Flash Fiction Photo Prompt: The Fourth Neighbor

As always, first Monday of the month we start things off with a flash fiction piece inspired by a photo. I hope you enjoy this entry and please visit the other writers. Mine is titled The Fourth Neighbor

Jessica Jarman

Bronwyn Green

Kayleigh Jones

Kris Norris

Kellie St. James

06-2015 - PaperHeart

The men in the apartment parking lot wouldn’t seem odd if it weren’t for the fact they were white, middle aged, and whispering under their breathes before erupting in laughter, holding up brightly colored dashikis and kufis. Lower level tenants, college students and Ghana nationals, had abandoned their belongings and those assigned to help clear the apartments found the African garb entertaining as it would seem. The man with the salt and pepper goatee slipped off his ball cap exposing his greasy dark hair before sliding the brown, red, yellow, and green patterned dashiki shirt over his slim arms. He laughed uncontrollably at himself with a slight lisp, exposing cheap false teeth. I walked around the building to the back entrance, the one that could be seen from the busy cross road and showed almost no sign of damage. From this angle there were no soot stains breathing up from broken windows, no glass, wood, or debris littering the grass, no water damage seeping from the base of the walls.

I hadn’t been to the apartment until few days after I got the call. Hours away visiting family, I wasn’t in a hurry to return fearing it all had been lost. The building housed four apartments, two on the lower level and two on the upper. The lower level Ghanaians were well off young men who’s family had sent them to the U.S. for a better education. I expected they were here for the status of being educated in American more than the education itself as they were both simply going into business finance at a small local university on foreign student scholarship. The fire was started by the neighbor next door to them. A woman who looked far older than her years, divorced multiple times, dark frizzy hair with an ever present strike of white roots down the middle of her scalp. Fran was her name. Cheap beer in hand, cigarette in the other, skinny legs poking out of stoned washed denim shorts. She was friendly with everyone and became the building mother, always looking out for each of us as her “kids” until the day she fell asleep in her recliner watching a cable TV movie with a burning cigarette. She hasn’t been seen from since but I was told by Kofi, one of the Ghanaians, she had not been injured and alerted the neighbors quickly once she realized she would not be able to get the fire under control herself. Myself and the other upstairs neighbor were not home but, the three of them were able to get any some of their possessions out quickly. Lock boxes of important documents, family photos, and laptops. Plus Fran’s cat which was technically against rental agreement though, it was her cherished companion and no one was going to complain about Kiki, the overweight orange tabby.

The fire rose up from the old recliner to the ceiling and into the apartment above. My apartment. The floor had gone out and everything was a total loss as I had feared. If I had been in my bedroom at the time, I may have made through the living room before the floor had given way to escape but there was a small chance I might not have. The officials would not let us enter the apartments the first few days, everything was saturated with water and dark puddles drained slowly into the parking lot drains carrying soot covered fragments. Once the damaged had been fully accessed, we were allowed to enter. Well, we did enter, I’m not sure if we were actually allowed but no one stopped me or the others who foot prints showed recent traffic in and out of the building. The first time I walked in I was disgusted and simply left. There was nothing to see, nothing to save. I was too angry to ask a friend for help or a place to sleep. Instead, I booked a hotel room on the other side of town, called into work, and shut out the world for a few days to let the shock sink in. Today, I was ready to look again at the loss. Accept starting over.

While the cleaning crew was entertaining themselves out in the parking lot, I entered Fran’s apartment first. Some of the furniture had been removed but it was hard to make it out all of the black. Walls weeped melted paint and decor. Nothing had sharp edges. The TV, the DVD player, plastic frames, and vases, all had turned to a liquid state, viscous, running until hardened again by cold water and cool air. The other apartment was mostly untouched but had a strong smell of smoke and burned plastic. The boys took only what they needed even if there were a few items that might have had a chance to be saved, they must have felt they weren’t worth the hassle. Climbing the stairs it was easy to see where the smoke had risen, leaving it’s marks against the walls, scaring the building. My apartment door was off the hinges and yellow tape had been put up to warn others not to enter with the floor unstable. As if the gaping hole was not warning enough. I was able to peek in but saw nothing. My couch, coffee table, and small TV had all fallen through to the apartment below and have since been removed in the clearing process. Every wall was black and only the light of day shone through the broken window making the burns visible. I’d never know what happened to my kitchen or bedroom. I’d never those rooms and the belongings in them again. And for a moment I felt irrationally upset about the small things. I was going to miss old coffee maker my grandmother had given me and the bedroom oscillating fan with green blades I found at a garage sale several years ago.

Her door was closed behind me. The fourth tenant. My neighbor on the second floor. She had only moved in a month ago but the first thing she had done was set a plant outside of her door with a welcome mat and a small floral wreath to hang around her door peep hole. All of which was now damaged and barely recognizable. I only ever saw her in passing and yet had the chance to formally introduce myself. It wasn’t for lack of trying. A few times I rounded up the courage to knock on her door there was no answer. Other days I would hear her passing through the hallway she would be on her cell phone, one time in an argument, another time sounding as if she was discussing business of some type. Now I was sure she wasn’t there but, I knocked anyway. Without waiting for an answer, I opened her door and noticed it had been damaged permanently. Most like the fire department checking to make sure everyone was out of the building and accounted for.

Startled she stands from floor and the box in front of her. She turns around to face me, a vase in her hand and news paper in the other.

“Oh, I didn’t know.” My stomach leaps to my throat in embarrassment “I was just looking at the damage of the apartments. I lived across the hall. We never met. I didn’t, I didn’t mean to barge in. I’m so sorry.”

“I’ve seen you before. You drive the little red car.”

“Yes.”

She set the vase down and moved the newspaper to her other hand before reaching out to take mine. Her hair was pulled up to a bun and there was a smear of soot on her right cheek, “Nice to meet you. I’m Karen.”

“Prince.”

“Honestly?” She takes my hand but does only holds it then brings down her eyebrows to form a perfect straight line.

“Short for Princeton. I didn’t pick it.”

She gives a quick shake and lets go of my hand which falls limply to my side. Unsure what to do.

“I see. Well, how bad is your place?”

I move a few steps to the side and point to the yellow tape behind me. “It’s all gone. I can’t enter to see my bedroom which had a few things in it but, I suppose for the most part, I’m starting over from scratch. I don’t anticipate anything had survived even if I could get in to take a look.”

“Oh.” Karen takes the newspaper in her hand and throws it into the box behind her before wiping her hands on her jeans. “How about this, what do you say to lunch? I’ve been sorting all morning and I know it won’t make up for much but, what do you say to a sandwich? It’s the very least I can do.”

“I, uh…” Turning back to where my apartment door was once, I consider the offer. “That’s an awfully quick invitation after you caught me walking into your apartment uninvited to snoop at fire damage.”

She smiled at me and I returned the smile to her. “Point is very valid. However, I been meaning to introduce myself to you but it seems we’re always on an different schedule. Plus, I may have attempted to sneak into your apartment for the same reason you walked into mine. I can’t really hold that against you. Please, come with me. Just a sandwich.”

“Alright.” A small laugh escaped my mouth when she clapped her hands together in victory. “If it’s just a sandwich, why are you so excited? Am I getting myself into something I should be aware of?”

“Well.” Karen bounces her head slightly from shoulder to shoulder. “I can’t promise anything more exciting than a fire but we’ll just have to see.” Out of her pocket she pulls a set of car keys and motions me to follow, rushing past me down the stairs, smiling.

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Random Wordless Wednesday: Picture for Each Day of the Week

For this post I decided to go with my week starting last Wednesday and moving to today! I told you this week would be much more fun. Well, mostly. The first two images are in regards to last week’s post which can be read here.

5/20 Wednesday – Drawing by Tyler Kish

5/21 Thursday – Wednesday Fallout

unnamed

5/22 Friday – Before a Holiday

5/23 Saturday – Swim Lessons

5/24 Sunday – Yard Work Day

5/25 Monday – Memorial Day

5/26 Tuesday – Back to Work

5/27 Wednesday – Now that this blog post is done…

Don’t forget my other ladies!

Kellie St. James

Bronwyn Green

Jessica Jarman

Kris Norris

Gwendolyn Cease

Lie Reveal!

Wednesday’s post involved each blogger listing three truths and a lie. Read here if you haven’t already. As a quick recap I wrote four stories. First story had two parts discussing my experience in being a movie extra, the next was a piece I donated to a museum on behalf of my father, and lastly my first and and only experience at Abercrombie and Fitch.

The lie is…

Jessie Eisenberg

My first experience was Jessie, walking into the holding room of cast and crew with a mission. He looked around the room briefly before walking up to me as I was getting my hair done and asked very directly, “Maria?” I answered no and he then asked harshly, “Where is Maria?” I told him I didn’t know and he marched off. I did eventually meet Maria, she was a walk on cast member who had a few lines introducing him to another character. She has know idea why he was looking for her and had never met him before. This was just his normal behavior. Very direct and very aggressive. Much like he is in movies, he speaks very quietly but quickly, rarely smiles, and far from laid back. Seemingly a big ball of nervous tension. Where Jason Segel was a very warm person, Jessie was cold, spent much of his time talking on his phone in a corner, and rarely interacted with people other than the director or Joan Cusack. And just to touch on Joan Cusack for the curious. She was there for only half the day and spend her time sitting at a lunch table and talking to other actors.

My lie in other words, was a white lie. Not completely false but hey, for those who have seen his movies and might find it hard to believe he would be a friendly person in real life, well, you’re not wrong.

Thanks for participating!

And yes, for those who had guessed incorrectly, the Abercrombie and Fitch story is 100% true.

Check out the other ladies to see their reveal!

Jessica Jarman

Bronwyn Green

Kris Norris

Kellie St. James

Gwendolyn Cease

Random Wednesday: Three Truths and A Lie

UPDATE: I have been informed by the powers we will have the truth reveal on Friday. Check back then!

The End of Tour Two-For – Part 1: Butts and Part 2: Friends, “This belongs in a museum!”, and Passive Aggressive Behavior.

Here are four stories one of which is a deception. Please leave your thoughts in the comments to what is true and which one is a lie. Let’s begin!

The End of Tour Two-For: Butts and Friends:

I was an extra in a movie. The movie is called The End of Tour and making the festival circuit right now which means, I haven’t seen it and I have no idea if I’m actually in it or not. My husband found the casting call for extras. We thought what would it hurt? And signed up. We were both called several times and out of sheer luck, I made it to a scene. I was picked for the NPR Staffer and had two roles. First role was for a blur extra, a person, out of focus, who is just walking in the background. The second was the NPR Receptionist. There were three actors there that day on set, Jason Segel, Jessie Eisenberg, and Joan Cusack.

Part 1: Jason Segel, we’re going to call him “Butts.” While it was against rules to speak with the actors, ask for an autograph, of take pictures of them, that didn’t necessarily stop them from being their normal selves in front of the extras and the crew. Jason Segel is a very very loud person. He would check his cell phone and laugh loudly to himself about whatever he was reading. He also had no sense of person and at one point bent over so his ass crack was completely exposed. Before I arrived on set that day my husband teased me, “Are you going to say anything to Jason Segel about seeing his penis in Forgetting Sarah Marshall?” I joked and said I would. Well, I didn’t need to. Saw the guys ass in person. However, I did respect the rules and never talked to him, even when he was an arms length away and a quick “hey” would have been easy. He had a handler with him at all times regulating contact with him. At one point the handler yelled at a crew member when she was caught making faces at Jason. To her defense, he totally started it and when the handler wasn’t looking he mouthed an apology.

Part 2: Jessie Eisenberg, he is our “Friend” in this story. Super nice and down to earth guy. He was the only actor who spoke with me that day. It was brief and he simply asked if I knew where someone was but he was all smiles and at least gave me a “hi.” He studied his lines frequently and kept to himself in a corner when we had long set changes. In contrast, during breaks between quick shots and lunch he was always talking to someone, laughing, seemingly really friendly when he wasn’t studying. It was a stark difference from how he is perceived in most of his movies. He didn’t have a handler but unlike Jason Segel, he didn’t seem to need one and everyone respected him. Where Jason Segel entered a room and everyone knew he was there, Jessie just kind of sneaked in, sat down, and would strike up a conversation with the closest person. It was one of those moments where he had been there for some time before anyone even noticed. All around, just a really cool guy.

“This belongs in a museum!”

My dad likes to hand down things to me. He has been doing it for years and the older he has gotten, the more he passes down. Most are small trinkets like an old pen, coins, and small keepsakes. One item he handed to me seemed like it would be of value, more so to just him and I. It was a card. The size of a business card, printed on card stock, some residue on the back where it had been attached to a scrap book and a little bent from time in a pocket. He had thought about throwing it away and, lucky for him, he hadn’t. When he came across it forty years later he offered it to me feeling I would find it of value. It was his admission ticket to be part of the greeting line for President Nixon. The former president was flying into Michigan Tri-City Airport and Miss Bay City was invited to be part of the reception line, those who stand next to the plane and shake the President’s hand. My dad was chosen to be Miss Bay City’s escort to the event. I asked him how that came to be and he responded, “I don’t know. Right place, right time I guess.” The card he received to allow admission was addressed to an “honored guest” and not something I wanted to hide away. Right place, right time perhaps but, it was something I wanted to share with others and felt it was special. I ended up contacting the Ford Museum remembering they had a Nixon exhibit which lead up to President Ford’s term. With my dad’s permission, I gifted the card to the Gerald R. Ford Museum. They accepted it not only on the grounds that it was in reference to Nixon who preceded Ford but because it happened in Michigan and the year 1974, the year of Nixon’s impeachment and the beginning of Ford’s presidency.

Passive Aggressive Behavior

It was spring and coming to the end of my college senior year. I already had a job lined up but what I didn’t have was an appropriate wardrobe for a professional atmosphere. Jeans and college sweatshirts were not going to cut it. Now it’s spring and this means, spring clothing displayed in every store window. I needed something for working in an office and I had no idea where to even start to look for blouses and dress pants in the plethora of short shorts and tank tops. I’m also, very terrible at shopping in general and I couldn’t resort to the get in, get out technique. I had to search the stores of the mall to find what I was looking for. I hated every moment of it. Desperate, defeated, and frustrated I walked into a store I had never been to but knew the name of very well. Abercrombie and Fitch. The lights were far too dark and the store was considerably empty even with the bustling mall just on the other side of the entry doors. To my surprise, they had what I was looking for. Clothing, appropriate for an office environment, and fitting my age without looking like I raided my mother’s closet. Excitedly, I grabbed all the clothes I could think to try on, never shopping at Abercrombie before and not knowing what size I might be in their brand. When I approached the dressing room I was told by a man about my age, “There is a limit for the dressing rooms.” Fair enough. I was only really interested in finding my size, few items to try on should give me an idea. I left what I could not take with me with him and entered the dressing room.

I loved each thing I put on. Everything fit well and I was finally done searching for work clothes. I think I even did a little happy dance. But this is where my shopping success story ends. When I walked out of the dressing room I went back to the attendant who was empty handed. “Where are my clothes?” I asked. “Oh, well I put them back. I didn’t think you needed them.” He answered. My mind went blank with emotion. I understood what he was saying and well, I’m an adult. Instead of getting mad, yelling, or feeling upset, I set down the clothes I had with me on the table, to which he responded, “I think that is a good choice.”

Now, I had planned for a new wardrobe. I had plenty of cash on me and a purpose. Thoughts crossed my mind to just go and pick up each one of the items I had originally wanted and buy them anyway. Instead I just improvised…

Walking from the front of the store, to the back of the store, women’s, men’s, clearance, and even a few things displayed by the register, I filled up my arms with everything I could carry. After a few minutes I returned to the changing room where the attendant was still standing. I placed everything I had in my overflowing arms on the table next to him, shirts, sweaters, belts, tank tops, pants, a pile of merchandise cascading off the table onto the floor. My last words were, “Can you put these back for me too? I’m not going to need these either.” He looked at me, mouth wide open, and said nothing.

That’s the last time I’ve been to Abercrombie and Fitch.

***********

So, which one is a lie? Let me know what you think. Also visit the other players for today’s post:

Bronwyn Green

Jessica Jarman

Kris Norris

Kellie St. James

Gwendolyn Cease

Random Wednesday: Five Favorite Things – Beauty Products

Oh boy.

Let’s see here.

Umm…

I don’t use beauty products because I enjoy them. I use them because I feel I have to use them. And with this, I have no favorites.

I have sensitive skin and buy based on the label content. Not to say I’m not active on my skin health and beauty products, I do have a dermatologist who is very nice however, this stage of my life and a current pregnancy puts a lot of skin care on hold. Many items I can use on my skin for health reasons aren’t exactly simpatico with being pregnant at the moment. Beauty in that department will have to wait. Everything is oil-free and basic as it gets as a result. I can’t tell you what brand of makeup I use. I don’t actually know. I just keep picking things up until I find something that looks somewhat agreeable with my skin. Then wear the least amount possible while looking dangerous with a butter knife.

My hair is naturally curly/wavey/not sure what and dry. It does not hold color, trust me, my former stylist made a bet with a Redkin salesman that she could find a client the color he was selling would not work on. Guess who that was? Me. She won the bet and I won non-intentional copper colored hair. And through years of trying to make my hair look and do what it was not naturally designed for, I went natural. (GASP!) I’m also in my early thirties and graying prematurely.

Thanks Mom. You can deny it all you want but I’ve been taller than you for years. I see those roots.

It is surprising how many people have told me to color my hair. Many. Far many than I knew cared. “You are too young to have gray hair!” “Having gray hair will make you look old and washed out.” -bah, I say.

As far as the health of my hair I will use product to protect my hair from heat when performing the occasional styling, it’s only necessary to combat the dryness and breakage which also involves oil. Lots of oil. On a daily basis while not washing my hair on a daily basis.

If you are playing the home game that’s no oil on the skin, lots on the hair.

But again, I really have no favorite. I don’t even have a favorite chapstick. I like to rotate through different brands and flavors. Though, there was one time when my husband kissed me while he was wearing clove favored chapstick. My reaction was as follows:

“What the fuck is that on your lips? Oh that’s awful! -wipes mouth on sleeve- I feel like I just kissed a christmas tree’s asshole.”

:Shivers: That moment still haunts me.

Really, what this post concludes to is, I am holding out for silver fox status. Genetics have treated me well in other areas of beauty and I hope one day I’ll pass the worst of my skin troubles when I can dabble in the fun part of beauty products and the grays in my hair will take over to reflect the rays of the sun on a gorgeous day, creating a halo of beauty every time I walk outside to check the mail. One day, one day….I’ll age like one fine ass wine.

Silver fox goal setting status.

Let’s see what these other ladies have to say!

Gwendolyn Cease

Jessica Jarman

Bronwyn Green

Paige Prince

Kellie St. James

Jenny Trout

Kris Norris

Flash Fiction: First World Problems of Historic Natural Events

 Photo prompt flash fiction time! It’s an interesting picture and I tried my best. I hope you enjoy.
05-2015 - StreetLampBlueDoor
It was a 500 year storm. But, who really can know that for sure? This place wasn’t on the map 500 years ago. The local news paper, diluted down to only two small sections, and the online version of even less worth while material, used this as click bait for views. “500 Year Storm! Tornado Hits Down Town: Mass Devastation.” No lives were lost, a few injured, many were simply bothered. The prints said over 100 injured where the online article boasted 200. 
Clearly annoying to say the least, 500 year, 200 injured or was it 100? Let’s just keep throwing 100’s around. Even if it’s not at all true and one could barely count to 100 people injured even including Mrs. Jasem who only needed a few stitches after picking up a broken jar of pickles that had fallen. In fact, it’s not even clear if she really had stitches. Most likely a little drop of glue was all that was required to seal a minor cut now with the state of the art, heavily endorsed Emergency Center named after a list of wealthy donors. Including the likes of, well, the acrylic nails sporting, far too much hair spray for a 70 odd year old, Mrs. Jasem. It’s also possible the tornado had anything to do with the broken jar. She probably just dropped the jar and decided to make the story more sensational. 
The official weather report did support a tornado touch down and this had the town going wild. It didn’t happen in the farm fields where tornadoes hit yearly. This one hit downtown and the rumors stated it trundled right on through Main Street before tucking itself back up into the clouds it had birthed from. Sirens rang through the city. Everyone hid in their basements miles away from the actual event in their suburban homes and luxury family rooms void of windows but equipped with surround sound. 
The winds were enough to cause damage. Facades of buildings showed the raw materials underneath. Virgin wood exposed from trees with broken branches. Banners, chalk board sidewalk signs, umbrellas from nearby pubs littered the street. The hype didn’t end when the minor repairs were made. There was a much larger problem.
Welcome to the History District. The history is not what you think but exactly what the Historic Board wants you to think. Houses of mansion proportions lined cobble stone streets with balconies, street lights, a median of trees that have flowering canopies in the late spring. It’s a place of beauty and has power to transport a person to a decade when things were simpler, everyone was friendly, first name only type of people. The storm damaged the houses as storms normally do. Branches also fell here but shingles also flew in the midspring air with a few broken pieces of glass. In front of one house an oak uprooted showing the maze of tree veins coagulated with mud and nature debris. 
The trick is, most of these houses were not occupied by owners but renters. Many of the actual owners lived far away from the border line of the history district, in the suburbs mentioned early. The real mansions. These historic houses were geared toward bed and breakfasts or young couples with too much money and not much care for the inconvenient street parking, creaking floor boards, lack of central air, and poor insulation. And bats. There is always something about these houses and bats. 
When it came to the discussion of fixing the houses, there was more to discuss than hiring a contractor. “These are historic!” Mrs. Jansen stated with her chin up, eye closed, reading classes balancing precariously on a bulb ended nose.
“They are not historic just because you say they are ma’am. There are still laws in place. This windows do not meet ground clearance. A child could easily fall…” Where Chief Cary’s sentence ended, his chins continued to jiggle as Mrs. Jasem interrupted, an oversized bandage on her pickle jar cut. “Oh for heaven’s…name a time where a child has fallen out of one of the windows.”
Mrs. Jansen opened her eyes and raised her eyebrows, inhaling a deep breath, “We have determined, as the owners of these homes have agreed, to maintain a certain appeal to these houses for the sake of the history district. While we understand there may be some disagreements, these houses can not be modernized because this defeats the purpose. They are however, up to date, with mold control and the removal of lead paint. But, we do not agree to change the imagery of the homes.”
“Bullshit.” Mr. Walzcki slams his fatty hand on the varnished wood desk.
“Chairman Walzcki, please.” A mousy Miss Nesting whispers, jogging papers nervously.
Mr. Walzcki wipes the sweat from his brow and grease from his nose with the back of his paper thin white button up shirt. “Those houses were build in the 1970’s. What was historic of this city was burned down in the 1880’s. From that point each one of the buildings, downtown, historic, whatever you like to sell it as, were just pieced together. Out with the old, in with the new, time and time again. At no point were those houses ever considered truly historic. You need to learn to follow the laws and fix the houses up to code. All the codes. Not the ones you and the investors you tricked, deemed historically accurate enough to follow.” 
“I was told being part of the history district protects us from some of these unnecessary updates. I’m not replacing twenty windows because they are an inch too low to the ground. None of this was an issue before. The only reason it is even being brought up is because someone three houses down had some roof damage. Now the entire district is under bureaucratic scrutiny?” Mr. Geoffrey throws his bony arms up and then crosses them. “Unbelievable.” 
“Chairman, Mr. Walzcki, please be aware of how you vote for this. There is a lot of money in the, fake, as you essentially put it, history district and if you vote the wrong way people will leave their investments. They’ll just simply walk away. Is this what you want? A derelict neighborhood only blocks away from one of your ‘upscale’ restaurants?” 
Mr. Walzcki glares, curly gray eyebrow hairs forming a perfect V. “Is that a threat Mrs. Jansen?”
Removing her glasses she meet his eyes with equal intensity. “It’s a promise. I recommend you vote wisely.”
 
*****
Thank you for reading and please enjoy some of these other stories.

Jessica Jarman

Paige Prince

Bronwyn Green

Kris Norris

Kayleigh Jones

Kellie St. James

Gwendolyn Cease