The old man sat down, middle of the bridge and watched his home and village burn. The others called to him but he would not hear. Some soldiers retrieved him and placed him down on the other side of the river. He lit a cigarette, drew smoke, and tears fell.
Youth has a way of slipping away from a man. Some don't take advantage of it while others abuse it. Ideally, one would walk the middle road but men are prone to extremes, one way or the other. The sun always sets just are surely as the sun also rises.
*The above is another excerpt from my forthcoming collection of Heming Ways (hopefully, to be published by August 13, 2021). Heming Ways is a work of 50, 50-word microfictions in homage to Ernest Hemingway, told in his style of prose with reference to his life and works.
"Did you start that medicine?"
"The one I told you about last time?"
"Last time what?"
"The last time we were here."
"In the bathroom?"
"No, not in the bathroom. In this restaurant."
"Well, did you try it?"
"Yeah, worked pretty good too."
"You bet it works good!"
"Wait 'til you are ninety, like me. Then you can take two. Woohoo! Let me tell you!"
"Oh, yeah. You're still young and only need the one though. What are you now?"
"Yeah, don't overdo it."
Drying their hands, the men finished their conversation. Opening the solid, oak door of the gentlemen's room, they exited, walking out past a large aquarium, down the ramp toward the front doors. En route, they passed an attractive, younger lady and one couldn't resist, "Woohoo honey! I like your dress...it's the color of my medicine!"
Once back to my table, I noticed that the dress did look quite nice on my wife. "Woohoo honey! I like your dress!"
Stay tuned for my forthcoming collection, Heming Ways. Heming Ways is an anthology of 50, 50-word "micro" stories and an homage to Ernest Hemingway.
Below is an excerpt -
Lawrence heard the rustling in the bush long before he saw movement. Gradually, a grey shape emerged and he raised the Winchester eye and sight and beast in line. He prepared to fire but could not hold his aim, formerly sure hands today unsteady. Abstinence would cost him the kill.
I stepped out of the hospital into a beautiful, spring day. It was one of those perfect days—that one day right before spring and summer collide. The birds were singing their best songs at fever pitch, flowers in full bloom with the bluest of sky for background, the color bursting forth onto a palette of lifeless, grey winter. The sun rested high and bright amidst cotton-candy clouds and a determined, but now weakening, winter wind still blowing. This is the season in which one notices things as if for the first time. The season of birth and life and new beginnings.
I found myself sitting on a park bench beneath a red maple, its leaves rustling a tune which I seemed to vaguely recall but could not place. I had not noticed this park before, nor did I realize the vastness of it. It was a park for children. One giant playground. Children were everywhere. The little ones ran to and fro, playing…swinging, scrambling across monkey bars, “Weeing!” down slides big and small, scampering up the ropes and down the poles, playing tag. Their laughter carried across the breezy air, a hypnotic and nostalgic symphony. It was clearly a place built for the children by someone who loved the little souls very much.
As I watched them play, they appeared so happy. And why should they not be? What I’d give to be able to go back and replay my life as one of those little creatures. Hard to believe, now, that I ever was one myself. So full of imagination and creativity, faith and belief, hope, trust, forgiveness, purity, and not a worry in the world. Life nothing but friends and play and ice cream and cake. Each day running into the next as one grand adventure inseparable from the previous. Stuck in the perpetual motion that is the innocence of childhood. Until we tell them that they “must grow up,” killing within them all that we truly cherish and miss in ourselves. Why must they grow up? Why must we?
We pretend to be the wise ones but look at them! Black, white, yellow…no matter the pigment of the skin…running together hand in hand, laughing, playing. Always together. Always happy and, when there is unhappiness, its origins are not of their world but of the big ones’. How often are we happy? How often have I been happy these past few years, battling my own particular hell of illness and mostly alone? Hell! If there is one, maybe we grown-ups deserve it but never the little ones, no. Perhaps children are too good for heaven itself. When I die, heaven or hell or nothing. But, for them, I will believe that heaven is just one big, beautiful spring day at the playground with friends. The children play on forever.
As I sat there, thinking to myself, I was startled out of my own mind and back to the world, noticing that several of the children now stood before me.
“Well, hi there,” I said.
They just stood there smiling at me. Two little boys and one little girl.
“Beautiful day to spend playing with your little friends.”
Slightly puzzled, I looked around and it struck me—there was neither parent nor chaperone present.
I inquired, “Why, where are your parents?”
Before this question had fully rolled itself off my tongue, a moment of bafflement then that sense of déjà vu—it seemed as though I had been here before and, now looking more closely at the children, particularly the little boy to my right with his shiny black hair and hazel eyes, standing, rather anachronistically, in his patched blue jeans and white t-shirt soiled from what could have been a lifetime of play…but no, it couldn’t be.
“Little fellow, you remind me of a friend that I had when I was about your age. His name was Heath. What is your name?”
Heath. I had not thought about him for so long nor spoken his name in years.
For logical reasons, it could not have been Heath. Heath had died long ago. A car crash back in 1959, I recalled suddenly, returning from summer vacation with his family.
Lost for a moment in thought, I was unsure as to whether or not the little boy had responded. I looked at him again and, in that moment, noticed that all the sea of children on the playground had turned toward me, gazing at me with the same silent, smiling faces. The eerie silence was broken only when the little boy who had reminded me of my childhood friend walked directly up to me, took my hand into his and said, “Don’t be silly Mikey! You can come play with us now.”
I stood and, as I did, though I should have towered over them all, I was eye to eye with the boy who reminded me so of Heath. And then we played.
I tossed and turned throughout the night, unable to sleep. There was a long day ahead, but I would get all of the sleep that I needed soon enough, unable to resist sleep when the night comes. One misses so much while the eyes are open as it is. There is no one who, truly, fears not the stage. Whether fear or excitement, no matter. The effect is the same.
The sun would be up in a moment and spill the soft rays of Nature's stage lights into my room, but I would rise before it today and begin my rehearsal in the darkness. Fitting! My best work now long for the shadows, as it were.
I arose. I stretched. I washed. I arrived at the theatre. Dressed in my finest attire, the costume carefully chosen and laid out for me by a loving hand, with face tastefully decorated just so as to catch the light perfectly, capturing and preserving my every expression—a face known for its gesticulations.
Today promised to be a very special day. The final act. The final performance. There would be no more encores. All shows, even the great ones, draw to a close. Knowing this made it nonetheless sour. The show had run its course and it is always better to go out on top, as they say in the business, than to overstay one's welcome. That I should go out with such a "Bang!" I would leave the stage with the same reverence with which I approached it, exiting stage right, no need of the old Vaudevillian hook to make the modest thespian of me.
The stage is an altar, a place of belief and ritual and magic…movement and doing. There is celebration and there is worship. There is the cult, the performer a priest, the faithful congregation. There is love and there is sorrow, both real and imagined, but there is emotion, always the emotion...rising and crashing simultaneously upon both performer and audience in often unexpected waves. No performance ever the same nor its effects upon the souls of officiant and parishioner alike.
One is fortunate to have lived as she would have chosen not otherwise to do. The summation of my career--my life—predicated upon sharing with others the experience of the entirety of the catalog of human emotion, from the depths of low to the peaks of high. Such a life one dare not dream of exchanging for the nightmare of not living life such as it is. Praise...critique...no matter, the show must go on, life must go on. This is the human condition.
"Showtime!" I am informed. The butterflies launch from their perch in unison to begin their wild and aerialbatic dance. I feel them as always, perhaps more so now in this final moment of glory. I could never tame the wild little things. Peeking out from behind the curtain, a full house! I smile...no I laugh from the sheer rush of joy! Each and every soul here for me! Eyes upon me, the star of the show. I never dreamt that I might touch so many souls. I have been blessed, truly I have. And here they were now, waiting for me, and I knew that they loved me for I could feel the love burning in my heart as I drew nearer them and they to me. I, in turn, loved them with a fierce reciprocity. I was who and what I was for them and because of them.
Curtain about to open...the butterflies now as though sparrows... I would miss the stage. I would miss my role. I would miss my fellow cast. I would miss my beloved audience. But I would savor every morsel of these, the final moments, of this encore presentation. I would give my very best!
As Time is so prone to do when one is caught up in rapture—living in that singular moment where one feels amidst the sinews the truth that there is indeed neither past nor future—it passed, the show was over, and the curtain closed. But tonight, there would be no curtain call. No last exchange with the audience, no final bow. It was all over. Now I would have that long overdue sleep…the peaceful rest.
As I closed my eyes for the final time that night, my last memory is of the taste of saline upon my lips from the lone teardrop that had fallen as I listened to the minister read my eulogy. It was such a beautiful monologue. And then I slept through the night.
This story first appeared in Raven Cage Zine, Issue 57 (May 28, 2021).
Yesterday, I was notified by the editor of Black Poppy Review that my most recent fiction piece, "The Ride," was accepted and published (read here). This was my first attempt at flash fiction (short stories under 1000 words). The goal of flash fiction is to present a big idea as simply, concisely, and truthfully as one can and this with the color of good prose. Flash fiction situates itself carefully upon the border of short fiction and poetry. I enjoyed the constraint of a limited word count as such forces the writer to focus on terse prose without losing the color and I, perhaps, paid even more attention to turns of phrase than I might have otherwise in longer form (though I can't be certain of this).
As I shared the draft prepublication, and others having since read the piece, readers have asked, "It is about death, isn't it?" or "Suicide?" To wit my reply is always that my job as a writer is done, the rest is up to the reader. All writers know that some meanings and themes emerge after piece's completion and were not necessarily in the mind of the writer during the process of creation. That would be way too convenient. Yet such reader-derived meanings and themes are equally valid. That is one of the joys of literature, is it not?
It is interesting to hear what others experience and see in the mind's eye upon reading one's work. Truly, "The Ride" should be read as a dark piece and that was my intent, after all, but who's to say that it might not also be interpreted (validly) by another reader in a more positive and optimistic light--say, as a treatise on how we tend to focus on the past and future so much that we miss out on the present moment? Something to remind us to LIVE NOW as now is all we've got...to motivate...not depress.
I won't say much more about the piece but I will part with this--There really isn't a middle story for our passenger and narrator and that much, dear reader, I can say was intentional. It is for you to write in your own mind, feel it as truth, and to live it out.
- S. Huey
Over the past few weeks I have completed two new short stories, "Hitogui," "The Old, Grey Barn," and a flash fiction piece titled "The Ride." I decided to submit "Hitogui" to three publishers, initially at least, and received a response back within twenty-four hours from The Chamber Magazine, a digital magazine showcasing short fiction, poetry, art, etc. of the darker bent. I thought my story would fit nicely there and I like what the publisher (himself a published author) is doing to help other creatives, particularly writers. Plus, the editor, Mr. Slattery, provided some editorial advice that shifted my story from what was initially a mere outline of an idea to a standalone piece.
"Hitogui" is complete in and of itself but the storyline is fertile ground for expansion of both plot and characters so there is some possibility that this could become my first novel-length work. We shall see where the muse takes it. It is a darker piece and, while I won't delve into the meaning and themes here (yes, they are there), rather permitting the reader to glean from it what he or she may. But to provide a small teaser--At root, the story is about the darkness that is always there, lurking in both shadow and light. There is much going on beneath our very noses that we either are blind to or, perhaps worse, choose to ignore. There is much ugly and evil in the world but what is ugly and evil to one can be beauty and good to another.
People who don't write always ask people who do, "Where do you get your ideas?" To which the honest writer generally answers, "I have absolutely no idea." And this is, in most cases, true. I can say that "Hitogui" was inspired by the time my wife and I spent in Japan, some familiarity with the Japanese culture, interest in their history, and fascination with the formality and ceremony often associated with things that others cultures (our own for example) take for granted and deem banal. Even after coming to know much about the aforementioned, there remains yet a mystery and darkness to Japan. That is about all that I can say.
The job of the writer is to tell a story as simply and truthfully as possible and it is the job of the reader to do the rest. Enjoy the story! I'll be sharing the link once published.