Independence Day

You make look at the title and think I am American, or that this is about the holiday or aliens. None of those are true. This was a half finished work based on a prompt somewhere along the lines of “a character finally making their only decisions” I took that and ran with it, going with a character that let someone run his life until the day he said no.

“No” The sound of his heart pounded in his ears, as his face burned. He felt like he couldn’t breath, and the silence went on far too long for comfort. He had finally said it.

“No?” Lana asked, disbelief plain in her voice.

It was easier the the second time. “No.” His voice sounded oddly calm even to his own ears, and he finally raised his eyes to meet hers dead on.

Lana didn’t even look that angry, it was more condescension in her pose. Like he was a disobedient child, or a puppy that had made a mess on the rug.

He wasn’t sure how they had gotten here. How had he let it get this bad?

“Don’t be stupid, we both know you are going to take the job.” Disdain dripped from every word and he couldn’t take it anymore, interrupting her before she could continue.

“No, I am not.” He said evenly.

“So, what, you are just going to quit? Be unemployed, be nothing? You are on a good path Bran. Its a growing company, its only managing one person now, but in a few years it could be a whole department. You could be something.”

He cut her off again. “I am something, and I don’t want it Lan. I”

It was her turn to cut him off. “You don’t want it? You aren’t 15 anymore, Bran. Rent, food, these things ringing any bells?” She sounded like his mother.

“Lan,” He started, he hadn’t wanted it to go this way.

“Don’t Lan, me. I let you live here, for next to nothing. I agreed to this to help you get on your feet, to make something of yourself. Because lets face it, a little pressure and you just collapse. But I am not going to just let you fuck off, and ruin your life. Either you take the job, or you find another place to live.”

“You aren’t my mother.” He cringed internally, this isn’t where he wanted to go with this.

“What the hell does your mother have to do with this?” She sounded offended.

“You don’t remember? Really, Lana? The reason I moved in with you in the first place, it wasn’t the “pressure”. It was my mom. She told me that I either went pre-law, or she wouldn’t pay. So I got the scholarship, and I moved in with you. And ya, for that first little bit I guess I needed help. I was so used to letting Mom decide everything about my life, that I kind of lost it when I left.” He took and deep breath and continued.

“I should have stepped up, but it was a lot with school. So I let you take over, and I shouldn’t have. Or I shouldn’t have for so long, but Lan, its my life. MY life. I get to pick my own job, and ya you don’t have to rent me a room for dirt cheap. But if you are renting me that room, as long as I pay the rent, you don’t get to tell me how I pay it. “

“I can’t believe this. You are honestly comparing me to your mother? Unlike her I have your best interests at heart. I know you, you couldn’t be a lawyer, but you can do this job. You could be okay doing this job.”

“You’re right, I could.” And the victory on her face faded as he continued. “But I want to be more than just okay. I wanna be happy.”

“I get that you think that, but I am not going to stand around and watch you throw everything away. My decision stands, either you take the position, or you find another place to live next month.”

He stood silent, and he hated that this is what it had come to. “Are you sure?” He asked a little desperate.

“It’s two weeks, and its your decision.”

“Ok.” He swallowed, and nodded. “Ok, if you are sure.”

“I am, and deep down you know that this is the right thing. You,”

He cut her off. “I am not taking the job.”

“Seriously?” She sounded bewildered.

“Serious, Lan.” He replied, voice even.

“And where exactly do you plan to live when you are unemployed?” She demanded.

“I won’t be unemployed Lana. Its a promotion and one that I am in no way obligated to apply for. I will still have my current position, and enough time to work on my art. I know its a long shot. I know the chance of ever making what I need to live on it is low, but its something I need to do.” He tried to explain. Lana would understand, wouldn’t she?

“Brandon,” She started, and he knew this was it for them, the patronizing tone of her voice setting his teeth on edge. “You make rent here, food, your art supplies, and you what save 50-100 dollars a month. You cant afford a place on your own, you are going to what find a roommate?”

He could, but that wasn’t the direction he was going. “I am going to be moving in with Christopher.” He stated, and it felt like this argument had been going on for an eternity.

Lana scoffed. “I would have thought being his sugar baby would have been below you, but then again I assumed you were smarter than this.”

Line officially crossed. A thousand biting retorts came to his lips, the advantage and disadvantage of being old friends is you knew every soft spot to hit. He stopped himself though, what was the point.

What he said instead was. “I am really going to miss you.”

Lana sighed, sounding defeated. “It’s okay, I will be right here waiting for you when you realize you made a mistake. Just like always am.”

“Goodbye,” He said simply, and she turned and stormed out. He just stared for a bit at the door before shooting off a text to Christopher.

It only took an hour and a half for a team of professional movers to come and go with his stuff. He had left his keys on the table, and locked up with the spare. He had hid it away, and walked out of the building. He had gotten inro the car Christopher had sent for him, and never looked back.

That was 30 years ago, and he could remember it like it was yesterday. He had tried to get a hold of Lana, but she was unwilling to back down that he was making a mistake. He looked down at his desk, where a picture of his eldest sat. It was of his university graduation, and there he stood, happy with Brandon and Christopher flanking him in the traditional proud parents pose. Thank god, Brandon thought, that I said no.


So this is a mid-week bonus. Feeling a little bleh following my second Covid-19 vaccine and so I decided to try Jimmie’s prompt of a pair of boots hanging from a fence. Its dark, deals with loss, and has a narrator of no specified gender. Based on some real experience as I finally “experienced” a loss several months later as I saw something in a store that the person would have liked, and picked it up before I remembered…

I was dazed, as the police stood at my door and told me what had occurred.

I was numb, at the hospital, as the doctors explained that nothing more could be done.

I was disinterested, at the funeral home as I made the arrangements.

I was aloof, as I ignored the accusing glares of those who thought I should not be so dry-eyed at the burial.

I was callous, as I packed up half my life in boxes and gave it away.

I was indifferent, as I learned that I would lose the house.

I was detached, as I chose what was important to come with me to my tiny apartment.

I was devastated, as I walked by the gate for the last time and saw her boots hanging from it

I was crushed, as I realized that I would never be able to laugh at her ridiculous footwear again.

I was wrecked, as I sank to the ground crying in the driveway of the house we had shared.  

I was destroyed, as I understood that nothing would ever be the same again now that she was gone.

The Choice

So this is something I wrote for for new years. It was based on the prompt “Start your story with one character making a vow that they never would have made the year before.”. It is a tragically sad piece, warnings include suicide, depression, drug and alcohol dependence. This is a tragedy, so be forewarned. Please tell me if I missed any warnings.

“I choose myself’”

Les sighed as he made the vow, and he turned his collar up against the harsh wind. He looked down over the edge of the building. This building was 100-126 feet tall; he knows that because stating the estimated building heights from the number of floors was something Cal used to do as they walked by them. Every time they walked by one over 8 floors actually. It was a little-known fact but if you fall from a distance 48 feet you have a 50% chance of dying, if you take that up to 98 feet it increases your odds to 90%. 

On one of his darker days Cal had come up with the idea height of at least 100 feet, and mapped out every building above that height within walking distance of their 1-bedroom apartment. Then during his daily walks, he had visited each building, went to the top and scoped out the view. His reasoning was that if it was the last thing you were going to see you wanted it to be good. While some stuck to the more prominent, and taller buildings, Cal argued that they were heavily monitored for just this reason, and that he wanted to be sure to get it done right.

When Les had found out what Cal had been up to on the walks his therapist had recommended as an exercise to help with his depression, Les made an effort to make sure Cal no longer went alone.  To the point where at one time Les had almost lost his job after too many call ins to go walking with Cal, and had tried to set up a rotation to trade off with a few of their closer friends. 

It didn’t matter though, because Cal had stopped walking a few weeks later, and gotten more involved in his art. Les had seen it as a good sign at the time, but looking back, it was the beginning of the end. If you had asked Les then what he would do if he lost Cal, he would have said he wouldn’t be able to go on. Back then, maybe he couldn’t have. 

It wasn’t the first time they had gone down that road, with Cal landing himself in the hospital, and Les following soon after. In fact, twice in the 8 years they were together it was the other way around, with Les OD’ing, and Cal following to a locked ward days in. Dangerously co-dependent was the clinical term that the doctors used to describe it, madly in love was how they described themselves. Like Romeo and Juliet, Les used to say, I choose us over everything else, even life.

This past year had been different though, in that Cal had actually asked that Les start going to therapy again. That he quit the day drinking, and focus more on doing what he loved, on being happy as a New Years resolution. He went along with it, not because he believed in it, just because Cal has asked him and Les never could say no to him. Cal who followed through by walking Les to his weekly appointments, and holding his curls back in a make shift ponytail, and out of the line of fire as he spent countless nights in the bathroom drying out. 

Cal who organized Les’s leave from work, through the company’s employee assistance program. Being self employed, Cal had given a few of his better works, the ones he had always refused to sell off before now to his agent, and made a pretty penny. At the time Les had seen it as a great sacrifice, looking back it was another sign of what was to come.

It was a harsh few months, but things looked up. Les, who had always been told by his family that he wouldn’t make it to 30 and spent the last decade doing his damnedest to make sure he lived up to that, was, maybe for the first time since he left home at 17.  He went to the same job each day, but it was such a different experience that after a week back at work, rather than putting in his two weeks notice, he put in for extra hours.

It seemed that the mind-numbing monotony wasn’t the job, it was him. It wasn’t just work, it was everything, he felt like Dorothy, living in a world that was black and white and just now discovering color. Food tasted, better, more, everything was more, even the bad things, but something about them being more real made it easier, and Cal, Cal was better than he had been in years. 

They started planning a life together, 8 years and they had never planned, well anything. They called it living in the now, but really it was another way of saying dead broke in a shitty apartment full of too much booze and not enough food. Now though, they were saving money, between Cal’s commissions, his newer works flying out the door, and Les’s extra hours meant that they could look past just paying the rent. They were looking at nicer neighborhoods, they spoke to a financial adviser, they were adulting, and for the first time with some degree of success. 

They moved at the end of the summer, or the beginning of fall depending on who you asked, into a place that was a bit more suburban than Les thought they would ever end up in. It was in a nicer neighborhood, the place bigger and more done up than the one they had left, and for a rent that Les could afford on his own. Cal had said it was so that he could rent a studio, keep his art out of their place, so that they could get that dog they always wanted. When he showed up with Teddy, the 5-month-old chocolate lab mix that had just enough pit-bull in her to be abandoned by owners looking to start a family, Les let that last nagging doubt leave his mind. That had been another mistake.

Despite being the one to bring the dog home, Cal didn’t seem to want to spend much time with their new fur-baby. He rented a small studio space, a room basically, with a sink, a 20-minute bus ride from their apartment, and started to spend his days there when Les was at work. The commissions kept rolling in, and so Les didn’t question the change.

He didn’t question it when Cal wanted them to get involved with the local community, even though neither one of them had ever been what you would call joiners. Cal had joined a few of the local artist groups, and Les had joined a monthly book club and started dropping in on various writing events. By the time Thanksgiving rolled around Les was invited to no less than three different dinners and a potluck at the community center, having made quite a few more friends in the area than he expected. 

Cal joined him at two of the dinners and the potluck, and begged off the third saying he was heading to an art opening with a few of his new friends, but didn’t want Les to miss out. Les was so drained from the jam-packed weekend, it was the first year he didn’t think about the fact he wasn’t welcome back at home. He didn’t even have the energy to question the fact he hadn’t met any of these new friends of Cal’s, the ones he had spent so much time with in the weeks leading up to and out of the holidays.

He didn’t question any of it until that dark wintery day, he got home from walking the dog after work, and was greeted by a pair of somber looking police officers. Then he questioned everything, why he hadn’t seen it all. The rent he could afford alone, the dog Cal never let get attached to him to share the space, the community he was now deeply entrenched in with new friends, a support system, Cal leaving him for increasing amount of time to get him used to being without him, and the studio being on the 5th floor of a building that was over 100 feet tall, and had an amazing view from the roof.

It was all there, staring him right in the face, and Les knew that a year ago this would have broken him. Sure, he took a leave from work, rounded out the year laying in bed crying, but the dog made sure he got up if only to take him for the requisite bathroom visits. The therapist called when he didn’t show up, and the new friends brought him food and visits even when he didn’t want them.  Slowly, but surely, he went on, and that bitter Saturday morning in February when he got the call from Cals’s studio’s landlord explaining that he would either have to re-up the 6-month lease, or move out, Les actually answered the phone and had the energy to go meet up at the unit.

It was emptier than Les had expected, Cal had always had a habit of buying more supplies than he could use, canvases of all shapes, he was “saving for just the right piece. There wasn’t a single blank canvas in here, and Les wondered if that was why he had chosen to do it when he did, did he wait till he used the last one up. Did he donate them somewhere? His easel was still there, with a drop cloth over it, the kind Cal only put when he was planning to be away for a while.  The lone stool sitting in front of it made Les wonder if Cal had actually gone to any of those local artist meetings, had anyone else ever even been in this space?

The only other furniture was a cabinet, the bottom of which had a small crate with Cal’s agents’ names and address on it, postage paid stamped across the side. Les knew if he opened it, he would find finished canvases inside, ready for sale. The top shelves contained Cal’s brushes, cleaned and sorted by size, tidier than Les had ever seen them, and Cal’s favorite palette, paint covered as always. Les half wondered where the new one he bought Cal as a “studio warming” gift had ended up. There was less paint than Cal had ever kept before in the cabinet, mostly nearing empty, all dried up, all garbage now.

Les took a deep breath, at least it would it be easier to clean up than he expected. A text to Cal’s agent about the paintings yielded an instant response, he would be there in less than an hour, no need to ship them. Les laughed bitterly, dead artists always did sell well.  Les picked up the palette, the rest he would ask the agent to get rid of, he would take care of if it meant getting the work in the bottom. That left the easel.

Les hesitated as he reached for the dustcover, memories overwhelming him. Memories of the day he bought this for Cal, 10$ they couldn’t afford, but the way Cal’s face lit up when he came home and saw it sitting in the middle of the floor of their one room apartment made it worth the fact that he wouldn’t be able to eat anything but ramen till payday.

He pulled the cover off, tossing it aside, and when he turned back towards the easel he gasped. There was the palette he had bought cal. Not clean like when he gifted it, and not used like the one he held in his hand, but painted, a work of art. 

It was…goodbye. In abstract, not a style Cal usually favored, but dabbled in sometimes when he was depressed.  It was dark, and then it got brighter, and over it, so faint he wasn’t sure he was seeing it at first was his name, three letters, LES.

He choked back a sob, and picked it up. He couldn’t breathe, he had to get out of there, and then he reached the stairwell he found himself going up instead of down. Then he was on the roof. He stood there, holding the two palettes, the winding biting at his tears.  He looked down at the palette bearing his name and flipped it over not wanting to look at it any longer. It wasn’t blank as he had expected. It had 5 words in marker on the back, scribbled in Cal’s untidy scrawl. “It’s time to choose yourself.”

Les gave a watery sigh he made the vow, and he turned his collar up against the harsh wind. He looked down over the edge of the building, and then he turned and headed back down the stairs, handing the keys to Cal’s agent as he passed him in the lobby “Do what you want with it.” And as he stepped out the double doors the brisk cold hitting him all at once, he felt lighter than he had in months. He could do this, he chose himself.

For a look at the reedsy contest take a look here for more prompts. It runs weekly Friday to Friday!

The Story of Her

So this was a prompt from Jimmie which can be found here, the challenge to be to write a 250 word microfiction based solely on the image shown. In support of pride month, I went with a gray aro/ace type protagonist playing the story of their life. I am not sure how well that came across, but that was the intention. The is also the kick off of my biweekly (hopefully soon to be weekly), Microfiction Mondays.

She looked down at the song she had written and smiled, lines creasing her face. It wasn’t the first she had composed, but it was  the most meaningful. It told her story.

It was first and foremost, a solo. There were other instruments early on, a few small duets here and there.  There were sections of accompaniment throughout, but pull them all away and leave only the solo, and it still worked.  It was complete, everything else was just extra. Something that added to the music, but didn’t make it.

She had a brief flare of nerves as the curtains opened. She had played for years, but she was not the musician she once was. Practice had made her quicker and sharper, but age had slowed and dulled her reflexes. She had considered having someone else play this, to do it justice, but it was her song. No one else would understand, would play it with the emotion she would

As she put the bow to the violin, and the first few notes rang out, she relaxed a little. She had made the right decision. She played with her eyes closed, not needing to see the music. Instead she watched the memories play by as she wove her tale. There were moments that brought a smile to her face, and those that brought tears to her eyes. She finished as she started, solo, and as the last notes faded she felt complete.   

There was silence, and then thunderous applause.