Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Cold - Flash Fiction

As the autumn fades along with the daylight, snow shovels come out and Flexible Flyers are stacked in the store aisles.  Children pray for snow, and couples eagerly plan for their annual getaway to the mountain ski lodge.  But the promise of cold coils deep within my chest, waiting and watching to sink its teeth into my bones.

I remember the day when the propane gas ran out and I had no money to fill it. One tank equaled three weeks pay at a minimum wage job, and with twenty dollars left each week after bills were paid, I had no way of ever saving enough.  And so I eked out the warmth that I had. With the heat shut off, there was at least the electricity to run the water heater. To take a shower in the frigid bathroom, I plugged in the hair dryer and let it run, a towel across the bottom of the closed door; that gave the bathroom at least the illusion of warmth. Then layers of clothes, as many as I could put on and still move; yet still the chill would not leave me.  Visiting the homes of everyone I knew at mealtime, in hopes that they would invite me to eat, soaking up the warmth in their 72 degree homes, never wanting them to know how desperate and pathetic I was.  Spending extra time at work, reluctant to leave, offering to work unpaid in an effort to avoid going home. 

On the few days that the sun shone, I laid on the floor in the weak rays, dreaming of beaches and the hot summer days, imagining the buzz of cicadas, the heavy comfort of steamy summer air as I slept. I understood why fear is characterized by cold.  I knew why the ancients worshiped the sun.

Embezzling those funds was not a lark, not greed, but a simple necessity.

My days of poverty are long gone, yet the icy breath of winter still reaches me here in my island paradise.  The chill of an air-conditioned restaurant steals my appetite immediately, and the sight of snow on the television sends me frantically scratching for the channel button.  When the temperature dips occasionally, I can be seen on my porch bundled in an old afghan, while youngsters ride their bikes in tattered shorts and bare feet.  They laugh, and they point, and they give my cottage a wide berth.  They do not understand.

The cold is forever within me.




31 comments:

  1. Guilt is truly chilling. Very effective, Lisa!

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  2. We can run but we cannot hide from the choices we make! Really cool story Lisa!

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  3. Wow. Just absolutely amazing story Li. I kinda don't see the guilt in the embezzlement. It's akin Jean ValJean: do you take the loaf of bread to not starve? Do you punish yourself for doing what you can to survive?

    "But the promise of cold coils deep within my chest, waiting and watching to sink its teeth into my bones." Lots of great lines in this one.

    Really well done. Stay warm.

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  4. This was a great story. The cold had layers and teeth. :)

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  5. Hi Alex - thank you. Guilt can be a terrible thing to bear.

    @Nicole - thank you! Sometimes the last line is the hardest to write.

    @Rasz - life is really nothing but the end results of unending choices :-)

    @Stuart - yes, that's the conflict. Although the character tries to justify the action, he/she still feels haunted, both by guilt and by the never-ending fear of being terribly cold and hungry again. I'm not sure he/she will ever be fully able to enjoy life.

    @MPax - Thank you Mary :-)) The one true fact is that I too hate the cold!

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  6. Very moving! I did not expect it to go that way. Awesome!

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    1. I'm never sure how it's going till the end :-)

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  7. Love how you use words as colors to really paint the scene...like in the daydreaming paragraph.

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    1. Thanks, that was a lovely compliment!

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  8. You write with such depth of emotion at times it makes me wonder about you. I hope that sounds like a compliment, it was. :) And it case it comes from experience, it's cold here, spare a dime? :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

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    1. I'm really NOT mad as a hatter. :-) Thank you for the compliment, I accept. And I can highly recommend wearing fleece pajamas and cozy knee high socks!

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  9. Excellent, evocative writing. I love how you showed the character's suffering and guilt. :-)

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  10. Mmm good story, I wonder how she made all that money... share the secret? Always wanted to live on a tropical island :)

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    1. She stole it, something I wouldn't recommend. I suppose you'll have to settle for trying to win the lottery like the rest of us - or write a blockbuster novel and have the movie rights picked up.

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  11. Little comfort or sympathy for the narrator when I'm gearing my throbbing back to shovel my driveway. The emotional cold can reach anyone, it seems.

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    1. What, no kids in the neighborhood to shovel for you? (Do kids still do that any more, I wonder?)

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  12. A chilling tale, Lisa (pun both intended and not). Actually, it rather reminds me of our week-long power outage back in November, except for the embezzlement part. Damn, an island paradise sounds wonderful. I really should have embezzled when I had the chance...

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  13. Hi Nate. I suppose you still have time. ;-) Obviously this is fiction because the people I read about who embezzle or bilk people by Ponzi schemes, etc. don't seem to suffer any particular guilt over it.

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  14. I am loving the new comment format, BTW so that I can reply individually! Must smoother and faster.

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  15. Yikes, what a compelling character! Excellent, Li - although I confess I find it hard to feel TOO sorry for her predicament..(smile)

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    1. A tropical island would be lovely right now!

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  16. I love the way you revealed part of her character in such a short piece. :)

    Love the writing!

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    1. Thank you :-)) I still hold with the less is more school of thought.

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  17. Wow -Li. How much can you fit into such a short space?! Great character, and the feeling of sneaking cold running throughout. Nice twist too
    Lx

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    1. Hi laura, and thank you. It takes some heavy editing sometimes!

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  18. Great visuals. I felt a shiver of cold run up my back as I read it.

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  19. Thank you James :-) Best have a hot cup of tea.

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  20. Such a great story! Chilling - on more than one level... profound...

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  21. I'm loving this powerful piece, Li! It has me so grateful for all the comforts I've had. And it also has me identifying with the very feeling you describe -- I've suffered through the cold in the Andes because of financial concerns too. Thanks for reaching my heart!

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