The Broken Road (Flash Fiction)


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Centralia, PA – ©2018 DAMGarrity 

There was this road; this cracked, steamy, dilapidated road I heard about in a bar twenty miles outside of the small town of Centralia, PA.  The gentleman (I use that term loosely) who spoke of the road was so inebriated, I could scarcely tell if it was a whacked out story handed down through generations or if there was truth to the tale.

But I had to know.  That was my nature.  I had to get to the bottom of everything.  So, like a snake slithering back into the trees, I slipped out of the bar and headed for Centralia. I drove around that bright, sunny Sunday afternoon and finally saw the sign:

CENTRALIA – 2 MILES

Yes!  I overheard the road was closed.  And why wouldn’t it be?  Apparently, it was in no condition to handle any kind of traffic.  There were cracks and graffiti; steam and overgrown weeds. I came around a bend and I saw the cemetery on Highway 61 that was mentioned. It was old Highway 61 I was searching for and it shot right off of new Highway 61.

I made it!  I could go back to the city and tell everyone about the broken road I had stumbled upon.  Well, I could have. I failed to heed any advice in the tale. Like a fool, I traveled the road by auto instead of by foot.

There was a large crack in the road, I hadn’t noticed it really if you could believe that.  I was too busy gazing at all the profane graffiti on the sun-baked asphalt while catching glimpses of steam shooting out from cracks far down the broken road.

I navigated a large crater, and without a rumble, the ground opened wide and swallowed me whole.  It was almost as if the broken road had been waiting to feast on something to quell its burning innards.

I always did have terrible timing.

*Originally published in 2012

**Centralia, PA is a real place with a real broken road. Please visit this link for more information:  http://www.centraliapa.org/history-centralia-pa-before-1962/

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/broken/

The Journey or the Finish

 

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Image: Pixabay

Short Story – I had to commit to the journey or the finish… I wasn’t even sure what that meant when they told me to check one box. 

“Only check one box. If you check both boxes they’ll send you to the back of the line and you’ll have to start over,” a shaggy man in a red flannel whispered.

I glanced around the open space at people sitting and standing – everyone around me looked like the shaggy man – as some filled out forms and others sat in rickety chairs held together by wire and clothespins.

“What is this place?” I whispered back. I felt like I had been running for my entire life what with my palpable exhaustion oozing out of me like a stench-filled puss and I was surprised, shocked really, that after all that running this is where I ended up.

He furrowed his brow and slunk his shoulders and I got a strange vibe.

I leaned in closer and asked in a barely audible voice, “Is that what happened to you?”

He nodded twice as his shoulders drooped so low I thought he’d fold into himself and then his eyes shifted to the left.

Naturally, I too, looked left and then saw an enormous and elongated creature leaning against a textured wall that looked like rice, but how could there be a wall of rice? It made no sense – none of this made sense. This creature had six limbs yet it stood upright with twelve eyes (I counted) and all it did was hiss and spit at anyone who moved too slow.

Was I dreaming? Was I fucking high? What the hell was going on?

Finally, it was my turn and I bid my strange friend ado as I walked up to the long table and stated my name.

“Which is your commitment? The journey or the destination?” one of the three creatures at the table asked, holding a box to its chin.

“Why do I have to commit? What if I change my mind?” I answered. A stabbing pain shot up my spine and I wiggled as I tried not to fall to the floor.

“Which is your commitment?” a second creature asked after holding a box to its chin.

A million thoughts flashed through my mind in a second but the biggest one was: How could I commit to the finish when I had no idea what I was starting? What would be between there and here? What if I just ended up at the finish and I hated it?

“I commit to the journey,” I stated and puffed out my chest and looked in all twelve eyes.

There was silence followed by a growing buzz of voices.

The creature stared at me and then placed the box on the table and raised four of its limbs to the air.

My heart raced as it climbed out of its prospective spot and lodged in my throat. Damn, I’m a goner. 

“Only rare specimens commit to the journey. Good luck Mr. Walker,” the creature hissed as it held that box to its throat.

The air swirled and popped and then I fell through the floor into the black.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/commit/

Panicked in the Subway

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I am freaked out… panicked.

Things were going well with my friends as we slammed back shot after shot.

Now I am in the subway.

But where?

I don’t remember seeing signs for a subway.

I look left.

I look right.

No light at either end of the tunnel.

It’s so dark.

I should start walking.

Oh gosh, am I still drunk?

The floor is vibrating and…

Now I see light at the end of the tunnel.

I should start running.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/panicked/

Mind Control

via Daily Prompt: Control

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How much control do I really have?

The only thing I can control is my mind.

So when I get that urge to sneak out of the house in the middle of the night, and slink down to the bad part of town I avoid like the plague, I have to beat those thoughts back with common sense. I have to control them.

It’s not easy.

I blame so many people, places and things when the battle becomes exhausting in this never ending war on my sanity – my life.

I haven’t been to that place, that hell, that devil’s den of bad choices in almost eleven years.

Those thoughts blossom in my mind when I get comfortable and complacent. They sprout like sick weeds in a garden of naive flowers.

No matter how many weeds I pull or kill, new ones grow and wait, searching for that weak crack in my foundation.

Control? I have enough to keep me alive.

Mixed Tape – #thedailypost

Put together a musical playlist of songs that describe your life, including what you hope your future entails. 

My life has been a seesaw of peace and calamity as well as joy and chaos. Can’t appreciate one without the other, right? If I really sat down to put a musical playlist of songs that describe my life, I’d be sitting here ’til next Tuesday.
So, I picked some songs that resonated with me during the decade.

Here is my lifetime mixed tape:

In the 70’s, my favorite music was disco and rock. I loved the Bee Gees. And I used to walk around the house singing ‘Staying Alive’ while playing my plastic Bee Gees guitar. Yeah, I still wonder why I’m not a famous rock star!

As I got older, I tip toed away from disco balls and bell bottoms and got into all things Purple and Rainy in the 80’s.

And then in my twenties, I went all kinds of crazy as I jumped from rap, to rock to grunge and then landed firmly on heavy metal in the 90’s.

In the 00’s, I got into heavier metal and also into the Philly scene of local musical artists.

These days, I listen to everything, although my heart is stapled to disco and heavy metal… which is hilarious when you really get down, get down into the mosh pit of it.
I’m seeing Metallica this week in Philly, but right now, my thing is the Sons of Anarchy soundtracks and any other kind of dark country.

My future entails excitement! A published book! Adventure!

What are some of your favorite tunes?

Knackered #TheDailyPost

 

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phillymag.com

 

I tread through the concrete jungle, hot and wilted like a neglected plant. My brow sweats with exhaustion as my cracked lips beg for moisture.

The irony is not lost on me.

I’ve been walking for two days now.

The sun browns my skin as I find a shaded stoop to rest.

I slide my knackered body back against the cracked, split door.

This place is familiar.

via Daily Prompt: Knackered

 

Flash Fiction – The Leaf

Carmine Carmichael smoked his last cigarette twenty minutes ago.  The sun rose above the row homes on Sutter Street as he sat down on the marble steps at the corner.  He hadn’t slept in three days, hadn’t eaten in two days and hallucinations had begun.  His four-week-old blue jeans felt crunchy as he ran his hands up his shins, to his knees and then his thighs.

A dead leaf blew down the sidewalk, past his battered sneakers and he thought of how peaceful the dead leaf must have felt. It was, after all, devoid of all feeling.  The leaf had lived its life on a tree somewhere as people passed it by without a thought.

Carmine knew exactly how that little leaf felt. Another leaf blew past and Carmine reached his filthy hand down and scooped it up with care. The weak stem felt dry in his fingers as he twirled it around, looking at the rips in the body of the little leaf.

“I’ll bet you were once so beautiful, little leaf, just like me.  I was a strong man once, little leaf.”

The little leaf stood lifeless in his fingers and Carmine felt his eyes well up as he clutched the leaf to his chest. Little leaf pieces fell to the ground as Carmine sobbed.

Footsteps echoed in the distance and Carmine put his filthy hands back on his thighs and watched the leaf blow away in a dozen pieces.  Carmine watched as shiny, pristine shoes stepped on and over the leaf.

Carmine knew just how that little leaf felt.

Vengeful Noodles – Flash Fiction

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Noodles lived in a decent part of the city.  His wife left him five years ago for a circus clown named Rickety Randy the Rolling Roundhouse.  Noodles couldn’t figure it out.  The ostentatious Rickety.  He would purposely wear a purple beep nose just to show everyone else up at the circus with their plain red noses.  Oh, and that flower that squirted Chardonnay.  What was he thinking?  Frigging loser.  Everyone knew he squirted the flower wine into his own mouth because he was such a drunken lush.  He would beep his nose and squirt the flower at least every twenty-seven seconds.  The clown of clowns was falling down drunk in an hour. Turned out he had a hose connected to a plastic pack riding his back filled with his juice.

A freaking drunk clown!  Noodles was mortified.  Noodles swore revenge on Randy, but never got the chance.  Rickety Randy had been at the main gig at a two ring circus in Burgboro. His only job was to arm/paw wrestle Turdster the Tiger while simultaneously playing catch with a six hundred pound bear named Scuttles.  Turned out Scuttles and Turdster had a deep-seated hatred for each other and amidst the paw fight between the two, Rickety slipped on Tiger drool and broke his neck.  Turdster and Scuttles took turns eating Rickety much to the absolute horror of the crowd.

To this day Noodles sends his ex-wife a subscription to Circus Animals Weekly each year.

The Visit – A Short Story

DSCN1021© 2017 DAMSteelman

Leaves crunched under Becca’s feet as she walked toward the gazebo. She remembered to get flowers other than roses this time to spare her hands. A chill pierced through her pants as she sighed and sat on the curved, marble bench under the big oak tree.
“I can’t believe I am here again. I swore I’d never come back,” she whispered and looked at the gazebo on the hill, amazed at the thick mass of starlings that sat atop looking back.
“You’ll always come back. Always,” Charlie said, a touch of exasperation in his voice.
“What’s your problem?” Becca asked as she laid the lilies on the bench next to her.
“My problem is you said you were gonna come with me and yet here we are, still arguing about it. The flowers are pretty. Too bad they’re not roses.”
Becca pursed her lips, “Yeah, well, I had second thoughts. And the roses hurt my hands, not that you give a damn.”
“Second thoughts? We made a pact, remember? A promise?” Charlie said and stood in front of her.
“Did we? I don’t remember saying anything of the sort. Besides, you know how I feel about heights.”
Charlie laughed and moved closer. “You know how I feel about roses. And it’s not like you’d feel anything.”
“I guess I am supposed to be afraid of you now or something?” Becca scoffed and stood up.
“Okay, okay. I’m sorry, please don’t leave yet. I just want to talk,” Charlie pleaded and knelt on the ground. “Please.”
“Fine. But I already told you that I am staying here,” she said. “I like it here.”
“What? Are you kidding me? Six months ago you told me you hated it and wanted out. Remember? Remember that conversation at the cliff? We cut our hands and joined them for eternal solidarity? That conversation is why I’m here and you’re there.” Charlie walked over to the tree and tried to lean against it, his efforts in vain. “You’ve got no sense of loyalty.”
“Yes, Charlie. I remember. I remember everything. That’s the problem. Do you know what else I remember?”
A stiff breeze raked the temperature down as storm clouds claimed victory over the sun.
“Don’t.” He said and laid on the ground.
“Why are you lying down?” Becca asked as she zipped up her jacket. “I’m trying to tell you how I feel.”
“It’s exhausting, all this walking and talking. It’s different for me now.” He sat up slowly and looked at the flowers.
Becca laughed, “Different.” Her upper lip quivered as she rubbed her arms. “Seems the same to me, always blowing me off.”
“Are you going to cry? Don’t cry. I’m telling you, if you listened to me, things would be great.”
“I always listened to you and things were never great,” Becca shouted.
“Come on, it’s wonderful, I promise. I keep my promises,” he said. “Do you still have the bottle? Did you bring it?”
Becca looked back at the car on the dirt road, “No.”
Charlie stared at her emotionless. “You’re lying. I know when you’re lying and I can tell you’re lying. Go get it. Come on, go get it.” He said and crossed his arms.
Becca walked over to the headstone, “Why are you doing this to me? You haunt my dreams, I smell you all the time and…” she trailed off as she watched Charlie move slowly toward her.
“Don’t you miss me, Becca? Don’t you miss me touching you and kissing you?” Charlie said as he extended his arms in her direction, a solemn look crossing his face.
Becca plopped down on the bench and pressed her face into her hands, “Yes. I miss you, I swear I do.” She sobbed.
“Then come on, we can be together forever. We can be lovers again and not worry about anything. It’s so beautiful. Please, Becca. Don’t be selfish,” Charlie said as he sat next to her on the bench.
Becca stood up. “Okay,” she said and walked back to the car.
She returned holding a small, brown bottle with a tattered ivory label. The typeface had been worn off from years of handling.
“You did bring it!” Charlie said.
“Yes, because I had to show you how I really feel.”
“Oh sweetheart, finally we can be together forever,” Charlie whispered and stepped close to Becca’s body. She expected to feel heat or cold – something, emanating from his body.
She opened the bottle, looked into Charlie’s empty, black eyes and placed the cap into her front pocket. Then, she turned the bottle upside down and watched the liquid pour out onto the parched grass.
“What are you doing?” Charlie gasped. “I thought you wanted to be with me forever? Are you insane?”
“I changed my mind, Charlie.”
“You can’t do that. You promised. I’ll keep haunting you. I told you we’d be together forever. I wasn’t kidding, you know.”
“I know. It’s a chance I have to take, Charlie,” Becca said and threw the flowers on the grave. The starlings chattered and flew off together as Becca walked away from the grave.
“It’ll be different for me now too, Charlie.” She said as she got in the car and drove away.

Flash Fiction: Coming To Get You

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Today I walked down the street, making it a point to look each stranger I passed directly in his or her eyeball.  Most people cannot look at me long because they know I am the Truth Seeker.  I seek the truth in random passersby and after making my determination of their worthiness, I pass along the information to my boss.

Now, my boss is an interesting character in that he seems to let the good suffer incredibly long while the bad seem to suffer hardly at all.

This is where I come into the picture.  I am the one who gets things done here in this (what some would call God Forsaken) world. I am the one that takes the best of the best from this Earth and I put them in a place where evil will no longer come to them.

See, my boss has it all sorted out for all the beings on this planet and he has made me his right-hand person through all of it.

Oh, here comes one now.  I am staring into her ice blue eyeball as she approaches me.  She pretends she does not see me, but I know she does.  I am the Truth Seeker!

Ok, she passed me with a scowl.  Almost everyone that passes me scowls at me when they see me leering into their eyeballs like some creepy pirate. I laugh just loud enough to confuse them when I get looks like that.

Alright, I got her profile.

She is a grump, insecure and poor at time management.  However, she is an inherently good person that has had a rough life, so I will just have to make something happen in her life that impacts her and gets her thinking on a more “constructive” level if you catch my drift.

Ooh, here comes a good one.  This guy in his BMW just cursed out some poor old lady! He’ll never catch on, but still, I like to toy with the self-righteous.  You would be surprised how many people do not catch on to these little obstructions I put into their path.  People seem to think in terms of the self too often and when something profound in their life takes place, they say things like “shit happens” or “it is what it is.”

Uh, no. Nothing just happens, people!  Gosh, it annoys me so much that these humans think it is all about them and that all the things that happen in their life is on an “it is what it is” basis!

Oh, I am sorry.  I forgot to introduce myself!  Most people call me Karma, some call me Fate, others don’t give me a name.  I am always watching and I will get you when you least expect it. You can call me whatever you like, you’ll know me when you meet me.

*Story published on my old blog in 2012