Thursday, November 29, 2012

Broken Windows - Flash Fiction

      I try not to be judgmental, but Gloria looked anything but glorious when we met for coffee. Her chipped nails were so distracting that I found myself rearranging my silverware repeatedly just to keep from staring.
     "I'll just have an English muffin," she said quietly as I perused the menu.
     Irritated, I slapped the menu down harder than I meant.
     "Seriously? You're going to nibble bread and then sit and stare while I stuff down a well-deserved lumberjack special?"
     The hurt look just sent an aggravating ping through my already jangled nerves.  I dug around in my purse for some aspirin and came up with a tube of Korres body lotion instead.
     "You should get some of this. Awesome stuff. It would do wonders for your cuticles, and it's only twenty bucks a pop. In fact, we should hit the mall after breakfast."
     Gloria picked at the offending digits.
     "I really shouldn't. Besides, I...umm...don't have that much cash and I left my credit card at home."
     Well, this was turning into a real funfest. I was regretting the breakfast invite already. 
     "Tell me about your new project, Kristin. You've been so busy, we haven't had time to talk much lately."
     "Oh, it's just a volunteer project to take up some of my time.  The Hubs hated it at first because we had to reschedule our tennis games, but now he's on board.  We go down into the south ward - you know, it's not nearly as scary as I thought - and look for people who have homes that need cleaned up or fixed up. Then we make a list and the social workers check 'em out and see if they need other help. You know, the Broken Windows theory. A rundown building becomes a place for vandals, drug dealers and stuff.  Sometimes a little negligence is the sign of impending trouble.  Let it go, and things deteriorate.  Catch it right away, and you can maybe save somebody before they hit the skids.  Its all about paying attention to the little things, and I must say that I'm very good at it."
     For a moment, I wondered if I sounded stuck-up, but shrugged it off. Besides, our orders had arrived and I wanted to concentrate on the feast before me.  Tough to do, with Gloria looking around and fidgeting.  Suddenly, I couldn't wait to get out of there.  I ate half and pushed the rest away.
     "If you aren't going to take that, can I have it? For the neighbor's dog," she added.
     "Whatever. You know I can't stand leftovers. Unless it's steak or duck.  Remember when we used to go to Lamberto's and drop a couple hundred bucks? We should do that again."
     "Maybe."
     Which sounded like "Never".  Well, OK, apparently our days of chumming around were drawing to a close. It happens. Time to move on.
     "Well."
     "Well." We engaged in one of those awkward hugs where the arms sort of flail and don't fit and both parties wish it hadn't happened.
     "Give me a call sometime."
     "OK."
     She won't. I won't. I climbed up into the Rover and watched as she walked across the parking lot.  Didn't see the Cooper. Puzzled as she made her way toward a banged up Toyota.  Must be a loaner. But I didn't have any more time to waste, as I was due at the Broken Windows Alliance in two hours and I still needed to get my hair highlighted. 
    

    

      
     
    

22 comments:

  1. Powerful stuff Li! Topical too - my mum accused me of being middle class last night because she didn't agree with my views!

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  2. loving the broken windows theory - is that a real thing or something you created Lisa?

    marc nash

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    1. Hi Marc. Actual theory: based on the idea that small signs of incivility and decay, like broken windows, trash, and general disarray signify that nobody cares, which beckons those inclined to vandalism and petty crime, creating more fear and isolation in the community, which in turn leads to more serious crimes and hopelessness. In this story, I decided to apply it to people (Gloria) as well; someone who suddenly becomes unkempt, changes their spending/living habits, or doesn't maintain certain social bonds may be sliding into depression, debt, or some sort of personal crisis. :-)

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  3. Sad to see friendships crash and burn.

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  4. Really enjoyed this! It's so true that sometimes friendships only work when you're both at a certain time in your life. I couldn't work out whether I liked the main character, or not. On the one hand she's obviously a good person as she does volunteer work, but on the other hand she's clearly obsessed with exterior beauty (nails, hair) and can't see that her (former) friend is in a really bad place.
    I think it's clever to write someone so grey, as we generally are in real life.
    Laura
    www.laurabesley.blogspot.com

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    1. Most people are a mix of "good" and "bad". Sometimes we're just self-absorbed and oblivious rather than intentionally cruel.

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  5. I try to bulldoze issues too often for my own good, especially with friends and loved ones. I wish this narrator and I had more elegance about us.

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    1. I'm also guilty of bulldozing on occasion - I think when we feel passionate about something, it's an easy thing to do.

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  6. That wasn't a friendship to begin with: it was like being with like, and once that "bond" broke, with neither close enough to open up to tell/ask, the fragile window shattered. Gloria sent out enough clues that things were not going well for her, and if not already in depression was sliding there, and this could have been her attempt at one last hold out to her old ways.

    Volunteer work doesn't always mean the other person really cares, but sees it as an obligation/something to do (brag about).

    Hit me in the gut, Li. Great writing.

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    1. Thank you Stuart. I tried to add several layers here, as I didn't want either character to be a caricature. I think maybe the story could be expanded at some point. And yes, there are those who do a certain amount of "good deeds" simply to enhance their own self-image.

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  7. That just drips with irony, Lisa. She's SO good at it, but can't see the need in front of her. Very poignant.

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    1. You hit the nail on the head, Doug. Unfortunately, it happens far too often; we miss the clues right in front of us.

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  8. That just drips with irony, Lisa. She's SO good at it, but can't see the need in front of her. Very poignant.

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  9. I felt so angry at the end of the story, so furiously appalled towards the main character. You captured the very essence of the self-absorbed suburban woman. Will be watching for the next update.

    Best,

    Ama.

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    1. Wonderful! Having a reader angry with/hating a character is very satisfying - it means I hit the mark. Thank you for stopping by, nice to meet you!

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  10. well done. Very credible exchange. Like how the memory was shrugged off. Very telling about their relationship now.

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    1. Thank you Sandra. Yes - in fact, having written this, I wonder if they were ever really friends at all. Perhaps it bears further exploring. Nice to meet you!

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  11. Hi Lisa,

    This story makes a wonderful introduction. Doug pointed you out to me in his post about Flash Fiction. I always love to read tightly-woven gems like these!

    Cheers,

    Mitch

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    1. Hi Mitch, nice to meet you. Doug's a great guy with an interesting blog. Glad you liked the flash! Thank you.

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  12. Replies
    1. Thank you Gary :-) You do some amazingly detailed reviews on your blog, and I love that you give Indie writers some much needed exposure! Thanks for stopping by.

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