Welcome to raindrop-fiction!

Welcome to raindrop fiction! Here, the person who loves to read fiction but finds their busy lives carrying them too far away from their novels, can find a drop to tide them over. If a novel were a rainstorm, these stories are a refreshing drop. These stories or “drops” take no longer than 10 minutes to read, and satisfy the passion for reading.  A place for witnessing moments by embracing your own imagination, is best found in a story.

 

Independence

A tradition is a mirror, and mirrors can be slippery. At once the image is intimately familiar. There’s no tricks of the glass. There are no alternate versions of the clarity. The vision is clear, but its the eyes that are critical. But then the picture is entirely different to whomever should look into it. One day, one tradition, infinite reflections.

The sky is hours away from becoming spattered with red and blue fireworks, but there have been many testing booms heard in the past week. For Hazel, the practice booms are deliberately mean. It is hard enough to wait, the hardest part even! Reminders of the wait are everywhere, in Hazel’s opinion. Each corner has red and yellow bouncy castles with flags and fireworks for sale. The grocery store has towers of BBQ chips and red white and blue cupcakes and little flags to wave. But the nightly booms of others enjoying their fireworks seem to poke at her and bully her with the time she still has to wait.

Straightening her pleated red and white dress with tenderness, Hazel smiles at the previous nightly booms defiantly. The waiting is nearly over. Hazel was happy enough to continue the remainder of the waiting on the emerald grass with the promise of fairy sparklers and sweet corn that popped off the cob in her mouth. It would be easy to wait when she could dart among the hundreds of patterned picnic blankets and fold up lawn chairs, laughing and running with the other children until the lavender night turned black. In a few hours, she would see the sky painted and dazzling.

Jerry was used to waiting and patient enough to get through it without hardly noticing. He had had enough practice at being patient that he found his mind didn’t even need to search long for occupation. Surprises were overrated and at times came upon him so rapidly he didn’t have time to process them like an over crowded conveyor belt backed up and spilling over. The same way news moved on a ticker was how people talked over one another.

Today’s ceremony was such a delicate comfort after all of those vibrant surprises, which was what Jerry looked forward to the most. In each ceremony, each traditional brass band and uniformed solute was a reminder of meaning and sacrifice made. The heartbeat of time where values reflected of ‘now’ are the same as those ‘before’. It resonated for Jerry, certainly.

However, it wasn’t those aspects of tradition which spoke particularly to Jerry. It was the care from those in reciting the values and in the community responding to the stars and stripes that made the ceremony a breathing thing. Jerry listened to the speakers, he applauded the awards, but he watched the faces in the audience.

Cora woke early with the jubilant birds and the resentful lawnmowers, even though it was natural to want to sleep in later today. She stayed in bed though, calculating potato salad ingredients and parfait layers and holding her breath to the intermittent rolling ‘r’s of a kid turning over in a blown up air bed during a backyard campout. The day ahead was full, but she didn’t mind being the day’s designated card dealer, shuffling the activity deck and dealing out bubble wands or popsicles, horseshoes and cold beers.

Cora didn’t mind because it wasn’t in the planning that the real activity really happened anyway. Last year they they had planned to use their backyard fire pit to roast marshmallows but it was the impromptu fire dancing to the sound of toy machine guns from some nearby last minute firework that Cora recalled the easiest. It wasn’t any more planned one year to have her son declare he was old enough to stay up late and watch the National Anthem on TV than it was to feel the little impulsive hand inside hers during the performance.

A reflection casts back a blinding likeness, even if memories precariously ripple it. Memories can tend to be ticklish and roll away from the truly sensitive parts or gleefully squeal at the joyful ones. Each year renews and also gets older from memory’s courteous reflections and becomes again a hazy image in a solid frame.

Plan on wonder. Celebrate responses. Wait for nothing.Take a long look.

Show Me

There are some routine items that snag on the clockwork and perform their duties exquisitely. There are windows that reflect sunlight and peer into passersby. There are bells that announce newcomers with a welcome and thank repeaters with a farewell. There are bags swinging pleasurably, looping loyally around purchased hands. There are switches that count backwards, illuminating bulbs for twenty three seconds but dimming them for only seventeen. There are shadows that will stretch patiently and curtains that will juggle the breeze.

Pay attention to the exquisite routines. Look! Look now!

The man with many names wakes without incident. His cat is unimpressed as he dresses for the day and triumphantly hops on one foot as he puts on his pants. He drinks a glass of water from the kitchen faucet and then refills and dumps it in the hanging plant above the sink. As he leaves for the day he points a finger to the cat and reminds him to have dinner ready for him when he comes home.

The street sighs like an ocean wave as the man trots down the steps from the front door. He heads to get coffee and passes a woman refurbishing her mother’s dresser outside to avoid the dust from sanding and so the teal green paint won’t infest in her living room carpet. The woman names him Jake in her mind having seen him every day at this time, jaunting along. The small square pavement is just big enough for her and the dresser and often dust from the street gets caught in the paintbrush. As Jake passes, he bends to pick up a floating plastic bag intent on sabotaging the last few strokes on the dresser. There goes Jaunty Jake again, she thinks.

Within the coffee house there is a silver bucket with picture of a hand drawn cow mooing the words “for tipping”. The man waits patiently in line, the milk steamer explodes impatiently on the counter. His name is Buck according to the barista. Everyday, Buck comes in and orders the same thing but it’s the same thing he says that she looks forward to. No, she corrects herself, its not what he says, but how he wishes her a nice day. As if its a prologue to an adventure, not an automatic tagline; a jeweled hairpin against the dirty soap water responses.

But just now the barista isn’t paying attention to Buck. She’s just taken an order for the specialty coffee beans she knows are kept on the top shelf against the wall above the coffee cups, just high enough for her to half to go get the step ladder to reach them. This effort hits her especially hard with the short staff and the morning rush and this must have shown on her face, because before she can reply to the request, Buck has invited the nearest chair over and grabbed the coffee beans off the high shelf for her.

A block down from the coffee shop is a restaurant advertising purely aromatically. Exiting from a satisfying omelet and seasoned potato breakfast is an elderly couple, both in shorts, white socks and white shoes. No smudges. The husband touches his wife instinctually on her elbow protecting her from a passing car as they cross the parking lot. To the husband, the man becomes Sonny as he cries out to them to wait. What’s that now, Sonny, the husband thinks skeptically, what is it now?

Sonny points to the husband’s hat with a finger and says only one sentence then nods his head purposefully. The husband’s wife nudges him with the elbow he still holds with his right hand and if she hadn’t, he might still be standing still, surprised by a young stranger stopping him in the parking lot only to thank him for his service to their country. The right hand now free of the wife’s elbow extends expertly to shake the right hand of Sonny. Later that day, the wife will notice that her husband is peering at his hand and extending his fingers as if it were new.

An exception is made at a spot in the park for the man with many names. Runners speed through like bows upon fiddles. Birds speckle the lake as pie crumbs speckle a plate. People strolling are sidestepped and children playing are overlooked.

Fool is the name the man gets from the owner of the newsstand that perches on the corner just outside of the park like a birthmark on a knee cap. He’s stupid. That’s crazy. I should come out and tell him. Everyday its the same and what is he gaining? That tree won’t stop and notice you, Fool. Yet the fool stops each time. He shuffles up in between the spreading roots, looking at his feet. Just when it seems to the newsstand owner that the fool will stay that way, he slaps the side of the tree like a friend does to a buddy playing touch football and goes on his way. If it’s prayer its in the wrong place, the newsstand owner scoffs, and then scowls as he hands his customer her change and consequently making her resolve to buy her magazine at another newsstand where she won’t feel embarrassed for buying People instead of Newsweek.

The woman with the guitar referred to him only in her mind as a mixed bag. Whenever he approached, he appeared to her eyes as buttons on flannel or buckles in loops as she would always bow her head, her eyes never raising high enough to look him in the eyes. She’s in the habit of shouting out to the crowd a question like a harmony within her songs. Where do you feel safe? Why is this day important?  When did you last laugh so hard you cried? The mixed bag will answer her. He doesn’t make a speech, he does not answer her questions. He doesn’t describe his family or what indulgences make him feel guilty. He drops a dollar or even a penny and says something like, “nice one” or “good point” or anything that translates to “I can hear you”.

The cat is sour over being interrupted in playing with the fishing line vines of the kitchen plant when the man with many names comes home from his day, smelling of the street and leaves, coffee, paint and music, and a hundred other exquisite smells. Same today, same tomorrow. Time for dinner.

Time By My Side

This was exactly the scenario that people dread.

In fact, looking around at the individual faces on the flight crossing the western hemisphere I could see it; the kid of fifteen with the flat bill and his tablet he carries on his lap like a socialite with a poodle, or the sixty some grandpa with his sixty some wife who trade magazine articles as others would conversation. I can tell in the way people tilt their heads back or make fists on their laps or even, (as the brazen female sitting behind me exhibits), outright groan.

Average passengers are afraid not of terrorism or of crashing but the lines at security and being rerouted to another location, myself included. My five year old daughter sitting next to me pokes my arm like an elevator button, wondering why the scratchy voice is speaking though tissue paper when he mentions traveling to Armadillo and is that where Disneyland is. James turns his head around the seat in front of me where he is sitting with our two-year old son and raises his eyebrows at me. I mouth, “Texas? Really?” and he rolls his eyes in answer turning back around, humming the “halfway there” part of “Living On A Prayer” and making me smile. I’ve missed what the captain said about time and re-fueling, insolently thinking, I wouldn’t want to live a single hour in Texas!

The first delay was a moldy meal when we were all hungry, the denied landing was the expensive bill and people were now angry. Up until now, the flight over the silver thunder had turned soothing. Sure the starch smell of oxygen was still there but the florescent lights traded shifts with the shadowed corners creating a white aisle on the ceiling as if for an upside down bride. I knew Everett was already asleep on James’s lap so I stroke Avery’s yellow hair and drape my arm over her and try to explain what will happen next, learning only as I say it just what that will be. Avery wasn’t lulled in the slightest by the night flying; the dark flight was a calming bedtime story.

Ahead of me, amidst the Christian prayers and varied grumbling, I notice Flat Cap stroking his thumb over his tablet like a windshield wiper trying to swipe away this night. Grandpa has lowered his chin to his collar and I wonder if he’s just decided to take this as extra sleep time. Likewise, Grandma turns the page to a new article settling in, her fingers keeping track of each line she reads.

Avery said something I missed in her ‘you gotta hear this’ voice. “What was that, sweetie?”

“Just between us,” she asks me to promise so I lean closer. “We could pretend we’re on our way to Disneyland!”

I look over at Grandpa’s floating chin and Grandma’s intrigued fingertips. James reaches behind the seat for my hand. Outside, a red light winks at me from the wing.

Taking Notice

So often we trust strangers. The normal people similar to us, living black coffee lives, running boring errands like buying milk or paying the electric bill; we trust these people all the time from our safety to our capabilities.

We trust that strangers will stay in their lane when we pass them and not swerve into us. We trust that if we ask a question, we will get a very predictable answer and we answer questions courteously to keep that trust reciprocated. We trust on someone to make space or keep in line. We trust in a glance of acknowledgement if you find yourselves with the same intention of who goes first through a door. And trust in receiving apologies if they pierce your space by accident.

At any moment this trust could be broken, and our days, perhaps even our lives, are in havoc as a result. We keep to our agreement to trust in strangers because at some point, we invented it together.

Books are different. Books are the enticing scent of a savory culinary dish, where a whiff of something can interest you and make your mouth water for it. Whereas strangers, people whom we don’t know a single thing about, are considered the boring sandwiches we slap together and we never consider ourselves pampered for having eaten.

The experts that organize a book store are clever and they are perpetually upgrading things. Sure there are sections and categories, but there is much more beneath the surface. Books have a cover we are allowed to judge. There are displays constructed with books that will give eye contact, make you quirk an eyebrow and take pause to examine further. How often do we stay up late wishing we had read another chapter of an stranger we passed that day?

The desired affect of a new book nudged an elbow into Leah at a non-descriptive book store, crowded with strangers of the most common sort. Which is to say that there wasn’t a sort at all: a rotund mother in sweat pants clucking at her apple cheeked toddler, a balding yet furry templed man in a black business suit with a forgettable tie, a college student in navy sneakers and a too-baggy sweater always reviewing her phone apps. Leah was a stranger with the messy bun and the overlarge purse, who reaches in to pull something out with only a tenth of the same poise as Mary Poppins. Often she is the stranger whom other strangers roll their eyes at.

Curving around the corner to an unoccupied aisle in the literature section, Leah swung her purse in an arc and dropped in on the ground, then quickly squatted over it, skillfully knowing the pocket that held her palm sized notebook that held the title and author she was seeking, locating it in no more than ten seconds. “See? Quick,” she mumbled under her breath in defense of herself, knowing full well the type of stranger she was. Leah lifted the straps, swung the bag over her shoulder and with this move came the chaos.

Several books toppled off the shelves and thumped like a drumroll onto the floor. Paperback covers bent backwards and over each other like hands folded.
Groaning, Leah fell to her knees and tried to reconstruct the art work of the book store shelves using her thoughts to guide the pieces into order.

Here? This works. No, that doesn’t look right. I like this cover with the letter and the wax seal. I loved this book, that should go in front. Wow, this author liked alliteration. Ok, then the rest in order alphabetically.

With this minor accident resolved, Leah once again pursued her goal.
A short moment from then a stranger whispered nearby.

“I noticed.”

Immediately Leah turned to find a man, near in age to herself with a sharp jaw and sanguine eyes. He had on jeans that looked worn, not made to look worn. She tucked in a piece of her tumbleweed bun behind her ear, wondering if she heard right.

“What was that?” Leah methodically replies, having only changed it at the last second from “fine, thanks” which is the number one hands-down correct thing to say to strangers.

As a rule, we primarily trust strangers not to say anything too forward. Since we are all strangers to someone, we have agreed to minimal noticing of something private like a personality trait or flawed like a mistake we’ve made. All of us strangers know this.

Contradictorily, the man tucked a grin in the corner of his mouth and reiterated himself. “From before, I mean, when you knocked over the books.”

Without moving or even blinking, Leah applied an extra layer of make up. Make up is always applied in encounters such as these; we look in a small mirror with the stranger’s reflection peering back and adjust what needs covering up and take the necessary precautions to improve the impression we make. Brush on some confidence, comb in some wit.

“Oh? I am so clumsy,” Leah says, choosing the acceptable course of self disparagement. Leah is frequently cumbersome and used to giving this response.

“Nah, not then. I meant when you put everything back correctly.”

He, the stranger, is breaking the rules now, he’s practically invited himself in the front door. Leah shifts her weight to the other foot and looks in the direction of the where the books had fallen, expecting the shelving to come to her defense.

“You could have just stacked them back up,” he pursues, nonplussed at her chagrin. His tone confuses her instincts. It sounds jesting, such a unlikely possibility from a stranger that it is practically an old athlete who’s glory and time have evaporated and who’s number has been retired. Leah remains silent and smiles shyly.

“But you didn’t.”

“Didn’t put them back right?” She looks again at her work but knows well enough she went through each book’s name and number.

“Didn’t notice that you put them back correctly.”

His hand is still in his pocket and he hasn’t moved closer to her. But it feels as if he has to Leah. She becomes braver.

“Is it correct?” she ventures, considering that the stranger must work in the bookstore which is why he is being so bold. There is no lanyard or name tag though, not even anything on his long sleeved slate gray t-shirt to comment on.
He leans forward on his toes, delivering a secret.

“Looks fascinating,” he says.

He reaches forward, slowly, so Leah doesn’t feel obligated to move back and make space for him, and takes a book Leah had placed with the cover out, the one with the letter and the wax seal. Instead of looking at the book though, he hands it to Leah and she takes it, she is looking only at him. A page yet to be written, a person soon to be read.

In this, books and strangers are alike: there is an unequaled story written within.