Stories that have more holes than swiss cheese
an Esquire short short story (79 words or less)
Scars Never Heal
I was 7 when I raised a lofty, kid sized 9-iron to the trunk of our backyard Mimosa tree. My mother and father shouted that trees don’t deserve that. They gave me a standard hiding. I went to bed without supper. I drowned my pillow in tears that night.
My golf club terror begot the tree an insidious scar. I have heard someone has since cut that hapless, helpless tree down. “Why I treat that tree so poorly?”
That December Sunlight
Dan lurches up the aisle. The aisle created by the pews opposite each other. Fitted in his black wool suit; his winter’s beard thick, warm, and past the initial months of itchiness; white cotton collared shirt with knotted black tie; and shiny leather shoes he dons maybe once a year. He senses the moist eyes filling those pews all upon him in grievance. ‘That’s not what dad would want,’ he thinks.
Dan reaches the three steps that guide him to the altar. His eyes float to the ceramic urn that sits upon an awkwardly placed stand atop the three steps. ‘All that remains of my father is incarcerated in that fucking piece of pottery that Aunt Selma made,’ Dan thinks. He musters his remaining strength and ascends to the holy podium. He clutches it at last for stability as he turns to face those filled pews. Filled with family, friends of his father, some of his own friends, people he doesn’t know, his father’s co-workers at the Tribune—people all present to mourn the loss of a man.
Dan spews out: “I find myself thinking that my father is still alive. It really hasn’t sunk in that he’s left this world. For those of you I know, and those of you I don’t, I thank you for attending and sharing your stories and condolences. It means a lot.” He says a bunch of stuff he doesn’t know he’s even saying—it’s emotionless and he knows it. He doesn’t really feel anything, other than a heightened self-consciousness from all these people feeling sorry for him.
“As I’ve always thought, death is a part of life. It all gets us. I’m a realist. Just like my dad was. He had that joke he loved to tell, you could almost say it was his trademark. Yeah, it got old sometimes, but every time I heard him tell it somebody new laughed. He never overused it.”
“Why don’t you ever see the headline ‘Psychic Wins Lottery’?” The pews expunge a gathered chuckle amidst their silence and tears.
“That was always dad’s point: we don’t know what will come for us tomorrow, so we must make the most of today. We will move on from this. I remember how much he enjoyed every little second and always tried to make sure I did, too, or anyone for that matter.”
He thanks them again then the organ and the church’s choir head leads into “Amazing Grace”. Those in the pews go from sitting to standing almost instantaneously.
After the pews initially filter out a bit, Dan grabs his charcoal peacoat and black leather gloves, as well as the piece of pottery that houses his father. He runs across the trafficless boulevard and jogs the two blocks to the beach. Once on the sand Dan dumps out the urn, takes his gloves off, and makes a sandcake like he and his father used to. Except now he compacts his fathers remains with some wet sand. He covers it in a tad of dry sand then repacks it with wet sand again—“That’s the secret to keeping it together,” he hears his father saying.
Dan chucks the sand/ashcake as far as he can into the breaking surf—it sails over the shorepound and lands in the docile frigid Atlantic with a definitive kerr-plunkk. He collapses cross-legged onto the sand and finds himself crying for the first time since his father’s passing. The December sun eventually dries his bearded face.
Bunnies, Sweat, And Tears
It was an oppressively muggy summer weekday. I reveled in the day’s sunlight as an 11-year-old kid free from the oppression of school that usually hindered my outside, worldly pursuits. But chores were to be completed before I could run rampant with the neighborhood kids. This was the first summer I helped with the duty of cutting the grass on our acre of land—a chore that would become solely mine over my formative teenaged years.
New to it, I saw it as an opportunity for more responsibility and becoming an adult. And I got off pretty easy in hindsight. Other kids I knew had to use those frustrating push mowers while my parents owned an 80s red Snapper riding mower with a comfy cushion. I felt like I was on the path to one day driving.
My early task was just to cut the rather large and easily navigable backyard. It offered little obstacles and I found solace in the loud motor humming underneath me and in my control, shearing away the direct results of photosynthesis while I dripped sweat under the shade of my worn out, royal blue New York Mets cap. Task done in under forty minutes.
Mom took over for me after I finished up to take on the harder-to-navigate sideyard. I headed inside for some of the fresh iced tea she had just brewed. The mower started up and the final grass in our yard awaited it’s cutting.
After pouring the cold brew into a glass I sat at the kitchen table for a moment. Suddenly I heard the constant hum of the mower stop—and my mom screaming. I bolted out the door to find a family of bunnies mutilated at her feet, torn to shreds, their dying breaths happening before my eyes. It was agony, misery, a family of brothers and sisters and a mom and a dad literally torn apart, and I was staring right at it. My mother sit back on the red mower and lay her head in her folded arms on the white handlebars, bawling. I don’t know whether her face of total devastation or the pile of shredded fur and bunny was more painful to look at. Out of pure compassion for my mother’s pain I somehow managed to mutter, “There isn’t anything you or them could have done mom,” and found tears running down my face mixing with sweat.
Essay #4 Final Draft
November 8th, 2004
Within every society there are realities and falsehoods, noble aspects and corrupt pieces. No society has ever been or ever will be perfect; the world is just not that way. But there is the possibility for a society to be completely unethical and false-hearted, and America is making a strong run at this “achievement”. Face it, every aspect of America revolves around money; from getting an education to just having food. But just having the things we need isn’t enough; Americans need the biggest and shiniest of everything. Americans are the most materialistic people in the world. We need to feel dominant over others. Where do these “values” come from? Hollywood. Hollywood sets the examples for everyone else to follow. And the biggest impression Hollywood has is on children. The second most important thing in American culture is movies and television. We are presenting the wrong morals to the children of America.
Throughout all of television, one can find shows that talk about how rich certain celebrities are, or how many houses they own. Or we see these idiotic “reality” television shows that are just regular people trying to score some money and get fifteen minutes of fame; not to mention producers just trying to make more money. What are kids supposed to think? When they see all of this on television, obviously they will believe that one day it will be their turn, and that it is their given right to have lots of cars and money. But that isn’t the way it works. American children are starting to believe that they can do absolutely nothing with their lives, and they will still be rich and living in mansions. This brings up another good point of why we should change our ways; American children are becoming lazier than ever.
Obesity rates in children in the United States are skyrocketing. If children spent more time exercising and studying then they do watching the Real World or American Idol, America would have a much brighter future. (And what comes from these shows? Nothing. It is certainly not reality, it is a distorted reality. It is just people that aren’t famous playing parts in a dumb storyline) But instead these children are withering away, believing that they can actually have a ‘rich’ life by not getting educated. If this trend continues, the future of American society is in great risk.
I am not saying that America is pitiful and that we are all going to rot one day, not at all. I am simply saying that we need to reevaluate our morals, because they are heading down a road that leads to no good. If we allow the children of America to grow up with improper morals, what happens when they are adults and are running the country? Parents and the leaders of America have to take control. First of all we need to put more emphasis on education. America’s young people are seeing that money can be gained without education, and this is one of the worst morals I have ever seen. Everyone needs an education, education is the way one grows and succeeds in life. Second of all we must not let Hollywood establish the mindset of our society. It should be determined by people that are not putting ideas out there just to make money. Third and probably most important, we need to realize that money is not the most important thing in life. Society tells us that the most successful people in life are those with the biggest houses and fanciest cars. There is nothing in this world more false. The most successful people in life are those with the biggest hearts and most honorability. America needs to realize this. But frankly, I’m not sure if America is capable of this. So I leave it to you, are we capable of this? Can we turn our society around, away from one that is run by Hollywood, and lead the youth towards a bright future?
an excerpt from
The American Dream Is What You Make For Yourself
We lose the sun out over the plains of Colorado. Right before we hit the mountains dark emerges. We ascend into the mountains—a different darkness from the Missouri woods, but one of the same American mold. Colorado has always been a mystery to me. Somewhere I’d never been yet heard so much about from my father’s tales of his years spent there. He left one day on a bus headed for there. I knew something about Colorado had to be worthwhile. It had snowed here days before—the predecessor to our rainy Missouri camping.
It was Friday night and Colorado Springs was lit up like an old mining town on festival night. I parked the mechanical coach and we hoofed it to the first saloon we could find to rid the dust with a brew.
Beers in hand we took to stools and gulped that first sip that makes you wanna go, “Ahhhhhhhhhaaa yessss.”
“Haahhhaaa, Ry, check out the tv. It’s Falcon,” Mike laughs out.
Our first look at a story we had been hearing about all day driving through the wry plains of Kansas. The lack of radio stations kept us constantly updated on this oddity. It’d be comical enough if he was simply identified as “Balloon Boy” for his accidental rampant getaway in his family’s hot-air balloon that’s kept in the backyard. Yet his name was actually Falcon. Mama Derski [who is about to stroll in any minute now] had informed us while walking out of the bank earlier in the day she had seen a hot-air balloon in the recognizable distance. He was famous. The faces and interviews of his parents remained on the screen. After all, they had been on a reality television program.
Mama Derski dips into the bar dressed in a pink turtle neck, striped ski jacket, black snowpants, white boots, ski goggles around her neck, undulating hair pulled up.
“I’ve got a gig working at the Halloween costume store down the street,” she explains the get-up as she orders a Budweiser.
We follow Bessie [her bluuueee ’98 Oldsmobile] through the foreign streets and neighborhoods of Colorado Springs. We stop and grab a 30-pack of Bud.
It’s crazy how you can see a friend from the past, a person so influential in your formative years as a teenager, and things pick up right where they left off. “When I’m driving in my car, barreling down the highway, bearing down on my next stopping point, I’m completely at peace. And if you’ve never pushed yourself in those situations you can’t understand the wholeness that it does for you,” Derski tells it how it is.
“People could take trips and explore and adventure but they don’t because they’re scared. Scared of leaving their little shell of a job, a house, and their day to day meanderings. Scared of what they’ll find. It’s pathetic.”
She’s wild, curly hair bouncing, bohemian reality emanates from her. Life and this world are here for her to utilize everything she can. At the moment she utilizes the whiskey bottle in one hand and the bowl pack in the other.
She promised she’d drive her friend to the airport, or else we’d have gone for a hike together. After picking up a quick 7-11 coffee and donuts, gazing upon Pike’s Peak, we slowly part ways from our foggy states—the 30 pack and bottle of Jack lay on the counter, empty. Mike and I head out on the dusty interstate, the radio hums: On a long and lonesome highway, east of Omaha… Just miles from our departure with Mama Derski we spot a sign for Red Rocks. I steer the car towards the iconic natural arena.