Well, faithful readers, here we are at the end of another blogoversary. This year’s ran a little rough, not only because we had a couple of contributors with extenuating circumstances but also because I let the damned thing sneak up on me this year instead of planning properly. All that said, I think we still had some wonderful stuff contributed this year, and I’m looking forward to next year already (in fact, if you’ve got an idea, why don’t you just e-mail it to me now, so there will be at least a 50% chance I’ll have something to actually put in the blog next year?).
I’m closing this year’s blogoversary with, as promised, a NEW short story I’ve written. I had originally planned to write another Circe story, but given that my primary vocation these days requires that I spend so much time fleshing out the insane little universe I’ve created, I thought it would be a nice break for both myself and you to try something a little different. Recently, I entered a “flash fiction” contest, wherein the entrants were required to submit a story of not more than 600 words total. If you are at all familiar with what the kinder among you refer to as my “tendency toward circumlocution” and the rest of you call “logorrhea,” you know that brevity (soul of wit or not) is something with which I struggle. In fact, when I first approached this contest, I was petrified, convinced that I would never be able to tell a story in my style in a mere 600 words. “Hell,” I thought, “I use 600 words ordering my chai/flirting with the cute barista every morning, and that’s before I even get to the second window.”
But then something unusual happened.
The story you’re about to read – “Camille” – has been knocking around my head for, oh, three years or so. In that time, I’ve tried to write it in several ways, from the point of view of several characters, and even, in a late-night panic fueled by too much mead and a crushing fear that the wellspring from which I draw my draughts of creativity was drying up, in Circean, the language I’ve invented for my “big” books. Nothing worked. I’d get 20 pages in and the thing would just lie there like your Uncle Bob after Thanksgiving dinner – bloated, inert and smelling faintly of shame.
Then this contest came along, and as I was sitting at the PC late one night, I had a sudden afflatus* – what if I carved the story down to its bones? What if I cast aside all the expository baggage and simply started in media res? Could I, a woman whose conversations tend more toward James Joyce than Jack Robinson, actually get the hell out of my own way and tell a story?
I like to think I can. In 599 words, no less (plus one for the title).
*It just means "inspiration." Put away the Beano™! Honestly!
He was a monster of the ordinary sort: violent, prone to drunken excess and stupendous rage. He was king of his wretched realm, and his subjects – a wife, her beauty not yet faded but starting to brown at the edges with constant fear; two kids, old enough to know he was bad news but young enough to believe someone could save them – lived their tattered lives between his rages and his blackouts. Scott Meinke was, as he liked to remind his wife, The Man.
And he liked being The Man. Which is why this freak show his wife had befriended bothered him so much; she didn’t flinch like Sara, didn’t acknowledge his inherent superiority. Her rolling eyes and half-whispered remarks made his wife laugh out loud before clasping a hand over her mouth, eyes on his fists. Each time the laughter lasted a little longer; it was like she was transfusing steel into his wife’s brittle frame. He didn’t like it one bit.
What galled him the most was that Camille (that’s what she called herself, though anyone with eyes in his head could see she was no woman, not natural-born at least) expected him to allow her come into his house and destroy it. Well, he’d put a stop to that soon enough; as a kid, he’d watched his old man lay down the law, and he knew any bitch, even a trans-whatever like this one, would smarten right up once you gave her a few whacks. “Women are flighty, boy. You gotta knock some sense into ‘em, or they’ll go every which way when you’re not lookin’.” The old man had imparted this advice on his wedding day, and Scott never had reason to believe otherwise.
Now, standing inside the bitch’s bedroom, tire iron clutched in his fist, Scott Meinke prepared to knock some sense into the…thing…that had convinced his wife to flee, taking their kids and leaving behind only divorce papers and bills. He wanted to say something clever, like his heroes in the movies he watched as he drank one beer after another in his broken Barcolounger, but his meager wit was not up to the task. So he simply raised the tire iron above his head and brought it down with all the force and pent-up drunken rage he could muster.
Or at least he meant to. There was a hand, nails painted the dusty rose of an autumn sunset, holding the iron about a foot above eyes that were staring into his; mild brown eyes that ignited, a burning gold that spread buttery light. “Took your time, didn’t you?” Camille raised her arm, pulling the iron free from his hand. She spoke a word; the iron ran red with rust, crumbling to powder. “My wife…you…you bitch…” he stammered. “Technically, she’s no longer your wife. Also, I, as you have noted on numerous occasions, am no bitch.” Camille shrugged, green gown gleaming in the soft glow from her torchlight eyes. “As you may have also guessed, my name’s not really Camille; it’s Camael. Do you speak Hebrew, Mr. Meinke?” Scott, still trying to understand what she’d done to the tire iron, regarded her blankly. “Ah. I thought not.” The nightgown parted, not a gown at all but two verdant wings, revealing heavy red armor plate beneath. “I don’t wear the helmet anymore, it’s hell on my hair.” She smiled gently through ruby lips. “I’m afraid Divine Love has gotten rather a bad rap these days, but one does what one can. Now let’s see if we can knock some sense into you, shall we?”
And that is, as they say, all she wrote. Thank you ALL for stopping by my blog, both this week and every other time you visit. It’s often been said that writing is more about therapy for the writer than pleasure for the reader, but in my case the pleasure I receive comes from knowing I’ve shared and entertained with all of you. We live in a busy world, and I genuinely appreciate you taking the time to ride my Crazy Train down the tracks a ways.