I’m Fine – Short Story

Short Story
Fiction
Written by -M. Taggart

I’m Fine

 

His father never called him. And when he called his father, it was generally ignored. If he wanted to see his father he drove to his father’s house and knocked on the door. Sometimes the door wouldn’t open. Other times it would open before he reached the steps. He never knew which father he was going to get. He was never asked inside. His father was too ashamed of the interior of the house. They’d sit on the steps and talk sports. Or about beer. Sometimes they would talk about government corruption and always they talked about humanity. Never, though, did he step inside.

One time he drove to his father’s house to find his father passed out drunk in the driveway. He went to town, bought a six pack of beer, and came back. His father was still passed out in the driveway. He didn’t care. He loved his father as he was. Even if his father didn’t love himself. When his father finally woke, he offered him a beer. It was still cold. His father took it, drank half down, and said “Did you see who they voted in? This isn’t for self desire to love what’s to come, it’s for self duty to be what is!” He wasn’t sure what that meant, but they talked about politics while drinking beer for the next two hours.

A large cloud, shaped like a simple circle, produced shade on the mountainside. He thought it looked nice. He liked how the wind was just strong enough to push the leaves in a continuous hurry. It was easy to watch.

He used a stick to draw a circle in the dirt. He was sitting on a rock just above the water line. The riverbank mud and dirt was spattered with leaves and smelled of organic waste. It was going to get worse before better. He knew this. He wished the getting worse part would go nicely on him the way a mean dog eases up just before biting and instead of biting only shows teeth and raises its fur. Maybe death is like that. Maybe you only feel bad for a small amount of time, and then you’re free. He drew an ‘X’ in the circle.

The cloud had moved on and now he thought the mountainside looked bright and alive. He tossed the stick into the river, watched the creation of water rings disperse, and pulled his knees into his body. He felt as though he were hovering just about his body. Looking forward, searching for another kind of shade, he saw double as tears filled his eyes, then saw nothing because he would not blink.

He missed his father. He wished he’d been able to spend more time with him. Now the option of time is gone. He wanted to drive to his father’s house, sit on the steps, and talk. Because talking to his father’s steps is better than not talking at all. And he thought if he ever has a child he’ll sit on those same steps and tell exactly how everything was instead of hiding how it should be.

 

**

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A Short Story-

In a Face
Short Story- Nonfiction
Written by -M. Taggart

In a Face

 

You can see intelligence in a face.

In college I was told by one of my English professors to not bother writing a book.
Actually, he told me that I wouldn’t. And to not bother.

I asked him why. He said, “It takes a lot of work to write a book. And so many students say they will, but they don’t. Or, a book is started and not finished.”

He was bald. He was having a hard time pushing his material into his carry bag. Which,
For some reason was already slung over his shoulder.

I’m bald. I was going bald while in college. I don’t care who’s bald.
He was bald.

So there he was, this man-thing, telling me to not bother writing a book.

I don’t want to be a writer
I am a writer.

But, he didn’t know this, he wouldn’t understand even if he did.
My professor had just told me his struggles to write a book were my own.

Another thing he didn’t know was that I had already written. A lot. And I wasn’t an English major. I took English classes because they were my young-adult recess.

When I read Kafka’s Metamorphosis we dissected it with a professor’s assistant.
She was Russian and spoke broken English. Our class of over 400 was broken down into small segments. My group was roughly 15.

We met with her every Tuesday at 4pm.
She would constantly ask for my interpretation of Kafka’s work.
I wondered if she asked for my opinion so often because I wasn’t afraid to speak in front of others. But, that was a lie. I knew why she asked. I just didn’t allow myself to accept it, not just yet. Isn’t it funny how we do this to ourselves.

She was driven by literature. She listened, and thought about her responses
before delivering. She would ask us what authors we enjoyed. Then she’d write the names of the authors in her notebook.

She was beautiful. Her mind. Her broken English.
Her struggle to express.
She seldom made facial expressions. Her eyes danced while listening.

You can see intelligence in a face.

Black Cat Syndrome – A Short Story

Black Cat Syndrome
Fiction
Written by Matt Taggart

Black Cat Syndrome

 

It was late afternoon. The pub was busy. They had taken the last two seats. He sat with his elbow touching the wall. Pete was being crowded by an overweight man.

“Ever heard of the black cat syndrome?”

“No.”

“I was walking with Erin. Remember her? She was a good person. I wasn’t ready. Anyway, we were walking on the dirt road that splits the cornfield.”

Pete leaned closer to Eric. Not to hear him better, but because the overweight man laughed heavily and rolled his head back and crowded Pete even more.

The pub burst with noise as a new group of happy hour sympathizers opened the door and searched for their area of comfort. Eric noticed how everyone’s body language changed the moment new arrivals entered their space. He pressed closer to the wall. The wall wouldn’t change.

“Go on. I’m listening.” Pete said.

“We were walking toward the river. You could just make out the cliff face of Sugarloaf. I remember wanting to see how high the river was. As I looked toward the river a black cat walked out from the corn. It crossed the dirt road in front of us, and went back into the corn on the other side. I said to Erin, ‘You see the black cat?’ She smiled and nodded her head.”

Pete lurched in his chair. A portion of beer leaped from his pint glass and landed on his boots. Pete’s lips thinned as his head tilted. “Mother fucker” Pete murmured. The overweight man’s forearm had over taken Pete’s bar space.

“I’m sorry about that. I saw. I’ll get you another beer.” The bartender said.

“I’m fine. I have half left.”

“I’m still going to get you another beer. Be as fine as you want.” She smiled while walking back toward the taps.

“You’re always doing that. I see what you’re doing. You’re studying everyone.” Pete said.

“I don’t mean to. It just happens.” Even now Eric was looking passed Pete. The bar was dark oak. Half the patrons had food. Everyone had beer. Not one person had a whiskey. Someone needed to order a whiskey. It wasn’t right to not have a whiskey on this bar. A pub employee placed a hot plate of onion rings in front of a man. He could barely make out the scent of a woman’s perfume as the smell of onion rings filled the crowded air. And now the bartender was coming back with Pete’s beer, already smiling. The conversations filling the bar room were constant. Creating a noise with peaks and valleys, but it wasn’t random. It had somehow been designed with purpose.

“What the hell do you see?”

“I don’t know. Nothing really.”

“Here’s your beer, hun.” She smiled not the kind of smile demanding a good tip. And she lingered. Pete wasn’t very handsome. He was rugged, beautifully rustic, and sincere.

“Can I have a whiskey? Actually, a Manhattan. Not in a foo-foo glass either. I want it in a rocks glass. And I want the dirty rocks in another rocks glass, please.” Eric asked the bartender.

“You can, and will.” She didn’t look at him. She was watching Pete. Pete hadn’t noticed.

“Are you lost in the story?” asked Pete.

“Nope. So, we walked through the corn field, through the cemetery, and then to the river bank. The river wasn’t high. I thought it would be, but the storm didn’t bring it up hardly at all. I’m standing on the river bank, with Erin, and we’re taking in the view of the cliff face. For some reason I think of that damn black cat. I ask Erin, ‘Wasn’t it odd to see that cat walk out of the corn?’ I had thought it was odd because of its age. It was a young cat. Not a kitten, but not much older than one. And the farm was a long way off.” Eric said while watching the bartender make his drink. He wanted to see if she would spin the long spoon in the alcohol or shake it in a shaker. If she shook it, the drink would be spoiled. If it was spoiled he’d need to order a second Manhattan or else he wouldn’t let himself be comfortable. And the oak bar still wouldn’t be right.

“So that’s it. You saw a black cat on a walk?”

“No. It wasn’t that. It was Erin’s answer. She said, “What black cat? There wasn’t any black cat.”

“Why the hell would she say that? She just saw it with you. You said she nodded her head.”

“I don’t know. That’s why it’s the black cat syndrome. I’ve seen it everywhere since that moment. People have their eyes open and see about a third of what’s happening around them. Maybe less. I said to Erin, ‘You’re joking. You just saw the cat minutes ago. It crossed the road in front of us.’ But my flaw was that I was now talking with passion. Erin says, ‘Why are you yelling at me. There was no cat. Who cares anyways? Why do you always have to be like this?’ and now Erin’s upset and we’re on a brink of an argument and I can’t let it go because there WAS a black cat. If there weren’t a black cat I wouldn’t be passionate and it’s not even about the damn cat. It’s about her having seen it without locking it away as fact. And now I’m passionately digging through her mind to uncover this for her and it never works. It just never works.”

The bartender placed his Manhattan on the oak bar. He was afraid to taste it. “Why are you so fired up? You’re yelling.” she asked.

He wasn’t yelling, but that hardly mattered. “You’re right. I was remembering a time when someone wasn’t able to handle truth. And that pisses me off.”

“He’s not normal. He’ll talk to you, but he’s here and somewhere else too. Don’t mind him.” Pete said to the bartender.

Eric nodded in agreement. He slowly lifted the rocks glass filled with Manhattan. He brought the drink to his nose, smelled the tempting aroma of whiskey mixed with sweet vermouth, and tilted the glass. He wouldn’t need to order another. Unless he wanted to.

“You make a good drink. It’s exacting.” Eric said to the bartender. “Pete, take out your cell phone. You’re going to have her number.”

Pete had known Eric since childhood. He opened his new-contact screen in his cell and placed it on the bar.

She took Pete’s phone, entered her name, then number. She said nothing. She attempted a smile. She looked at Eric with something resembling anger. Beneath that was truth and that was all that mattered.

 

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A Child Hopes

A Child Hopes

Fiction
Written by -M. Taggart

 

A child too young to crawl had no parents. A man placed the child in a crib and walked away while listening to its suffering cries. The infant had no understanding of the fading footsteps, but fully felt the abandonment.

Near the crib, carved into the cold stone wall, was the saying, ‘These stones wash my mind.’ A smiling face was left as a signature.

A nine-year-old had created the message.

Etched into the wood floor beneath the infant’s crib was another, ‘My thoughts are new this morning having never been thought before.’  Another smiling face was left as a signature.

**

‘What are you doing?’ Nick’s grandfather asked.

‘Reading.’ Nick replied. He held onto a nail. He was helping his grandfather in the garage.

‘Oddly, I never read much. But, when I did, it changed me.’

Nick’s grandfather was a large man. He wore grey work pants and a white t-shirt with suspenders.

‘Grandpa, what does this means? “These stones wash my mind.” That’s what it says in the book.’

Nick’s grandfather stopped fidgeting with the bird feeder he was building. Looking at the rafters, then his boots, he shook his head, ‘You might want to find another book.’ He reached a window with his eyes, and noticed how the sunlight spilled around the clouds.

Nick didn’t want to find another book. This book was too important. And he didn’t miss his grandfather’s face when he’d asked. He saw. He saw fully. Nick looked at the nail in his hand. It was metal. It smelled like metal. It looked like metal. It tasted like metal. But these words didn’t taste, or look like anything, but words. Though, he felt them.

‘Why didn’t you read much? That doesn’t make sense. If it changed you, was it for the better, or worse.’ Nick asked.

‘They were fluff. So much fluff. And the eyes reading them never cared. They read because they read. But, a few, changed me because they were meant to be written. And when I read them they made me to see.’

‘To see what?’

‘That’s not really the question. ‘These stones wash my mind.’ That’s the question. Be careful to not lose focus. If you want an answer to a question, truly want it, never stop until that one question is fully answered. Then, move to the next.’

Nick felt shamed. His cheeks filled red with emotion. He stood to walk from the garage and let the nail drop to the cement floor. It wasn’t that he couldn’t focus.

‘If you had answered my question the first time I asked it, I wouldn’t have had to rework new questions to again come to the first. And if it’s too hard for you to talk about, why’d you write the book?’

Nick walked out of the garage. Sunlight lit his young shoulders.

 

***

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A Tilted Heart – Flash Fiction

Fiction
Written by -M. Taggart
3/17/18

A Tilted Heart

 

Out of the drawer fell a folded piece of paper. He paused knowing what it was. Slowly he bent down, opened it, and read words he’d written to himself.

“Today was a nothing day. And that’s how some of them are. 7/13/15.” He felt as though he swallowed a tilted heart; pushing upward in his throat, not content, possibly never his to have.

He put the folded paper into his pocket and closed the drawer. He placed the heavy cast iron skillet into the sink. It had held what he had told himself to think was a perfectly made egg for his morning egg and cheese sandwich. He stood with his hands on the kitchen counter staring at the dirty iron skillet. Frozen in a moment between truth and agony for having finally accepted it.

It’d been over two years since he sat on the river bank reading and drinking beer. The beer had warmed from the summer sun. He happily drank the warm beer and read and wrote a reminder to come back. But he hadn’t. Instead he pushed the words into a drawer and now he had eaten an egg sandwich that was not perfect. He knew it as he ate it, but pushed that truth down toward his tilted heart to falsely warm for a brief time.

Funny though, he thought, funny how when he wrote it it was meant as a compliment to the day itself. Yet now, it flew in motion a range of self punishments he needed to correct. He left the kitchen, dirty cast iron skillet and all, found two books he treasured, and walked out the door. It was a three and a half hour drive. There would be a place to find beer along the way. There wouldn’t be another time to do what needed to be done now.

 

 

 

 

Always The Other Room – Short Story

A Short Story
Always The Other Room 
Written by -M. Taggart
Fiction 1/20/2018
Fiction. Can’t stress that enough for when my family/friends read this. FICTION!

 

‘When you do that. I don’t find you attractive.’ she said.

He finished what he was doing. His eyes slid to the floor. Feeling the same way he always felt when she spoke to him that way.

‘It’s just not attractive. You must know that. No one would like listening to that. Go in the other room and blow your nose. Shut the door.’

He caught a glimpse of his face in the mirror. It was an accidental glimpse. The type you wish to never view, but you did and now it’s too late and you can’t give it back. Because life is like that. You can’t give back what you never wanted. You either have it always, or never.

‘Know what I find unattractive? I find you not finding me attractive unattractive and now I’m wondering why we even bother.’ He heard her sit up. She had been laying down on the couch with a blanket up to her chin. ‘So what’s the point of all of this?’ He walked back into the room. Still annoyed by the pathetic look he found in his mirror. Now though, he wore a piercing look and he looked at her with it.

She sat up more, but kept the blanket over her legs. ‘Because I love you.’

‘Yea? What’s love to you?’ he stood waiting.

‘It’s a feeling. I feel it. You know I’m not good at explaining things.’

‘I feel things too. And right now, I feel this is a waste of our time and has been for years. We haven’t had sex in three months. Not because I don’t want to. I guess that’s a feeling you don’t understand. How that makes me feel, that is. How I walk around wondering what’s wrong with me and then I realize it’s me blowing my nose, or the way I sound when I sleep, or any other thing you dislike about my person.’

‘Don’t, let’s not do this. Calm down. You are always so angry. Just calm down and go in another room.’

He felt the need to slide his eyes to the floor again. ‘It’s always the other room with you. If you dislike being near me so much that you constantly ask for my removal, why then are you with me. I can’t list ten things that you enjoy about me. I can’t. I can list ten things you find unattractive about me and something about that is seemingly off. But hey, I’ll just go into the other room for you. That’ll solve everything.’

‘See. You’re so angry. You need to talk to someone. I wish you would. They could help you. Maybe give you tools to be rid of your anger.’ She picked up her phone, turned it on and started to read. Her head no longer focusing direction on him.

He opened the refrigerator door, grabbed a bottle opener, opened a bottle of beer, tossed the bottle opener loudly onto the counter and emptied the beer. He opened the trash, tossed it in, letting the bottle hit loudly and belched.

‘You know I don’t like when you drink beer that fast, honey. It’s not good for you.’ She said from under her blanket while lying down and reading on her phone.

He opened the refrigerator door.

 

Should I Call Her – Short Story

Should I Call Her
Short Story
Written by -M. Taggart

‘You’ve been sitting here for an hour thinking about calling her.’

The sun wouldn’t set for another two hours. He liked sitting on the deck and doing this. Watching. Thinking. Drinking beer. What would be the same if he did call?

‘Honestly. Tell me what you’re doing with this? It’s been three days.’

‘It’s a bit like holding onto sleep when you’ve first woken up. You know you’re awake. You want to get up because you know you should be up, but you don’t get up and instead you do nothing.’ Nick said feeling he’d described it as best as he could, but also feeling like he’d left something out.

‘I think you should. There’s your phone. Pick it up. Call. You said she’s interested. How do you know again?’

‘She told me she was. She walked up to me and told me to call her. She took my phone and put her number in the contacts. Smiled and walked away.’

‘And now it’s been three days and you’ve done nothing. Why? Want to sit on this deck forever and look at the sun go down?’

A Blue Jay was screaming. It had just landed in a bush, down below the deck, and now screamed. He wished he knew if the bird was male or female. He should know the difference, thought he had, but now wasn’t sure.

‘Do you have any more of that whiskey? The Whistle Pig whiskey?’

‘I do. Not sure that I want any. It’s where it always is.’ Nick said without looking at Chad. Chad walked into the apartment and came back with two glasses, ice in a dish, and the Whistle Pig whiskey.

‘You know, Nick, you not knowing if you want this whiskey is much like you not knowing if you want to call her. There’s no point in doing nothing other than wasting time. It’s either you do, or you don’t. Once you’ve made that decision, the rest happens. And, you can’t control it.’

A second Blue Jay landed near the first Blue Jay. They both sat on branches near one another and screamed. The sun had dipped. Chad poured two whiskey drinks, added one ice cube to each, and sat down.

‘I don’t like ice in mine.’ Nick said. He let the ice float. Watched as it diluted the whiskey.

‘Nick, she might not be interested anymore. Think of that? Maybe she’s found another guy to give interesting ideas about being interested. You taking three days to call her isn’t ideal. Not in my opinion. Maybe she doesn’t want to hear from you now. Better not call.’

The Blue Jays had stopped screaming. They sat and looked at whatever it is that Blue Jays look at. The sun had dipped slightly more.

‘Maybe she isn’t. Maybe I don’t care. Maybe this deck and this view are all I need.’ Nick knew what he said wasn’t true. He felt his lie inside him.

‘That’s fine. Let’s not talk about it more. Did you see the game last night? The Celtics picked up a good one. He’s 6ft 8 with a wing span of a 7 footer. I think he’s an MVP in the making.’

‘Yea. I guess.’ Nick picked up the whiskey drink. Watched as the ice cube floated to the back of the glass as he tipped it. He sipped the diluted drink. ‘Maybe I’ll call her right now.’

‘Good. What’s her name?’ Chad asked.

‘Jenny.’

‘I’m sorry.’

‘It’s O.K.’

‘I shouldn’t have asked. I didn’t know.’

‘It’s O.K. I’m fine.’

‘I wish I had known, I wouldn’t have asked.’

The sun had dipped slightly more. Chad refilled the whiskey in his glass. ‘Do you want more?’

‘Yes.’ said Nick. ‘What do you suppose happens to the male Blue Jay if he loses her? Do you know? I thought I knew. But now I don’t remember.’

 

**

thanks for reading

ps, it’s my birthday. i’m thankful to have another with my wife. i didn’t mean to write this. it just happened.

Matt