Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : 2017/04/02

“Machines,” Tory muttered. “Don’t even know they are.” He shook his head, sighed. It was maddening, frustrating, infuriating, and the saddest, most awful thing at the same time. “Humans,” he crossed his arms on his desk, and rested his head on them. “Stupid, fucking humans. Don’t even know.”

There had been a time when he believed in other people. When he believed in the world. When the future looked good to him. He remembered it, burned into his memory forever, something he could never get rid of. Life would be much simpler if he could, which was most likely why he couldn’t. Life was never simple.

He sat back up and stared out the window, into the dark of night. “Normal people are asleep by now, you know that.” He always told himself such things. “Normal people actually can sleep at night.” Instead of having nightmares, and tossing and turning, and tearing the covers loose, and waking up coated in sweat, wondering why he felt like he’d run too far on a scalding hot day. And that dry, cardboard taste in his mouth. What was that all about. “Doesn’t happen to normal people.”

He knew why he couldn’t sleep. That’s when his brain cells were unrestrained. When all the rules, all the lines in the sand, all the social crap that kept him in check during the day, went away. And his brain thought what it wanted to, said what it wanted to, talked to him about all the crap that was life, all the shit people did because. Normal.

“Fucking robots.” Tory shook his head. “And don’t even know it.” He shook his head again, “And you can’t explain it to them. ‘Cause. Seeing things as they really are is against the rules.” He closed his eyes, and tried to smell the darkness of the night. “I wonder what time it is?” He was still up, because it was better than going to sleep, and letting his brain do whatever.

“Mow the yard every Saturday morning, neighbor.” His next door neighbor was outside, from late February to late December, every Saturday morning, with that damn noisy lawn mower, making certain every fucking blade of Kentucky Fescue 31 in his lawn was the exact same height. Then there was pulling everything that wasn’t exactly the same. Every blade of grass had to be the same kind. All trillion of them. And the sidewalk, driveway, and curb had to have razor sharp edges. Not one blade of grass could reach over concrete. That would be a sin. Same thing with the flower beds. “Idiot spends $300 or more on mulch every year.”

Tory knew. “It’s an investment. I take care of it so it grows in value.” He knew why the neighbor wasted every Saturday. Just like why every car in the neighborhood was spotless. No dust. No dirt. No mud. No pollen. No scratches in the paint. “Shiney!” And his brain cells said, “That’s a $55,000 investment in my driveway.” An SUV with no dents, dings, or scratches, that never went off road, that slowed down for every bump, that almost stopped before making turns, and did stop for speed bumps. “I can’t hurt my baby!”

Fucking robots. That’s what people were. Nothing but robots. Programmed to want the same things. To want the same lives. To want more, and more, and more. And Tory wasn’t. Tory saw them for what they were. Saw the lie they lived. The lack of depth to their lives. Take the neighbor’s car, and house away, and he became nothing. “A failure,” that’s what they said. “A failure. Like Tory.”

Yeah, he knew. He knew what they thought, when they saw his yard, with dead leaves and weeds all over it. His car, with the chipped paint, and door dings, and in spring, the pine pollen shell that coated it. “Get with the program!”

That’s what it was. A program. A script. “A successful human is defined as follows.” Tory knew all the rules, all the supposed to do things. All the definitions of success. Of being a real person. And he knew it was all a lie.

Every last bit of it.

A lie.

“Stupid, fucking machines.”

Tory wondered when he’d finally wander off to try to sleep.

712 words
@mysoulstears


Miranda Kate‘s weekly short fiction challenge is in it’s fourth week. You can read about the challenge here. I’ve enjoyed writing for it every week so far. Please, go read her short tale this week, and any others that show up.

#MidweekMusings 1×13 : Freedom

I sat in my recliner, watching the TV. Some stupid show about how aliens had visited Earth in the past, and shared science and technology with us, and that’s how we started advancing as humans. I’m sure it all made sense to some people, but to me, it was flat silly.

As I watched, I thought about everything. My job. My art. My life. I was old enough, the kids had grown up, and left the house. I wasn’t sure if I was proud of them standing on their own, as a sign I’d been a successful parent. Or if I was sad at the struggles they faced daily, a sign of my failures as a parent. It was one of those questions you ask yourself, but can never find an answer too. Always, you wonder how you did, and what that means about you, what that says about you.

I doodled. I did. I drew things on paper. Stupid things. Fairies with butterfly wings, bugs with big eyes and stupid grins. I even had this idea for a bug civilization, where big bugs were busses, with advertisements on the sides, and windows, filled with little bugs looking out. And bug traffic everywhere, with bug street races, and bug old people. I know. Silly, right? It wasn’t a serious thing, just something I did, something fun.

I must have had three dozen notebooks of doodles, sketches, drawings. It was a hobby for me. I’d never taken it seriously, never thought of selling any of my sketches. Hell, I’d never thought of finishing any of them, cleaning them up, making them worth looking at.

I doodled. That’s what it was. Something fun, something to pass the time, something to help me relax. It wasn’t real, after all, I wasn’t doing that for a living.

What I did for a living was work. Full time, like a grown up’s supposed to. Work a full-time job, be responsible, be grown up, be professional. All that stuff you learn in school. That’s what school was for, wasn’t it? You went to school to learn how to get a job, and earn a living. A decent living. Where you could buy a house, get married, have a family, send the kids to college. So they could do the same thing.

I suppose my work defined me. Or, you know, maybe I let my work define me. I let what I did at work define me. That old question, “And what do you do for a living?”

I worked. I worked for a good company. They paid me well, gave me medical insurance, two weeks of vacation every year, five days of sick leave if I needed them. It was good money, a good deal. We’d done well with my work, we had cars (three of them), a roomy house, and all the trappings. TVs everywhere, computers, smartphones. All that crap.

My reflection in the TV screen spoke volumes when I noticed it. And I tried not to notice it. The tubby, balding white guy sitting on his lazy ass, drinking a zillion calorie soda, eating peanut butter fudge cookies, watching some stupid TV show in the middle of the night. The old white guy at the end of his life.

I didn’t want to see that, didn’t like my reflection in the TV screen. I grabbed the remote, and started surfing the channels, mindlessly clicking through them, until I stopped at the music video channels. I figured I’d watch some of the women sing. You know, one of two of the girl bands, where they dress in skin-tight outfits, with barely present skirts, and push up tops that make their boobs look bigger than they are. And they shimmy their hips, and shake their boobs lots while they sing and dance around. That was always fun to watch, right?

But that night, it wasn’t. I kept thinking how I was probably older than their parents were, or at least as old as their parents. About how my daughter might be older than the girls in the group. How those girls dressed up, and shook it, for money. How they took advantage of the truth of men spending money to watch them, and have fantasies about them.

Hell, I hadn’t had any sex with anyone in ages. I couldn’t remember the last time I had, and it didn’t matter. I wasn’t really interested in that anymore. I was too tired, too old. I’d outgrown it, I supposed. But, it was everywhere on that music channel. The ads between the videos were for women’s sexy underwear, bras and panties, always lacy. And the models had big tits, and big asses. The kind of woman a twenty something guy wants to get naked with.

All those reminded me of was my daughter being older than the models.

I changed channels, and stopped at one where a guy in jeans was singing. Lots of scene changes, of course, it was a music video. But he was singing something about freedom. And that got me thinking.

Yeah, my reflection was still there, in the TV screen. My fat, lazy ass was still there, collecting dust. Hell, if I was a car, I’d have been a Junker in the back field somewhere, with weeds growing out of my front end, where my hood was gone, and the engine too.

That’s when I kept hearing that damn song echo in my head. That word, freedom.

I started drawing that night. And for once I finished a picture. Maybe that was where I’d find the freedom the guy in the song kept singing about. And that got me thinking. And thinking would change everything.

950 words
@LurchMunster


For week 1×13 of #MidweekMusings, a flash fiction adventure hosted by #FlashMobWrites (Ruth Long and Cara Michaels). Please, go read all the stories for this week’s prompt.

#FinishThatThought 45 : You Should’ve Stayed On The Path

“You should’ve stayed on the path.”

It wasn’t the first time I’d heard those words. It wouldn’t be the last. I’d make certain of that. “No.”

Tim gave me that exasperated look. You know. The one people give you when you are different from them, don’t share their values, or their view of life. “What about your future? Your career?”

“My career, as you know it, is dead.” I always loved seeing someone’s face when I said such inflammatory things. To me, they were normal things to say. Truthful things to say. To someone like Tim, they were disruptive, intimidating, aggressive, and scary.

“You don’t mean that.”

I laughed. “Yeah. I do.”

“You’ll be throwing everything away.”

“I’d explain everything,” I smiled, and shook my head, “but you’d never understand.”

“Try me.”

How do you tell someone they are walking along a path to a dead-end? How do you explain to someone they’re doing what their parents did. What their grandparents did. What their great grandparents did. Generation, after generation. The same path. The same life. The same pursuits, passions, goals, definitions.

“I told you once,” I knew trying to explain was useless, “everyone here, you, the people who work for you, the people you work for. You’re all the same. The same dreams, goals, hopes, fears, everything.” It was really sad to think about it. To understand how Tim didn’t even know.

“You know that feeling you get sometimes? The one you get when you look in the mirror? The one that doesn’t last long, maybe a minute, maybe less? The one that says everything’s wrong?” I had to laugh. “Yes, Tim. I know about that feeling. The one you never can admit it there. The one you can never feel.”

Tim sat there. He didn’t speak. He didn’t move. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he stopped breathing, and if his heart stopped beating.

“Yeah, Tim. That one. The one that says everything is wrong.”

“You should have stayed on the path.”

“I know, Tim. It’s what we do. We stay on the path. We behave.” I couldn’t tell him what he already knew. How we what we’re supposed to do. Be what we’re supposed to. Get married. Have a family. Buy a house. Buy cars. Have a respectable job, and a steady, predictable income. Be in control of life. With everything organized. Everything planned. Just like our parents. And, by God, that’s how we’ll make our children.

“That’s why I’ve left the path. And I’m not coming back.”

Too bad Tim would never understand.

427 Words
@LurchMunster


I wrote this for Week 45 of Alissa Leonard‘s Finish That Thought. Please, go read all the creatively shared stories in this week’s challenge.

Stopped

Photo: shared by LIORA www.twinflame1111.comThere it was.
On Facebook.
A picture of a beach somewhere.
With big waves.
And bright sun.
And some random guy
Walking toward the ocean.
And the words on the picture said:

Decide what you want.
Believe you can have it.
Believe you deserve it.
And believe
It’s possible for you

And my brain cells analyzed the words,
Passing them through the filters I’ve made
That translate what people say
To something I can understand.

And I found those words
Suddenly
Terrified me.
Because the told me
Clearly.
Why people stop.

I’ve always seen people
Stop.
They stop growing.
They stop learning.
They stop trying.
They stop changing.
They stop dreaming.
They stop.

I’ve never understood why.

When I worked
Where I used to work,
I never stopped.
I never stood still.
I never treaded water.
I never once believed
I was good enough
At the work I did.

I always believed
I had to get better.
I had to learn more.
I had to push myself.
My abilities.
My skills.
Just to keep the job
I had.

And it disturbed me greatly
When the people I worked with
Explained to me
A hundred thousand times,
“I don’t touch my work
When I’m at home.”

They stopped.
They quit growing.
Learning.
Improving.

And then wondered
How I always seemed
To get better,
And know more,
That I did the year before.

And that poster on Facebook
Shocked me on this Sunday.
And I’ve been trying
Every since,
To figure out the words I saw
In my heart and soul,
When I read those words.

I remember what Gina said to me,
When she was in Chemo-therapy,
And fighting for her life.
“I just want my life back.”

Then there were the words
Tim spoke.
“Sometimes, you do
What you have to do.
To keep your job.”

There were so many other words
I heard in those days.
And just as many words
I hear all the time
In this new life I’ve found.

“I wish I had a job like that.”

“I’d gladly go through hell
To get paid that well.”

It was as those thoughts
Raced through my memory,
As I tried to understand
The words on that poster,
I became very sad.

Because I knew.
People stop.

They figure out
What they want.
The car.
The house.
The family.
And all the stuff
That goes with it.

They dream the dream
Of American success.

They grow up.
Graduate from college.
Get a job,
Get married.
And start their families.

And then they live
For just one thing.
To retire.

To escape the dream
They have achieved.

I’ve always wondered why.
Why they were so unhappy.
Why they worked so hard
To reach success.
And then just stopped.

What they meant
When they said to me,
“I’m too old to change.”
And
“It’s too hard.”

They’re reached the dreams
They believed in.
Not knowing
There’s always more.
The journey never ends.

So here I sit, tonight.
With my cat
Sleeping on my lap.
Wondering.

Will any of the people
I have known,
And met,
In the live I have been given,
Ever realize
They’ve stopped changing,
And growing.

Will they ever realized
They’ve stopped?

#BCF : Month 2, Prompt 1 – It Was All A Lie

BCF_Month_2_Prompt_1_PictureBCF_Month_2_Prompt_1

I wrote this for Business Card Fiction, Month 2, Prompt 1. Please go read all the other entries in this round of Business Card Fiction. They are all well written, well crafted little pieces of art. You can links to them all here:

Business Card Fiction, Month 2, Prompt 1, Judged by J. M. Blackman

Walking Away From Perfection And Success

Pema Chodron said,

“As long as our orientation is toward perfection or success,
we will never learn about unconditional friendship with ourselves,
nor will we find compassion. ”

I cannot help but understand these words.
And I cannot help but feel
The way that my heart aches,
And the tears that my soul cries,
When I look around and see
People all around me
That don’t understand these words
At all.
That think these words
Are wrong.
A lie.

After all,
The American Dream
Is for success.
To be successful in life.
To make a lot of money.
To have a great big home.
To have a job
That pays a lot.
So you can buy
Anything you want.

The Christian Dream
Is to be perfect
Is it not?
To be like Jesus was.
Following the ways of God.
And helping each other
To be that way.

There are other dreams
That people have
That I’ve met in my life.
They all say the same thing.
They all follow
The same plan.
The same framework.

If you work hard enough,
And long enough,
You’ll earn the dream you want.
And if you haven’t
Reached that dream
And you’re not happy yet.

It’s all your fault.

So you have to be punished.
And deny both who
And what you are.
And put more time and effort
Into making the dream you have
Come true.

I got laid off
Back in July
Of 2011.
And everyone was sad.
And apologetic.
“We’re sorry to hear that, Mark.”

“But you’ve got skills.
And talent too.
And if you go out
And look for work
We’re sure you can find a job
That will pay you
What you’re worth.”

And I couldn’t help but feel
That no one would believe
That I could settle for
Any job at all
That wasn’t like the one I’d had.

And there were a lot of people
That I used to know
That were very much surprised
When I went to work part time
In a job that pays
Much less than I used to make.

To them,
It was very sad.

It is for them
That my heart aches
And my soul
Cries tears of pain.

For they don’t understand
The words that Pema Chodron said.
And they still chase a dream
That just can’t be obtained.

Happiness comes from inside.
It doesn’t come at all
From fulfilling a dream.
From searching for success
In the world that I live in.
From punishing myself
For being imperfect
And flawed.

Happiness, I’ve learned
Comes from within.
From knowing who
And what I am.
Knowing I’m imperfect
And forever flawed.
And learning not to be afraid
Of the reality
That I will make mistakes.
And my mistakes
Will not be the end
Of me.

For me,
This turned the world
Upside down.
And success for me has now become
Remembering
That I can always smile.
And learning
Day by day
What it means to care
About the people that I love.
The people that I call
My friends.

And how to care for them.
Helping them to face the things
That they are afraid of.
So that they can find their smiles
Again.

And I know that I will find a way
To write more words
In the coming days.
Because I want to help
The people around me
Learn what I have learned.

That the fear that I once had
Of not being successful
In this world
We all live in
Was just flat wrong.

That my fear is not a warning.
Instead,
It is a signpost.
Set along the path
That I am meant to walk.