Short Stories For Short People #4: Get In

She was stuck in rush hour traffic when the rumbling started. Earthquakes weren’t typical around here and, frankly, it didn’t really feel like one. There was something about it. Didn’t feel like it originated in the ground. It was in her chest, her arms, and legs somehow. After a solid 30 seconds, it stopped.

She flipped from music to the local NPR station. Something about strange activity. Communications from outer space. A wash of excitement… quickly replaced by fear. Sure, aliens maybe, but the thousands of strangers surrounding her was her more immediate concern. Cars were starting to honk. A white SVU ahead of her sideswiped a Prius to get over to the shoulder. He sped off.

Things were about to get crazy.

She put the car into park and began to mentally assess where she was in town, what supplies were in the car, and if she thought it was safer to stay in here or head out there.

Another couple cars zooming by on the shoulder. Maybe it was safer in here for now.

She noticed the wind picking up to the point where the car was shaking. She looked out her window, peering up.

A jet or… a spaceship? Hovering in the air above her car. She gawked at it. It was black, shaped like a fighter jet that had been stung by a bee. It didn’t seem too far away, but she was a terrible judge of distance.

Then, her cell phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Do you see me?”

“Honey?”

“Yeah!”

“Are you the goddamn space jet?”

“Yeah.”

“…you don’t work for the post office, do you?”

“Nope.”

“I knew it.”

A ladder unfurled and bumped the side of her car.

“Get in. We’re going on a trip.”

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Short Stories for Short People #3: Peanut the Sixth

The crash caught my attention. Nothing too crazy. Just the clatter of plastic and branches. I was surprised. I picked this location because it was out of the way. Lonely. Desolate. Far away from anyone or anything. Just my view of the stark grey of the sky, broken apart by an occasional shiver of the bare bony limbs of this tree as they sway in the wind.

Safe.

It’s how I’ve lasted out here for so long.

Squirrels actually have quite the lifespan, as I can attest to. There were five other gents under the moniker “Peanut the Squirrel” before me. They all failed because they were low to the ground. Ground dwellers that fraternized with those humans. Raiding bird feeders and scourging the ground for their precious namesake.

This is why I’m up here. And now so is this plastic thing.

Suspicious.

I’ll have to see what it does.

It does nothing.

It hangs. Occasionally moving in the breeze. Plastic blades caught. This isn’t going anywhere.

The humans have been trying to knock it down. Throwing things up here. I’ve been hiding out, watching the different things fly by: A ball. A milk jug. Different ball. Frisbee. The Frisbee almost got stuck. That would have been fun.

I thought they might try to climb up here, but their ladder doesn’t get close to the height I’m at. Which is exactly why I’m up here.

Hrm. I could interfere.

No. Too risky. I like my spot. And here I’ll stay.

It’s raining. It’s still here.

Yup.

The little one keeps coming out here. He comes and stands right under it. And he looks up. Gazing up at it. Hoping for a woosh. Hoping he’ll reach up and it will fall into his arms.

He’s sad. Maybe…

No.

They got a puppy.

I’ve never been so sure of myself in my life.

But he’s so sad.

Maybe I’m not so sure.

You know, I could have stayed in there. I could have stayed curled up in my little space with my little view of the sky. It was a fine life. But the sky is always the same. And the tree with its branches. And the boy with his sad face.

I knew what I had to do.

I ran out to the thing, and I shoved. I shoved and shoved. The boy looked up. He cried out and clapped his hands and stretched his arms out.

The thing crashed into the ground. He is just a boy.

But he laughed and scooped it up and ran inside. I went to run back in but I took a moment. Looked around. Breathed in the air. Listened to the world. So many trees. So many chances.

They rewarded me. Tossed a bag of peanuts up here and caught it in a crook of a branch. Of course. I had to stash them in my hole in the tree.

I suppose the only constant is change.

Short Stories for Short People #2: Occupied

I always knew I would die in this dump.

I only took the job to sail into my retirement and here we are, fifteen years later, with me slumped in a pile in the stall in the third floor bathroom.

Aneurysm. Gotta say, I thought the smoking would have done it. Or the cholesterol. But instead I was taking a piss and then… Well. That was it. Felt sleepy and lights out. Not a bad way to go. Even if I was in the can.

I was in there for awhile, face smacked into the side of the stall. You people gotta drink more water. Seriously, no one came in for like 40 minutes.

Then I hear the door and think, great! Someone is gonna find my body. And they’re gonna wail, “OH, SOMEONE HELP. Gladys has fallen! Not Gladys! She was in good shape for the shape she was in!”

That is not what happened.

The door opens and I hear this click click click of heels on the tile. I’m laying there, lifeless, and she goes to the next stall. THE NEXT STALL. OF COURSE. Figures, right?

There’s this pause… and I hear her heels again.

Look, sister, whatever was behind door number one ain’t got nothing on door number two.

So the door opens. And no, I did not forget to close it. Those stalls haven’t latched right since I got here. Half the time you’re in there and one of the new girls will yelp because her giant purse is hanging on the hook on the stall door and all of a sudden it swings the door open and she’s all flustered and it’s like Christ, honey, we’ve seen knees before.

Sorry. Anyway.

So the door opens. It’s Rachel from purchasing. At first she starts to apologize for busting in, but then she realizes something is wrong. Her face changes and I think finally I’m getting out of here.

She doesn’t scream. She doesn’t shout. She just looks at me. She’s so young. Hell, maybe she’s never seen a dead person before. I dunno. But she’s looking at me.

She whispers, “Hey. Hey, are you okay?” I guess she thought I was sleeping. “Ma’am?”

MA’AM? I have worked with you for over a YEAR, missy. LEARN NAMES. IT’S A LIFE SKILL.

She finally shoves my shoulder. I slide down a little off the seat. I don’t know that I can describe the amount of flailing that happened next. She made a little shriek, and her reflex was to catch me. But her emotion was pure repulsion. She sort of held me up and muttered to herself while she looked away.

Then. Then she took a moment. She had a decision to make. You see, Rachel had come into this room with a purpose. She looked towards door number one, then back down at me. Back and forth.

I guess whatever happened next door must have been awful.

So dear Rachel is faced with a dilemma. She needs to pee. I am in her way. I am not, as they say, a delicate flower.

So what does she do? She sort of pulls me to the side, off the toilet. I MEAN REALLY. My pants are around my ankles! And she just pushed me aside!

I end up on the floor, still flopped over, and she steps around me, drops trou, and pees. Her leg is touching my arm. HER LEG IS TOUCHING MY ARM AS SHE PEES NEXT TO ME.

Does anyone remember Rodney Dangerfield?

AND THEN. THEN. FINALLY. SOMEONE ELSE COMES IN THE BATHROOM.

Rachel is completely still and silent. A look of total panic washes over her as she pushes both hands out onto the stall door.

The lady pushes at the door and before Rachel can say anything to her, the woman says, “Oops, sorry!” COME ON. Don’t you notice the pair of feet and the pile of DEAD LADY in the stall?

Lady moves to the other stall and makes an audible “ew!” before rinsing her hands and running out.

Rachel sighs in relief. I’m still dead.

She finishes up and calmly flushes the toilet. There is a moment of more flailing and some hissed cursing over the bowl while it flushes. I guess she realized leaving the pee would make it more convincing that she found me? Oh well. She leaves the stall.

She didn’t move me. She didn’t even look at me. It’s not like she had to explain anything. They’ll ask if that’s how she found me, she’ll say yes, and that’s that. It’s not like anyone’s going to ask her if she peed a foot from my head. 

Unbelievable.

Washes her hands. Click click click on the tile.

“Someone, help! Gladys has fallen!”

“What? Oh no, not Gladys!”

Well, at least there’s that.

Short Stories for Short People #1: The Spider Knew Her

The spider knew her. Oh, the spider knew her well.

He wasn’t like other spiders. He had always been in the odd situation of needing to cohabitate with other spiders, due to his little problem. Spiders are, by nature, loners. Have you ever seen a pack of spiders? If you have, it was certainly an arrangement built out of necessity and not any kind of true companionship. Truthfully, he would have preferred to be alone. But there was the matter of his little problem.

He couldn’t make webs. Not like a normal spider.

Hours upon hours were spent trying to make the silk that he would weave into the web – but it never came. Such a struggle to try to do what other spiders did so easily. He’d mimic their actions, do just as they did… and yet no silk. No webs. Nothing. How did they do it? He’d inquire, but there would be no reply, the other spider always too busy humming along, placing their delicate strands together. He’d watch as the web took shape… and then would stay with them for as long as he could. He always deferred to the spider who had crafted it, of course. He’d come along after meals for the scraps of those dumb enough to wander across their path. But it was always a precarious arrangement. Inevitably there was a disagreement and he’d have to scamper off to somewhere else. Sometimes he’d come across a web recently abandoned and use it for his own, though usually it was left because the location was crummy.

His favorite thing was the sight of dew hanging on to the web. It looked like magic with everything so delicately suspended, the world above reflected below. But even as he loved it, it also pained him to see.

His relationship with webs was complicated. But she changed that.

She was human; a terrible beast that dealt in shrieking and thrashing and certain death unless you were quick. Which he was. He generally avoided humans, as his situation was precarious enough. But one day she was in the grass and he was in the grass. She dangled her fingers and ran them through her hair as she sunned herself on the lawn. The hair fell from her fingers and drifted in the wind before falling on the ground near the spider. He wasn’t quite sure what to make of the strands. They were dark. Thin but not thin. But they were strands. He took the hair and dragged it along to a near by bush. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do with it other than try… Try anything.

He worked and weaved and pulled and stretched. It took awhile, and he had to start over a couple times, and he was very tired and very hungry. But he worked and worked, returning to her often to collect more of her auburn strands.

Soon he had a web. It wasn’t very large, but it was a place to rest. A place to call home.

He gazed up at her from the web. She was wholly unaware. She had changed things for him. The hair would give him a chance. A chance to form his own webs, to be independent, and to live as he had always dreamed.

The spider repaid her the best he could. He fended off the other bugs. Even the mosquitoes learned to leave her be. She would go to the yard, and lay down with her towel and her book and sun herself and he would join her. Collecting the strands, stretching out, and resting among the droplets of dew clinging to his web.

The spider knew her, though she would never know him.