When we thought about doing this I considered researching, re-reading and trying to come across as a damn sight more intelligent than I am. I therefore decided to do this off the cuff. That is what it is all about. In my lifetime I have read over 400 books and I would not be able to hazard a guess at the amount of short stories. Within all of the short stories published on Literally Stories, I remember some. Those are the ones that I would like to consider.
This weeks literary litany of the talent on show at Literally Stories is brought to you in a random round-up style and begins with Monday and Thursday’s stories.
“Give me a ticket or give me a bar tab,” the young soldier said.
After seven beers, the soldier had gone belligerent, but the ticket agent had nothing new to offer. The agent was a dark, square-shouldered man and he spoke with an accent that may have been African or Haitian. “I can give you nothing right now,” the agent said. “When we start boarding, I will see what I have.”
Pushing eighty, Mrs. Mattison reclines on the lounge chair on the mossy concrete patio while her husband clips the naked remnant of rose bulbs from the bushes, and I attend to distributing mulch. I live in a shed behind his house, a gift from Mr. Mattison to put a roof over my head and keep me off the homeless list.
“Everyone calls it dead-heading,” he says, “but I call if live-heading. See, the stem lives, and it is the only way the stem can produce more. Same way in life. My wife and I need to move on and let more vigorous flowers bloom. We don’t wish to die,” he says, casually continuing his work, “but our attachment to life has been robbed by this Alzheimer’s. And our children are scattered across the globe.”
I decided to check again. For the last time. No point keep on hoping the consignment would make it here before the twenty-second.
It wouldn’t. No choice but to proceed before it was too late.
A hologram whirred up and out of the console in a lazy fashion, like a half-cut genie who could not care less about being emancipated.
The soon-to-be-re-incarcerated figure intoned: ‘UPDATE: Next consignment due eighteenth of –’
I jabbed a finger at an ephemeral terminal button. Cut the genie’s damn circuits.
It was still December, but Reggie had a bug up his ass about the high school reunion in June. He didn’t seem the type to me, to organise something so mundane. But he was on the line, breathing heavily, while I examined an ancient list of guests to our long ago graduation party. How the list came into my possession remains a mystery.
No shortage of venues for Literally Stories authors this week as the narrative landed readers on two beaches, Hawaii and the south coast of England (probably), the streets of Vienna, a hellish dystopia on the cusp of apocalypse, and Kipling’s Rottingdean study via Afghanistan.
The soapbox prophets turn to bombs and the lines at the food pantries snake twenty blocks, but my algorithm cranks relentlessly. Markets go up. Markets go down. In either direction, the algorithm wins more than it loses. A few pennies shaved here. A few pennies there.
In makeshift markets, men relentlessly trade. Goods flow. Data flows. The algorithm churns apace. It seems as if the algorithm could function without electricity before it could go without its data. Its appetite is enormous. Its needs are great. Mine seem puny in comparison: a good night sleep. Peace on earth. A kiss goodbye. Safety for my children.
‘I’ve read your tales of India,’ he said, as he sat in my study at Rottingdean, ‘so I thought you might like to hear my story.’
I’d answered a knock at my front door just as my study clock struck midday, and found the man standing on the doorstep. He had looked cold, and oddly distracted.
‘Can I help you?’ I’d asked.
‘My name is Jabez Carter,’ he’d told me. ‘I’ve come a long way to see you.’
Overlooking the Staatsoper, the Rathaus, the Parlament and the Burgtheater Johann ticked his finger up and down. The lighting made a group of freshmen look as if they flickered underneath an ethereal golden waterfall. They danced and laughed on the market place, took pictures and were allowed to be free. A girl with blond hair in a white dress caught Johann’s attention. The others talked while she almost tiptoed away. He lowered his finger but stopped it from rising again. Her smile. Mesmerising. He stamped his feet on the wooden floor, watched her move around a street lamp. Graceful and delicate. She’s smiling still. And she came around to the other side, his side, the dress and the hair moved like a C Major played by a violin. Back to C, but from where? Not some place dangerous, some place of comfort and trust. Of the golden waterfall and the blend between baroque and renaissance architecture. Was she even real? Could she disappear at any moment if he just closed his eyes? He raised his finger and closed his eyes. She was gone. And so was the group of students.