Saturday, June 14, 2014

Fiction in a flash

I've got exactly 30 minutes left on the library computer and the goal is to write some fiction. No stopping. No editing. Just let it roll and see what happens. Now....

Jack Valentine was his name. And he got shit for that from the trailer park boys when he was a kid. And all the ladies thought he'd be something special. And old ladies compared him to a dead movie star from the 20s. But it was just a last name. And it was a holiday he dismissed as a vacuous economic commodity designed for the benefit of retail. As for family history, he didn't give much thought to that. Life hadn't slowed down enough for the reflective insights of geneaology.

He was in his late 20s. Hair getting thin, a slight paunch beginning to grow in his midsection, but otherwise fit, strong, and hale as any other late 20th century American male. And Jack was handsome enough, "swarthy," the word he liked to use, and still naive enough in his youth to take a turndown from a lady as a missed opportunity for them, not a crushing defeat nor an affront to his manhood.

An easygoing manner was Jack's best and worst asset. Past girlfriends praised at how well he got along with friends, brothers, and parents, and how willing he was to commit to whatever activities they planned. But time and circumstances inevitably revealed the flip side of that equation, and more than one past lover accused him of laziness, being non-committal, unmotivated, unoriginal. Or, in the words of the pink-haired art major, Deidre Winnemaker, who was quoting someone else, "There's no there there."

Which is not the worst fault to have. Many a man has been able to coast through life with a take-charge woman who wants an easygoing man, as long as he pays the bills and doesn't fool around. Soulfulness, ambition, and spirit have their downsides too. But unfortunately for Jack, his long hair and swarthiness didn't attract women looking for "safe." His easygoing manner was often misconstrued for seduction, and the safe-seeking women were never drawn in to Jack's web.

It was a late spring day, a day for love and falling in love, for fresh beginnings, during wedding and graduation season, birds aflutter with nesting and feeding their young, the newness of the green prescient in the minds of North Americans who endured a harsh and clinging winter, when Jack felt stirrings of passion, anger, and a call to action heretofore quite novel to his usually laconic manner. It started with a text message received from his on and off girlfriend, Mindy Russo, who he had spent the previous weekend with at her brother Mark's graduation party. She lived over an 1 1./2 away in the south Chicago suburbs, moving there recently after finishing graduate school.

Jack didn't know if he loved Mindy, but he could tell the symptoms of losing her, of the same game of boredom and uncomfortable silence he'd seen through most of his 20s. And he knew her graduation and the recent move, which separated them, not by an insurmountable distance, but would certainly take a bit more effort to maintain, threatened their relationship. They'd been dating almost 6 months, and again, Jack knew, this was what he called a threshold time.

He was planning to come out and see her this weekend. They were going to go out on a boat with her brother and some of their friends. One of those big boats that has a lot of room, a canopy, and lots of cooler space. Drinking and swimming would be on the bill. But then Mindy texted him.

"Change of plans. Don't come out this weekend."

"What?!" he replied.

"Not enough room on the boat. But Mark rlly wnats me ther."

"Why not do something after."

"This weekend is just stacked, ok. I hope you understand."

"I don't (frowny emoticon)."

Jack tried to call her, but she didn't answer the phone.

And that's when Jack's mind went through a flurry of emotions. Anger, rejection, resignation. But what could he do? Was he losing her? No doubt there'd be other guys on the boat. Single guys. Maybe she already had her eyes on one. Maybe it was too late...""


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