Remembrance of Things Imperfect: Mars

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Crowd Control

book

By Liz Betz

Some fiction pieces are over populated as these three stories illustrate. A writer has to keep the multiple characters in place without sacrificing the story’s plot.

Fight or Flight

The police woman looks at Brooke’s wound, suggests it be cleaned and bandaged but that is all the attention it gets.
Does the owner of the dog care? Don’t press charges, he begs. He promises a stronger pen. Do her parents concern themselves over the dog bite? They are heatedly discussing the cat that jumped on the back of the dog and caused the dog to bite– her father loves it, a purebred Siamese worth every penny of her price, her mother bemoans care of the cat litter. Did the precious cat that caused the fight care? No. It has run off.
A good idea? Brook stops, struck by her thought. Maybe it is a good idea.

Author notes – In my mind the girl is standing in the midst of all of these people, and that’s the image I held in place during the story composition. The girl’s observations are written as question/answer pairs that keep the reader aware of what everyone is doing. The crowd control used here is a single character’s point of view.

New Tradition

I say yes, then I realize my mother-in-law has just sluffed hosting Thanksgiving onto me.
“You can handle it.” my husband says, words he repeats when I ask his input on the guest list and the menu. My cooking confidence doesn’t normally extend past grilled cheese sandwiches.
Then for various reasons, perhaps some of them Freudian, Thanksgiving totally slips my mind until my mother-in-law rings the doorbell, expecting dinner. Oh. No. I’ve ruined everything.
Smiling, she assures me that grilled cheese sandwiches will be perfect. “I’ve never had enough nerve to host a more simple and casual gathering. How wonderful!”
She is.

Author notes- The husband and the mother-in-law are not named and essentially role based but also clearly distinguishable which is a solid ploy for handling multiple characters. Despite the crowd of people, the set up and conflict is presented quickly and the climax is reached mid-story – Plus there are only two characters involved in the exchanges and it is ‘I’ and the ‘other.’ FYI- The ending depends on a twist of expectations.

Done Better

Susan and Alice agree. One of them needs to talk with Rebecca about her boyfriend. Susan will lead, Alice can support her.
An unsuspecting Rebecca pours their coffee and asks, “What’s up? It’s not often you both come over.”
Is this the opening? A slight shake of Susan’s head silences Alice.
“It’s just a coincidence.” Susan answers. “Friends sometimes think alike.”
Alice disregards Susan entirely as she blurts out. “It’s about your boyfriend. You need to know something.”
Rebecca is transfixed while Alice shares the evidence and concerns about the man in question.
Suddenly, Alice notices Susan’s stormy face. “What? We agreed that Rebecca should know.”
Susan’s gives an icy response. “But I would have been subtle. More artful.”

Author notes – The three names are used quite often but each use is designed to keep the reader oriented. It might be only subliminal but the two names with two syllables seem to be grouped while the third character name has three and is the ‘other.’ This crowd control challenge is met by a certain word count sacrifice in setting details, other than the ‘come over’ and ‘pouring coffee’ that suggests the story occurs in Rebecca’s home.

About the author:

Liz Betz is a retired rancher who loves to write fiction. Her pastime seems to help her days go by, her brain to stay active and sometimes keeps her out of trouble. An overactive imagination is a wonderful thing to harness, but left alone…Her publication credits are many and varied as she explores the fictional world of mostly somewhat older but not necessarily mature characters.

Imps of Perversity

book

By Liz Betz

These stories are alike; each protagonist has inner thoughts that they wouldn’t necessarily want to reveal.

Found Money

Arlene borrows her sister’s jacket, sticks her hand in the pocket and finds…what everyone loves; found money. She counts the bills. Twenty dollars. Finders keepers!
This doesn’t belong to you! Her conscientious earworm, always ready to preach, whispers – It’s your sister’s money. Arlene counters; roles reversed, if her sister had found her money, she’d have no trouble spending it.
You don’t know that.
I know my sister; she would spend this immediately.
So, be the bigger person on this. Do you really need the money?
No. But if I did, she’d help me out. I could pretend she’s given me this.
You could?
Maybe not.

Author notes – Italics separate one half of the inner argument and also creates a certain rhythm to the character’s thoughts. To orient the reader to the form being used, I referred to the ‘earworm’ and called it conscientious, in other words- her conscience.

A Little Bit

Sharla wonders if being a little bit bored could be compared to being a little bit pregnant. They are the same in one way; eventually something will pop.
She should write that down, if she can find her journal. Where did she leave it? Oh, right. She hid it; between the mattress and box spring where her mother would never look. But doesn’t her mother flip the mattress sometimes when she cleans? Sharla should not write a little bit pregnant even to compare it to boredom. Her mother is famous for her ‘little bit crazy’ reactions.
Sharla brings out her journal.

Author notes – The repeated use of ‘a little bit’ starting with the title is a choice, I made, because it seems to fits with the ‘skipping rope’ thought train of the character Sharla. I believe she’s ‘a little bit’ of a perverse imp.

Odor

The senior manor is cramped and Catherine’s husband often stumbles on the strategically placed furniture. Furthermore, he doesn’t like any of their fellow residences and also complains he can’t even fart in private. He is extremely gassy and when he dies shortly after their move, at age seventy-seven, Catherine believes she should have known.
It is said he had a good run even if he didn’t reach a ripe old age. Riper than you would believe, she wants to reply but instead stifles her witticism. Then she thinks of something – does the end have an odor? She dares not to smell the air.

Author notes – Ripe old age brought to mind other uses of ‘ripe’ and the plot to Odor was conceived. Catherine’s observations and skewed viewpoint turn on her during this story which seems fair play under the circumstances. I definitely wanted ‘ripe old age’ at the end of a sentence (for the subtle emphasis that can produce) and it took several rewrites to achieve a sentence that was readable.

About the author:

Liz Betz is a retired rancher who loves to write fiction. Her pastime seems to help her days go by, her brain to stay active and sometimes keeps her out of trouble. An overactive imagination is a wonderful thing to harness, but left alone…Her publication credits are many and varied as she explores the fictional world of mostly somewhat older but not necessarily mature characters.


Titles That Work

book

By Liz Betz

Titles may contain some intrigue; they may suggest another level to the story but in flash fiction, with limited word count constraints, titles are also several additional words. As such they need to ‘work.’

There Go I

Dan glances at the newcomer’s face. Behind the puffiness, is the look of fear and despair Dan recognizes. He says a little prayer both for the other man and himself before he says hello.
“Welcome.” Did he see a flicker of hope in the man’s eyes? That tiny spark can be extinguished, or gently encouraged.
“We have coffee. Let me get you some.” Let this be the kindness given that makes a difference. Unknowingly, equally appreciated, the newcomer has given Dan something in return. A reminder of the pain that brings drinkers to their knees. To a meeting.
But for grace…

Author notes – The setting (an AA meeting) and the background of the narrator are withheld until near the finish of the story. However, the ending phrase of this story, ‘but for grace’ is often paired with ‘there go I’ (the title) which makes the title very much a working part of the story.

Home Safe

There were no tropical storms, no local political turmoil and no lost reservations or luggage and all the flights have been caught. Our fingers uncross. We’re landing.
My husband steadies me on the ramp, no twisted ankle on this last obstacle of our special anniversary trip. Happy to be back, we approach the terminal; tired, of course, but life so good.
Our daughter is picking us up, driving us home, and I wonder what we will tell her first. She’ll be so pleased to listen to our tales; we’ll be so eager to share.
She’s not waiting. Bewilderment until someone greets us with news of the accident. Our beloved did not survive.
The world tilts as we fall into a painful vortex, there is no escape.
But on the tarmac, just before the tsunami caught us, we believed we were home safe.

Author Notes – The title is a ‘pulled out and given to you’ emphasis of this story’s point. First, the characters of the story and the reader believe in they are home safe, then they understand differently. That moment though…if they could have stayed in that ‘home safe’ moment.

A Natural Coach

“The trick is to keep the tips concise and tailored to each player.”
There is a pause as the lecturer looks out at all of us. We’re here to write a referee exam for the minor leagues. But it’s more like we’re being recruited to volunteer as coaches.
I shuffle the papers. I glance around.
He sighs. “I’m through, you can answer the questions now.”
I look at the test and begin. However, I notice as he walks around. He points out a page in the handbook to one. Then offers a suggestion to someone else. He makes it look easy and I realize this is his way but it seems like a personalized message.
For me.

Author notes – The title ‘A Natural Coach’ alerts the reader to a specific definition that is central to the story but also remains ambiguous as the reader wonders about the identity of the ‘coach’ – is it the lecturer or something in the future of the person taking the exam taker?

About the author:

Liz Betz is a retired rancher who loves to write fiction. Her pastime seems to help her days go by, her brain to stay active and sometimes keeps her out of trouble. An overactive imagination is a wonderful thing to harness, but left alone…Her publication credits are many and varied as she explores the fictional world of mostly somewhat older but not necessarily mature characters.

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