Tag Archives: flash fiction

Last Day to Get “In the End: Short Fiction by Lori Schafer” FREE for Kindle

Today is the last day to download In the End: Short Fiction by Lori Schafer for FREE for Kindle.

It was coming at last.

The end of all things.

All but the darkness…

Everything comes to an end. Lives and loves, joy and innocence, peoples and nations; nothing is spared. Even our own world must one day bid us farewell.

In this collection of short fiction, author Lori Schafer examines these ends – how they occur, why they occur, and what they mean to us when they do. Features author commentary on selected pieces.

In the End eBook 2

 

 

Last Day to Get “In the End: Short Fiction by Lori Schafer” FREE for Kindle

Today is the last day to download In the End: Short Fiction by Lori Schafer for FREE for Kindle.

It was coming at last.

The end of all things.

All but the darkness…

Everything comes to an end. Lives and loves, joy and innocence, peoples and nations; nothing is spared. Even our own world must one day bid us farewell.

In this collection of short fiction, author Lori Schafer examines these ends – how they occur, why they occur, and what they mean to us when they do. Features author commentary on selected pieces.

In the End eBook 2

 

 

“Flush Fiction – Have Stories to Read in Your Time of Need!”

I am pleased to announce that my flash fiction piece “Heads of the Line” has been published in the first issue of Flush Fiction, a brand new app for reading poetry and short stories on your smartphone. The app makes it possible to get your reading in anywhere, even while performing your, um, “business.” You can download it for FREE on ITunes here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/flush-fiction/id1216952374?ls=1&mt=8

If you’d like to know more about Flush Fiction, you can visit its Facebook page here:

https://www.facebook.com/flushfiction/

or its website here:

http://www.flushfictionapp.com/

Personally, though, I think their background photo tells you everything you need to know about the usefulness of the app and its content ;)

 

Flush Fiction

Photo via flushfictionapp.com

 

 

 

 

Beach House

My romantic flash fiction story “Beach House” has been published in Romance Flash:

http://www.romanceflash.com/home-mainmenu-1

I’ll be the first to admit that this is a pretty sad story for a romance, but compared to the first version I wrote, this one’s all flowers and rainbows!

I originally wrote this piece in response to a contest prompt. Stories for the contest were supposed to feature a weathered beach house and a woman placing a key in an envelope. I confess I had quite a bit of trouble coming up with a storyline, and when I finally did, it was a doozy. The basis of the story was essentially the same as in the second version you read above, except that Susan actually is expecting Derek to arrive. However, in order to incorporate the element of the key and the suggested wording, I had to take drastic measures. This was the original (now the alternate) ending:

“The storm had passed when at last she arose; vanished into the house and emerged many minutes later wearing a clean, dry sundress and carrying a light backpack; a weary traveler yearning for rest. Struggling her way over to her favorite spot on the porch, she sat; took two pills from an orange bottle clenched in her fist and swallowed them whole. She tucked the bottle into her bag and then fumbled through its contents until she retrieved a pen and a crisp envelope creased neatly in half. Awkwardly she unfolded it; opened the flap and dropped a shining silver key inside it; the key to the oceanside home that they had once so happily shared. With trembling fingers, she inscribed the stiff white paper with six simple words and left them there for him to read; for him to try to understand.

Sometimes it does hurt to hope.

Hoisting her bag upon frail, fallen shoulders, she tripped clumsily away from the weathered beach house and across the weather-beaten sand, no longer having a point or a destination. No longer having a companion, to walk with her across the beach until the end.”

Now that is a sad story.

Besides being incredibly depressing, that version somehow never felt right to me, but I couldn’t figure out a way to fix it. Finally I had the bright idea of giving it a happy(ish) ending, and voila – my third story in Romance Flash.

Beach House

Past and Present

“It was lucky I forgot my keys,” her mother was saying, rubbing the raised scar between her daughter’s thumb and forefinger. “I came back and found you lying in a pool of blood.”

“I don’t remember that,” Gloria answered, astonished that such a noteworthy event had slipped from her mental grasp.

“Well, it was several years ago. You were only five then.”

“How did it happen?” the child inquired curiously, still struggling to picture herself prone in that gruesome pool.

“I don’t know exactly. I think you were playing with scissors. They were those rounded ones they let you use in kindergarten, but somehow you got them in there good.”

An image burst into her mind. The scissors in her right fist, attempting a difficult cut, snapping suddenly towards the web in the crook of her left hand. And then darkness.

“I found them afterwards on the floor. Your sister, of course, was nowhere to be found,” her mother continued bitterly.

Of course not. Her sister, eight years older, was often stuck babysitting her while their mom was at work, and was never very enthusiastic about the job. Gloria had numerous scars from lacerations that had probably needed stitches that her sister had merely slapped a band-aid over.

“An artery runs through there,” her mom was explaining. “That’s why it bled so much.”

She remembered now, what she had been doing. It was the homemade wrapping-paper. She’d taken some of her white lined school paper and drawn pictures on it. Pictures of what? She thought hard. What had the present been for?

Seasonal pictures, that was it. Pictures of Christmas, of fat gift-boxes and skinny stick-figure Santas and reindeer with glowing noses and Christmas trees rife with ornaments that glowed even brighter, crayon yellow and red and orange. Sloppily drawn but carefully colored, and then cut to fit, cut to fit the present itself.

“What was the present?” she asked abruptly.

“What present?” her mom replied, bewildered.

“I was making wrapping-paper. For a present. I think it was for you. I remember now.”

Her mother shook her head. “I don’t know, dear. I don’t remember seeing a package anywhere.”

What had the present been? Something childish, no doubt. A ceramic ashtray, maybe a milk carton with dirt and a single flower growing in it. Funny how she remembered the wrapping-paper but not the present. As if the paper were the more impressive part of the gift. Perhaps it had been.

What had happened to it? There must have been blood all over it. After she’d worked so hard to make it pretty, to make it nice, for it to get all bloody and then disappear without a trace. It was a darned shame.

“I really wish I knew what happened to it,” she said aloud.

“You nearly died, Gloria,” her mother said emphatically, as if her daughter was missing the point of the story.

“But I didn’t,” Gloria answered, equally certain that her mother was missing the point as well.

***

This story is based almost word for word on one of my own childhood memories. I discovered a strange scar between my thumb and forefinger when I was about eight and my mom told me how I had severed an artery with a pair of kindergarten scissors and nearly died. And at that point I realized that I did sort of remember that — that is, I remembered up until the moment of the cut. I was handmaking wrapping paper for a Christmas present — drawings on lined school paper — and somehow sliced my hand open. My mom had already left for work, but she’d forgotten something and came back upstairs to find me “lying in a pool of blood.” That mental image has really stuck with me all these years.

I tried in this piece to put a more positive spin on the memory. As an adult, I understand now that all a parent would see was the blood; the sight of your daughter dying in the kitchen. To the child, however, it was all about the present.

***

“Past and Present” originally appeared in The Avalon Literary Review in August 2013 as the 3rd place winner of their quarterly contest. It is one of the stories featured in my autobiographical short story and essay collection Stories from My Memory-Shelf: Fiction and Essays from My Past, now available in eBook ($2.99) and paperback ($6.99) at retailers worldwide. For more information, please visit the book’s webpage or subscribe to my newsletter.

Funeral for Charlie

I absolutely love this story. I think it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever written and I’m eternally grateful to Australia’s that’s Life! Fast Fiction Quarterly for publishing it in their Winter 2013 issue. Unfortunately, they had to edit out some of my best lines for length and content, and I didn’t think the published version was quite as good as the original. I did, however, think the picture and blurb they posted with it were hysterical. As the rights have now reverted to me, for the curious, here is the full original story:

FUNERAL FOR CHARLIE

Charlie was dead. It was hard to say what had done him in, but given that his roommates Rusty and Redhead had passed away unexpectedly the week before, my husband suspected environmental causes. Not me, though. I suspected Fishy.

The teeniest of all of our goldfish, Fishy had outlived not merely several new fish, but several entire sets of new fish, of a variety of breeds and sizes. We had often remarked on the unquenchable virility which seemed to sustain his minute form while our other fish went belly-up all around him. When poor Charlie got sick, he took to lurking in a corner of the tank, scarcely flapping his large fins, not moving, not eating; barely even breathing. We had watched him anxiously for days before the end. That night I had slept restlessly. Waking up long before dawn and failing to fall back into sleep, I finally got up and went into the kitchen to fix a glass of warm milk. Flicking on the light by the fish tank, I was startled to discover that Fishy had taken up residence in Charlie’s corner, and was, as nearly as a fish can, sitting on Charlie’s head as if trying to smother him. He quickly swam away but it was too late; I had already seen him. And the next morning, Charlie was dead.

I couldn’t prove anything, of course. But I did examine the body pretty carefully when Bob brought it sadly to the surface in the fraying green net, and it seemed to me as if Charlie was missing an awful lot of scales for a domestic goldfish. There were also some detectable gouges on his underside, almost as if he had been fighting. But it was pretty hard to pin anything on Fishy. He swam about as enthusiastically as ever in his empty tank, now entirely bereft of playmates, but not appearing to suffer from either loneliness or a renewed sense of his own mortality. And if he looked with fond or melancholy recollection at the plastic bridge that Charlie used to like to hide behind, or the fake coral that his brothers had favored, it never showed in his face.

“I’ll be right back,” Bob said, holding his hand under the wet mesh to prevent drips from falling all over the floor.

“Wait, where are you taking him?” I asked, alarmed.

“Um, to the toilet?” he replied, as if it were a stupid question.

“Charlie’s not going to fit down the toilet!” I answered indignantly.

“Sure he will!” Bob assured me. “He’s no bigger than a turd.”

“Are you crazy?!! He’s at least twice as big around as a turd!”

“Not my turds!” Bob answered proudly. “And if those will go down the toilet, this goldfish will, too, you’ll see.”

“Okay,” I said, trying hard to comprehend why we were arguing over this, “Okay, let’s just suppose that Charlie really is no bigger than a turd. He’s still not a turd, he’s a fish. A turd breaks up in the water; a dead fish will not. He will get stuck halfway down the pipe and you will be stuck trying to plunge up dead fish.”

“Listen, sweetheart,” Bob said, his tone bearing none of the affection implied by the term, “I’ve fixed plenty of toilets in my day, and I know how big the opening in the pipe is. That fish is going down, mark my words.”

I marked them and followed him into the bathroom. I bowed my head as he plunked our deceased friend respectfully into the deep. I listened quietly as he somberly activated the flusher. And then I watched as the water swirled away, taking Charlie on one final miraculous journey to the home of his ancient ancestors, to the ocean the abrupt end of his short life had precluded him from ever going to see. And then I flushed again for good measure.

It didn’t take. The water backed up into the toilet, causing Bob to flush again, full red in the face this time.

“He didn’t go all the way down,” I observed.

“There’s probably something else stuck in there,” Bob reasoned.

I made hissing noises that can’t be translated into words before finally spluttering, “That fish is stuck in the toilet! Do you hear me?! Stuck in the toilet. There is a dead fish in our toilet!”

“He can’t have gotten stuck; he was too small. And even if he did, I’m sure he’ll break loose and go down eventually.”

“Break loose? Break loose eventually? No way, uh-unh, mister. I am not peeing on that toilet knowing that Charlie’s in it. And we don’t even know where he got stuck. What if a rotten fish comes popping back up into the bowl?”

“That’s unlikely,” Bob assured me.

“Darn right it is,” I answered huffily. “Because you’re going to get that fish out of the toilet no matter what you have to do. And you know why? Because it’s your fault he’s in there.”

I resolutely returned to the kitchen, accompanied by the comforting cadence of Bob’s creative cursing and the gruesome gurgling of the plunger as it sought to resurrect the unfortunate former member of our household from his watery grave. I sidled nonchalantly over to the fish tank. Fishy was still nibbling a leftover bit of his solitary breakfast, flicking his tail-fin contentedly, his conscience apparently as untroubled as the calm unruffled waters which now surrounded him.

“I know it isn’t really Bob’s fault,” I conceded, now that he was out of earshot. “It’s yours. You may have gotten away with it this time, but now I’m on to you. And you know what else? Charlie might not have fit down the toilet, but there’s no question in my mind that you’ll go down quite nicely. One day, one day, Fishy… whoosh!!” I threatened.

Fishy just spat out his chip of orange fish food and swam carelessly away.

***

I have to offer full credit to boyfriend “Bob” on this one for unintentionally providing most of his own dialogue. In spite of all of the evidence to the contrary, he persisted in refusing ever to admit that Charlie just didn’t fit down that pipe.

We did, however, mutually agree to stop buying fish after that.

***

“Funeral for Charlie” is one of the stories featured in my autobiographical short story and essay collection Stories from My Memory-Shelf: Fiction and Essays from My Past (only $2.99 Kindle, $6.99 paperback). To learn more about it, please visit the book’s webpage or subscribe to my newsletter.

That's Life Fast Fiction Quarterly Publication and Author Commentary: Funeral for Charlie

State of Micronesia, 2016

My flash fiction story “State of Micronesia, 2016” has been published in Every Day Fiction:

http://www.everydayfiction.com/state-of-micronesia-2016-by-lori-schafer/

I had the inspiration for this story some time ago when I ran across a newspaper article about the Federated States of Micronesia, an island nation which is evidently one of the first to feel measurable and potentially disastrous effects of climate change. There is, in fact, a very real fear that the islands may disappear as sea level rises; this article presents a good summary of the situation as the Pacific Islanders see it: (http://www.pri.org/stories/2014-09-23/pacific-island-nations-theres-nowhere-left-run-climate-change). Now, I have since read contrasting viewpoints – including the view that Pacific Islands that are constructed from coral reefs are in no danger from global warming because the reefs will merely grow as sea level rises, and that the disastrous predictions being made by local governments are motivated by a desire to extort financial assistance from the world’s wealthier powers. However, as such arguments ring to me of the “climate change denial” that is still unfortunately so vocal and widespread, I’m not sure I’m willing to buy the science behind them without greater confirmation of its accuracy than some article somebody posted online.

In any case, I thought it was a concept worth exploring. Because even if the Micronesians are in no danger of losing their homelands, no one can deny that other populations have, in fact, already experienced significant, even culture-altering shifts in their native environments, particularly the Inuits of North America and other arctic peoples. Yet much as we like to believe that this problem only impacts those whose lives revolve around the ice or the sea, it affects all of us. The polar vortex that brought unusual bitter cold across the North last winter, and is expected to again this winter, the ongoing heat and drought out here in California – these are not merely matters of pleasant vs. unpleasant weather. At some point they will begin to affect our ability to provide for ourselves. And how are the Canadians keeping warm when the temperature drops to forty below? By burning fuel. How are agricultural products transported to California’s millions of residents? By fuel-burning trucks. We are not merely battling climate change; climate change itself may actually increase our demands on the planet. And I, for one, am not convinced that our technology is going to be able to keep up with the pace of our environmental destruction.

My story was not well-received by the readers at Every Day Fiction – and frankly even I would agree that many of their criticisms were justified, particularly in the way I’ve portrayed the grandfather character. He is almost a caricature. And I did, in fact, think long and hard about that when I was writing the story. But in the end, that was how I saw him: as an outdated, outmoded, one-dimensional Old World character. Because to me, only such a man would persist in denying what we see happening all around us.

State of Micronesia 2016