fun surprise was the sort-of-backward way the murder mystery was handled. The suspense is largely created by not finding out who the murder victim even is until right before the denouement. You know somebody’s going to get it, but not who. So you keep turning the pages as events unfold and injustices build, thinking s it this hoity-toity holier-than-thou bitch, maybe strangled with her own ponytail after getting caught boffing somebody else’s husband? or Is it this asshole, thinks he’s King of the Hill, look how he done her wrong! With every new development, there’s a new potential victim, a new potential killer.

Loved it.

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Charge It (Jane Doe Six Sentence Stories)

“Allan, what in the actual hell. I was in Nordstrom’s today and they declined my charge.”

“Your charge cards were not part of the divorce settlement. Divorce me, divorce your plastic.”

It’s all Torry can do not to fling her phone across the room at the smug smile in his voice. Even worse than the humiliation in Ladies’ Sportswear, the sonofabitch is laughing at her.

picaidol pixabay
picaidol/Pixabay

Every week, Ivy at Uncharted hosts the Six Sentence Stories blog hop. This week’s cue was “charge.” Fun Sixes from other writers are at the link. Come join us!

The Longhorn Saloon (Jane Doe Flash Fiction)

Jane walks past the bar, its door open to the summer evening. How wonderful to step inside, clink a frosty mug with those of others, join the ritual of shaking off the workweek.

But it could never be like it was back home. Clack of balls on a pool table, shrieking laughter of women with too-big hair and too-tight jeans, jukebox blaring country music she only likes with draft beer and too many cigarettes.

The Longhorn Saloon. How she’d loved that dive. Of course, last she heard it changed hands and was Bob’s Place or something.

Jane walks on.

werner22brigitte
werner22brigitte/Pixabay

Every week, Charli Mills hosts the Congress of Rough Writers and Friends flash fiction challenge. This week’s prompt was “longhorn.” Come read fun flashes from other writers!

Dear Gluten, and Other Letters

Dear Gluten,

Look, I’m not one of the very relatively few who really really do have celiac disease, nor am I one of those bandwagoners who jumps on every food fad there is, no matter how terrible it tastes. But I still don’t understand why you find it necessary to promote your absence (“a gluten-free food!”) on the package of figs I just bought. Anybody with any sense knows figs are fruit, not a cereal grain.  But I am given to understand you only do this in America. Why? Do you think Americans are stupid or something?

Respectfully yours,

A Concerned Consumer

 

Dear Concerned Consumer,

Of course I think Americans are stupid. Look who you just elected as your president.

Sincerely,

Gluten

 

Dear Annoying Bus Passenger,

Why do you jump to the front of the line to get on the bus first, when you don’t know if the bus even goes where you want, and you don’t know how much the fare is and you have no idea where your small bills and your change are, leaving the rest of us shivering and dripping in the rain and wind while you figure out north from south with the driver and search all your pockets and bags for your money and still don’t have the right fare?

Sincerely,

A Prepared Commuter Who Knows Where She’s Going and Must Be On Time

 

Dear APCWKWSGAMBOT,

Reread your own letter. You answered your own question. I’m here in one place where I don’t know where I am, trying to get to another place where I still won’t know where I am. I’m anxious. I’m afraid.  What if it costs too much?  What if I’m at the completely wrong stop on the wrong street at the wrong end of town?  What if the driver treats me like an idiot and is mean to me? What if I completely screw it up and end up in Spokane? This is an ordeal, and I can’t wait. I’m dying here. I need to just get it over with. Why are you making it worse for me? Look, these buses don’t make change, so I’ll give you this twenty if you’ll pay my $3.25 fare with your special little bus card, and you can have Starbucks on me. I’m sorry.

Sincerely,

Shirley from Toledo

 

Dear Computer Industry,

What is up with toner.

We live in a society where we can send a bonkjillion bits of information completely around the world in seconds, land a spacecraft on a rock in the middle of outer space, and print working cars, for crying out loud. Why can you not come up with a toner cartridge that doesn’t get black shit all over everything?

I first asked this question more than 30 years ago, when you and some Xerox toner ruined my fabulous new white pencil skirt that made me look like Marilyn Monroe from the back if you squinted your eyes right.  I have neither forgotten nor forgiven the loss of that skirt.

I’m still waiting for an answer.

Yours in frustration.

 

Dear Frustrated,

Yeah, we don’t get it either. That and the common cold.

-Matt in I.T.

Marilyn

 

 

 

I Like Big Books and I Cannot Lie

The Winds of War (The Henry Family, #1)The Winds of War by Herman Wouk

What a lame post title. Totally original. But it’s true.

I haven’t forgotten you, dear readers. On one hand, I find myself in a frightful pit of writer’s block. On the other hand, I’m well into a reread of Herman Wouk’s WWII epic, The Winds of War.

I feel a little guilty. I feel like my bookish unworthiness has been exposed. I can read this ~900-page doorstop twice in my life, but I can’t do more than three chapters of the 1,397-page War and Peace? Do the math. How dare I call myself a lover of literature? I’m a slacker.

I feel a little sore. Lugging this thing around in my bag is straining my shoulder. I could designate it as my at-home read, to stay on my nightstand while I commute with lighter fare on my Kindle, but then I’d never finish it. I’ve already been reading for a week and I’m not quite halfway in. Fluff will have to wait.

But on a side note – as I wrote “dear readers” like I’m some snooty and devastatingly rich author, I wondered how many faithful followers have been waiting with baited breath for my next post, and I saw there are 58 of you. Fifty-eight followers! I am so impressed with myself. I am so freaking happy to know you are all here! Seriously! Welcome! I’d post a clip of that Liza Minnelli acceptance speech where she says, “You love me! You really, really love me!”, except that free WordPress platforms don’t allow me to post video, and I won’t pay for being able to post video, partly because I’m too poor thrifty , and partly because I’m too cynical to expect that things will actually work when I pay for them, so I just keep using the free platform and I don’t expect much from free and I’m generally not disappointed that way. And also except I hopped over to YouTube to see Liza Minnelli’s speech, and it wasn’t Liza Minnelli, it was Sally Field, and what she actually said was, “You like me. Right now, you like me!” And how anybody could ever mix up Liza Minnelli and Sally Field is beyond me, but I managed it.

I’m going to shut up and go read my book. I promise to get back with the flash fiction and various rants very soon. Next week soon. That includes a review of another book that I absolutely loved, but haven’t reviewed yet because my writer’s block isn’t letting me write a review so it makes sense.

Meanwhile, I do recommend The Winds of War. It’s like a soap opera with submarines and Stukas. Exactly like that.

He, She and It by Marge Piercy (Book Review)

He, She and ItHe, She and It by Marge Piercy

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Man, I was all set to really, really love this book. Cyberpunk, dystopia, feminist sci-fi…what’s not to love?

Bookshelves: cyberpunk, dnf, my-dystopia-utopia, mysticism, sci-fi, feminism, futuristic, abandoned

Really, I should have known better, after seeing comparisons to The Handmaid’s Tale, which I first read as my book club’s pick when my son was a newborn. What little sleep the mother of a newborn does get, I sacrificed on the altar of The Handmaid’s Tale, and it remains one of my all-time favorite reads, one I’ve returned to several times. That built me up to expect too much from He, She and It. You’d think I’d learn.

It’s not that He, She and It is bad. It’s not. The premise is excellent, the creation of an illegal golem (or cyborg, whatever) in the “free” town of Tikva – “free” meaning it is independent of the dozen or so corporations that now rule our ravaged planet, and doesn’t that sound ominous, given the current political and economic world scheme. The dystopia is well-drawn. The internal monologues are thoughtful and finely written, with the primary theme being humanity – what is or is not considered human, alive, in possession of a soul, free will, the right to choose. The focus on Jewish culture, Kabbalism, and the intervals with the 16th-century Golem of Prague add the right touch of mysticism.

Even with all that going for it the story remained uncompelling, and I blame the pacing, which is positively glacial. The story just plods along, interspersed with lots of exposition, and in spite of love triangles and jealousy and cyborg sex, corporate manipulation and cyber assassinations and espionage, there is not much tension. If I’d been, say, on an 18-hour flight with only this book then I’d have not minded finishing it, but I was comfortably at home with a score of other books vying for my attention. I peeked ahead to see how it all works out, and unfortunately I don’t feel I missed anything by not knowing what happened between where I left off and the ending.

Marge Piercy’s writing style is similar to Margaret Atwood’s, and I love Margaret Atwood. Perhaps I’ll try another of Piercy’s works, but this one didn’t do it for me.

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