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.

 

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Matchstick Shoes

Most shoes have voices, some are more interesting than others. Some call out and wave. Some squish and whisper. Finger snaps, squeaky wheels. Lots of bravado but throw a good walk in front of them, and then you see what they’re really made of. Listen to them whine. Listen to them chortle arrogantly at the challenge. The pair that belonged to Colleen, age nine, became a matchstick when they struck the footpath.

At first, Colleen said nothing to her grandfather Hank as they started walking. The car ride here had been full of talk and the change between wheels and feet muted her words. If Colleen had been paying close attention to her breathing, she’d have counted one hundred and twenty nine breaths before she spoke. Counting naturally happened with her, she did it often without even noticing. Nine years old. Sixty two brown puddles. Eighteen lavender flowers. Ten fingers wrapped up together; five small, five large.

“See that color?” Colleen asked.

Eight heartbeats. Then, “I noticed.”

“Are you tired?”

One pause. “I’m completely awake.”

Through a smile, “me too.”

The color, although it was the first thing mentioned, although it was a bright golden yellow and was practically singing, although it would inevitably be blown away over Colleen and her and Hank’s heads, was forgotten along with the other maroon and spiced orange leaves spinning and pooling around them.

“Aren’t you going to tell me a story?” Colleen prompted.

“A story?” One story.

“Yes. I’m sure that’s why you wanted to come just us.”

Hank stopped to pick up a gray flecked stone considering which story. He felt the stone in his hands, rubbed a thumb over all sides and looked upward. The leaf waved and raised it’s eyebrows but wasn’t seen. “Well, if you’re sure,” he said, and dropped the stone. His shoes kept talking; the ground beneath him crunched like nuts between teeth.

No ‘once there was a man’, or ‘a long time ago’ or even ‘there used to be a girl of nine’. But there was a letter. One letter.

“I like receiving letters.”

“Me too. But I didn’t like this one.” Erased words, rubber eraser pollen, careful spelling.

“You didn’t? Why?”

“I didn’t like the person who sent it.”

“Why?”

“He always showed off, like he was very important.”

“Have you received many letters?”

“Yes. Many.”

“Do you like most of them?”

“Yes, mostly.”

“Are you very important?”

“Everyone is important to someone.”

The letter had a cherry red old fashioned automobile stamp and a wrinkled corner with a poorly stamped postage date. Only the automobile was on purpose.

“So you weren’t happy about the letter.”

“At first. When I got it, I grumbled,” Hank said, then gave a good obnoxious example of what his memory recalled of his reaction. “Then, I read it.”

Dear Henry,

This time of year, while others are feasting on turkey gravy I like to think of the people of whom I am grateful for, and you come to mind. As you know, I recently sold my Chevelle. I was never driving it and it was the right decision, I think. I hated keeping it in the garage like a dog always on a leash. But it broke my heart to do. I admit that the day I bought it, I did it only because I thought you were impressed by it.

“I had saved up for over a year to buy that thing, and then this guy is there, once more sticking his big, fat nose at the one I was ready to take home! I usually hated seeing him and it goes without saying, he was the last person I wanted to see near my cherry red baby.”

“Mom says saying fat is mean.”

“His nose looked like an apple. Big and fat. There’s no other way to describe it.”

“I forgive you,” Colleen offered.

I spent every dime I had on it, and then once I got it home, I panicked. But I thought of how you would have cared for it, and driven it, and made sure the oil was always changed, and so I made the effort to do what you would have done.

There was a little smudge where something had been erased. Or wet and then dried.

I was surprised and honored that you allowed me to buy it. Honestly, I’ve always admired your opinion and have sought out your approval.

Mustard seed path. Shoes walking and chatting away.

I want to thank you for being patient with me over the years. Your patience with my not too subtle efforts to impress you helped launch me to take better care of myself. There are a few people who leave a good impression on you, and at this time, I think about how grateful I am for them.

Enjoy the ride, your friend,

Carl 

“You said you didn’t like him,” Colleen reminded her grandfather.

“I didn’t, until the letter,” Hank said.

“Why?” Colleen frowned.

“I guess he changed the way I saw things.”

“Like this?” Colleen asked, picking up a dandelion leaf and spinning it between her thumb and index finger. Back and forth, three times in a row.

“Not unlike that,” Hank conceded.

Colleen continued holding the stem of the leaf for fifty four more minutes of conversation, accompanied by under the breath commentary, some from her shoes, some from his. She released it when Hank pointed out they had made it back to the start.

“Thanks for the walk,” Colleen said. Thanks for the story, she meant, as they got back into his red Chevelle, crumpling bits of leaves onto the floorboards.

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.