Free Fiction: “A Different League” (flash, noir)

Originally posted August 2013, at Akashic Books. Guidelines required a 750-word limit and a distinctly recognizable setting. Felicia’s isn’t downtown anymore, but everywhere else still exists, and looks a lot like this, under a certain light…

A Different League
by Carrie Cuinn
Downtown, Ithaca, NY

Two a.m. at The State Diner came with a refill on my half-drunk coffee and an impatient smile on the lips of the waitress who’d been hovering nearby. My appointment was late, but my wallet was empty, so I couldn’t afford to leave. A week of poor sleep, too much caffeine, and more than one drive-thru meal meant my stomach was churning like the Buttermilk Falls after a storm, but I glanced over the menu anyway.

“Turkey club, side of fries,” I said. She smiled for real this time, her eyes sparkling. If my taste ran to tired bottle-blondes with swollen feet, I might have chatted her up, but just then the bar crowd stumbled in. Carefully-trimmed beards, pastel plaids, and skinny jeans . . . hipsters from Felicia’s Atomic Lounge, drunk on Black Cherry Old Fashioneds and Fig Manhattans, the upscale cocktail-revival staples.

A petite beauty in a yellow dress disentangled herself from the pack. Naomi Le’s three-inch heels clicked against the tile floor until she paused at my booth, looked back over one shoulder, and quickly sat down. I wanted to tell her she was late, that she was a liar, but too much truth at once and she’d bolt. She had that look about her, as if she was only half-girl sitting on a black bench seat. Her sparrow half was already fluttering away.

“Are you hungry?” I asked instead.

“No,” she replied. “I couldn’t get away sooner. Derek got an internship in DC, and we were celebrating.” She tucked a strand of night-black hair behind one ear, revealing a diamond bigger than a pea.

“That’s a nice dress,” I said. “Vintage?”

She smiled, now on familiar ground. “It’s from Petrune, on the Commons. Have you been?”

“Sure, loads of times,” I lied. The waitress sidled up and set my order in front of me. I waved her away with, “We’re sharing, thanks.” She sighed, but left us alone.

I couldn’t afford to dress out of Petrune’s closet. $250 for a new jacket constructed in a vintage style made the shop popular; only a certain kind of rich could drop that amount of cash on a casual wardrobe. Cornell University had plenty of those, playing out college party fantasies on their absentee father’s dime, and I was just another day-player in Naomi’s life. But I was going to get paid before my scene ended.

I took a bite of my sandwich, enjoying the crispy bacon and the crunch of cool lettuce, before I said, “You were right. Your fiancé is having an affair.”

She gasped, her brown eyes going wide. It was almost believable.

“Are you sure?”

I pulled an envelope, fat with glossy photos, out of my pocket. “I tailed Derek for a week. During the day it was business as usual: classes on the Hill, studying at Olin. But Tuesday night he had a visit from a woman with red hair. She didn’t leave until after midnight.” I pulled one photo from the bunch and slid it across the Formica table. “Do you know her?”

She shook her head. “Was . . . was that the only time?”

“No. There was an overnight stay at The Statler Hotel, too.” I concentrated on my fries while she studied the woman in the photo.

“Do you have any that show her face?”

“Sorry. They were discreet. I only got what I did because I’m very good at my job.”

That line usually does the trick. She handed over a platinum card with a little nod. I scanned the numbers with my bank’s app, and authorized the payment. “I’ll email you a receipt,” I said as I handed the card back. She stuffed it and the photos into her pocketbook and stood up to go.

“What are you going to do?” I asked, staying seated.

She shrugged. “I don’t know. Our families are old friends. Our fathers golf together. I can’t just leave.”

“Of course. Good luck.”

She strolled back to her friends and nestled under Derek’s arm as if she’d never left. I pulled up an image on my phone, one I hadn’t had printed out: Naomi Le in a red wig, checking into The Statler with her fiancé.

They weren’t the first couple to play bad boyfriend/naughty mistress, though not many could afford a private eye to heighten the drama. But what did I care? Mr. Le’s allowance would be paying my rent this month, and tonight I didn’t have to stiff the waitress on the tip.

And that ain’t nothing.

An Obituary For @talkwordy

Correction: Brian J. White, known on Twitter as the estimable @talkwordy, is not dead in the literal sense. I mean, he’d want want you to know this fact. But a hilarious series of events caused @wa7trel to request this “obituary”, and I turn in my assignments as ordered.

Latest Obituaries: Local Spotlight

BRIAN J. JONAH JAMESON WHITE, of Boston, MA and Elsewhere. Beloved husband, newspaper editor, publisher, miscreant, and hedgehog fetishist, Mr. White died suddenly last week while announcing that he was stepping down from Fireside Magazine, which he had founded. White, who had quietly suffered for years from an embarrassing illness which caused uncontrollable shouting on the internet and an inability to use simple punctuation, passed away surround by his wife, cats, and a pile of improperly nibbled KitKat bars.

White’s death was announced online by his dear friend, , who immediately began gathering messages of grief and support from the community, under the hastag #RIPwordy. Hundreds of tweeters shared their favorite memories of the cantankerous clown-fondler, from the way he mangled candy with his face, to his innocent love of hedgehogs, and of course, his many cat pictures, which will be missed.

The family has been alerted to ongoing activity on White’s Twitter account, which seems to have been hacked after his death; though it’s unclear whether the faux-Wordy tweeting from this account now is a fan or a Markov bot, the cats have decided to hold off deleting @talkwordy for now, as a sign of respect for the community’s need to grieve. (The harsh language directed at @KitKat_US, the social media intern behind the official US account for Hershey Kit Kat, has caused some confusion, as it is especially on message for White’s brand.) Please bear in mind that any responses White’s Twitter bot provides should be consider parody, for entertainment purposes only.

White’s family has asked that in lieu of flowers, you consider supporting Fireside Magazine on Patreon, so the publication White began may continue to publish great stories, and pay writers well.

Those interested in reading a collection of newsletters, created by White and found in a desk drawer after his death, may subscribe to “his” Patreon here. (Though these newsletters will be checked for content and clarity before being sent to subscribers, White’s cats have stated for the record that as cats, they cannot read, so it’s possible a few clown references will sneak in.)

An “unofficial” public wake will be held at this year’s Readercon, in the bar.


I’ve been taking prompts from friends and fans who contribute to my rent and expenses, and writing them into flash length fiction stories. So far in this round, I’ve posted six other tales:

If you want to inspire your own story, you can get on the list by donating any amount via my PayPal, HERE. (Seriously, any amount. I appreciate the help.) You don’t need a PayPal account to use that link.

Two new fiction sales: Mad Scientist Journal and Kaleidotrope

I sold two pieces of original fiction this week, both on the 4th of July!

Since I’ve got the contracts, I can announce that “In Defense of a Water-Bound Adventure, My Dearest Fran” will be appearing in Mad Scientist Journal. The story will be published in their March 2018 print edition, and appear on the website in April 2018.

This is a sort-of followup to “On the Methods of Preserving and Dissecting Icthyo Sapiens” which Mad Scientist Journal published in 2013. It has the same “author”:

Dr. Stephen Mackle holds a Doctor of Science degree in Aquatic Biology from Cleveland College, and a Doctor of Agronomy degree from the Yerevan Veterinary Zootechnical Institute. He briefly taught at Huron Street Hospital College before leaving to pursue other research opportunities. He considers the study of Icthyo Sapiens and other aquatic cryptids to be his life’s work.

In the latest missive from Dr. Mackle, he’s tackling the biggest cryptid of his life, with a half-baked plan and a well-baked stack of apple pastries…

“Last Bus to What’s Left of Albuquerque” sold to Kaleidotrope, a new market for me, and will appear online in 2018. This story is set in one possible future which I think if you squint, you can see from where we’re standing. It’s about a man being released from prison, and the way we look at convicts as repeat-offenders who just haven’t had a chance to commit another crime yet.

I hope you’ll enjoy these stories, and I’ll keep you updated about them!

 

Bills to Pay and Words to Write

Updated 7/19/2017

It’s sometimes hard to make ends meet as a full-time freelancer. I’m always looking for new editing clients, applying for contract jobs, pitching for writing gigs–if you know of anything, please send it my way.

In the meantime, I’ve been taking prompts from friends and fans who contribute to my rent and expenses, and writing them into flash length fiction stories. So far in this round, I’ve posted:

If you want to inspire your own story, you can get on the list by donating any amount via my PayPal, HERE. (Seriously, any amount. I appreciate the help.) You don’t need a PayPal account to use that link.

You can give me a phrase, like “Dachshunds from Mars”, or individual prompts, like “forest stream, tall and short, violet, bunny, moons.” You can give me a name you’d like me to use for a character, or tell me what genre/time period your story should be in. (I reserve the right to say no, but as long as your ideas don’t include gratuitous sex or violence against vulnerable people, I probably won’t.) From your idea, I’ll write a flash fiction story of about 1000 words. I send the stories to the person who prompted them for review, and then post them here with a note about who gave me the prompt. You get credit for your ideas 🙂

Thank you.

Free Flash Fiction: “The Scent of Food is Memory and Love”

The Scent of Food is Memory and Love

Azedah took the leaves off of the last small, round eggplant, then cut through the dark purple flesh until she had turned it into a pile of thick slices. She added them to the others already simmering in olive oil in her largest frying pan, so wide it covered most of the cooktop on that side of the stove. When both sides were golden brown, she lifted the eggplant pieces out of the pan and put then aside to drain. Quickly, her fingers moving with long experience, she chopped a large yellow onion; the fine slices sizzled when they hit the hot oil left in the pan.

“Azedah,” the house said. “The visitors have arrived.”

“Ah, they are early! Is Yasmin out of the shower?”

“Yes. Yasmin is in the study,” the house replied.

Azedah stirred the onions with a worn wooden spatula, and the smell of their cooking spread across the large kitchen. “Ask Yasmine to greet our guests,” she said. Behind her, the pressure cooker beeped, its cycle finished. She tapped the “natural release” icon, and turned back to the stove.

She reached to her left – but her hand closed on empty air. Continue reading