Thursday, November 25, 2010

Flash Fiction Challenge Winners: Dee Turbon and Lori McDole

Diamond Girl by Lorri McDole

John’s pretty much a grab-the-Kraft-bottle-and-squeeze kind of guy, into all those so-called ‘improvements,’ so when he brought home the jar labeled ‘Bar-B-Q Sauce’, I gave him my eyebrows-up look.  

“Just read it already,” he said. 

“Bar-B-Q Sauce,” I read, trying to figure out what part to emphasize.  “So?”

“So, Bar-B-Q.  Bar-B.  Get it?” 

My name isn’t Barbara, but John started calling me Barbie after his niece showed him that new doll she got, because of my blonde hair I guess.  I know it sounds silly—I’ve always been the serious one, first about school and then my career, if you could call it that, as a nurse—but I was kind of flattered.         

“Hey Blondie,” he said.  “Hey Barbie.” And it stuck.   

After John brought home that jar, I was never just Barbie anymore.  Barbie Queen, Barbie ‘Q’tie—I was surprised by the little thrill I got from the names he came up with.  By the time he got to Barbie Q-ball I was usually laid out on the kitchen table with him brushing whatever he’d put in the jar that night—whipped cream, honey, chocolate sauce—all over my body and licking it up.  I didn’t have a lot of experience at it, being sweet or sexy.  I kind of liked it. 

At parties, he introduced me as ‘my girlfriend, Barbie Q,’ as if the Q actually stood for something, and after a few drinks, he’d start joking about how he liked me ‘done,’ how messy I made his face, things like that.  It got awkward when he and Paul would disappear into the garage to play their music.  Their friends would stand in the corner, drinking beer and whispering and looking over their shoulders at me.  Who knows what they were saying.  But then one day John called me Celia in front of everyone (“Seal ya up and ship ya off,” the kids used to tease me at school), and just like that, Barbie was gone.

So was John. 

When I found out he had a new girlfriend, names started buzzing in my head—Angelica, Isabella, Theresa—and I couldn’t help imagining the little trinkets he’d bring home to them:  angels that leave glitter all over your hands when you touch them, oxidized bells, nuns with ‘nasty’ habits that fly up when you push a button.  I thought about cupboards all over the city filled with these souvenirs, just like my Bar-B-Q Sauce jar.     

But then I heard John’s new song on the radio—Lucy N. DeSky with Diamonds—and damn if I can think of what you could give a girl who seems to have everything, or how you could ever leave her.

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CROW BACK, CROW BLACK by Dee Turbon

She had not let the porter carry the package, even though it was a struggle for her and she had to stop often to catch her breath. Her cases and her bags he could carry, but the package she carried herself, cradled it in her arms as though it was something precious. The porter opened the door to her room and stood back to let her enter. Then he set her luggage just inside the door, placed the room keys on a low dark wood table and asked her if there was anything else.

She set the package down on the bed, gentle like it could break, and she turned to tip him. She pressed folded small bills into his palm and thanked him for his help, her voice all hush and hiss. She watched him go, backing away from her as though she was royalty, and closing the door behind him.

She sighed and a world-weariness was in the sound that she made. She drew the curtains shut and unbuttoned her coat. She slipped her shoes from her feet and kicked them out of sight under the bed. Then she turned her attention to the package. Something it was wrapped in layers of cloth and the whole bound with silk cord. She unpicked the knot in the silk and unwound the cord. She folded back the heavy monk’s cloth cotton outer wrapping, and a layer of mackinaw, and finally a soft and softer flannel.

She lifted the framed picture out of its nest of cloth and held it at arm’s length. ‘Crow back, crow black’. That was what he had called the picture. It was something he’d said to her at their first meeting and it was a description of her hair. ‘Crow back, crow black, your hair. And eyes like a blue-grey day and a maybe-storm in them. I must paint you, I must,’ he said. She held the picture at arm’s length seeing herself as he had seen her then, and she sighed again.

Looking at the picture she thinks she can smell the paint of his studio, though the picture is glazed, thinks she can hear him whistling the one tune over and over, something about Lucy and sky and diamonds and all because she’d told him that was her name, Lucy. And he made her wear a fur collared coat though it was summer, and he threw open the windows so she wouldn’t be too hot, and he sat her on a high stool.

‘Crow back, crow black. Like the night with ribbons of aurora borealis adrift in the blue-dark of the sky, or like new-mined coal and the oily skin of rainbows on its cut surface.’ And he leaned in close to make it hang just right, her hair, and the brush of his hand against her cheek and she gasped in surprise and something else besides. And he was close enough for kissing, and she wished now that he had or she had, a hundred years of that wishing, that’s what it feels like. And that moment gone, except in an old woman’s memory.

Older now, that one-time Lucy. Hair like smoke or mist these days, and her eyes more grey than blue, like the sky when the colour has drained from it and the sun is going down on the day, on her day. And she is back in the city, one last time. And he said he’d come see her, he’d love to. And she weeps to look at who she once was. ‘Crow back, crow black,’ she says, and she sets the picture next to the mirror above the fireplace and walks away from it looking over her shoulder, looking back at who she once was and who she now is, and wishing again that he had not made a gift of it to her.
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All three stories for the Lucy N. DeSky contest were incredible.  It was pretty remarkable that all three had a kind of melancholy and underlying pathos.  I’m really glad that I’m able to give a drawing to two of the participants even though I kind of feel like all were equal in quality.  So splitting the difference I’m giving the drawings to Dee Turbon and Lori McDole.  I’d like to give an honorable mention to Heather Ryan and I’ll be sending her a special drawing as a gift.

All three stories almost seem to be related in a way.  Did you know that John Lennon was also an art student at one point.?   McDole’s story and Ryan’s stories had an interesting and related kind of twist in the lost love department as well and almost could be a strange magic fiction continuation of each other.   

I’m really delighted by how good these stories were and how the combination of the three have given me a point of departure that makes me day dream my own continuation of the stories.

Thanks Guys!

Kenney Mencher