Sunday, October 23, 2005

But there's always time for scratch fiction

Arlene leaned on the counter, jiggling one foot behind her. "I wonder what they're looking at?"

"Huh?" Norman was looking at the smudge she left on the glass, he'd just Windexed and she was hanging all over it. Little dolt. She looked good out front, though, the rich guys loved to buy jewelry from her, never mind she had no idea what she was talking about. She'd hold a gold chain against her neck, hanging into her cleavage and say, "Every woman's skin looks good with gold," and they only had to focus long enough to pull out a credit card.

Right now she was sprawled all the way across the counter to get a good look outside.

"Those people, what're they looking at?"

Norman stepped around the counter and ducked a little to look out the door. People were standing outside, looking up. Dozens of people out on the street, all of them looking straight up into the air.

"I'm due for a smoke," said Norman, reaching over the counter for his pack and lighter, "You watch the store, I'll see what's up."

Norman chuckled at his little pun, walking out the door, up the two steps.

He stopped next to the guy from the salon next door, squinted up at the sky, tucking a cigarette into his mouth.

"What's going on?"

The salon guy shook his head, half shook it, still staring up, mouth open, eyes wide.

That was funny, the August sun was right overhead, full wattage, but the salon guy wasn't squinting. Norman frowned upward, striking his lighter.

The flame went out, his cigarette hanging in his mouth, unlit.

"What the fuck...?"

Something was falling out of the blue sky. Snow. It was eighty degrees outside. Norman looked around. Everyone was still, staring up. Cars were stopped. Arlene was leaning slowly out the door, her face turning up.

"It's not snow, it can't be," said Norman.

Nobody said anything. Huge flakes drifted down, thicker and thicker.

Arlene froze where she stood, halfway out the door.

"Look," said Norman, "This is stupid. It's not snow." He lifted a hand to catch some, to show them all it was something else. Five, eight flakes landed in his palm, on his fingers. Slowly they grew translucent, he could see individual crystals, like when he cut out snowflakes in school, rounded scissors clipping out perfect little triangles, diamonds, circles. "No two snowflakes alike," his teacher would say, but Norman's were, all of Norman's snowflakes were identical.

More flakes lighted on his hand, the first ones melted into tiny lakes, fresh flakes caught on the shores, losing their perfect whiteness, crystal bones showing through, then dissolving into water in his palm.

7 comments:

jason evans said...

CB,

That piece is seriously good! Great balance between dialog and description. Great pacing. Great sense of oddity.

...Did I mention it's great?

Daniel Heath said...

a lovely little apocalyptic whisper, c.b.

Caryn said...

You have a talent for setting a scene with just a phrase. Reminds me a bit of Michael Chabon. I wish I could write short fiction, but I never can. I just want to make it longer, delve into the characters, see what happens. I could never leave it where you did; that would be the beginning, not the end. I admire the fact that you can end it there and leave us to marvel and wonder.

Psychedelicate Girl said...

What she said.

Hey, your literary skills should be plum worn out from finishing your novel. Clearly not...

Bones said...

Beautiful. I love the silence of snow. Will we see more of Arlene and Norman, Chemical Billy? I hope so.

Caryn said...

I'm still laughing about this, so I had to let you know. A while ago, you posted in response to my message on searches that led people to my site ( http://annamcginty.blogspot.com/2005/09/this-just-in.html ) Your post was: "A new one for me was 'ears and nose never stop growing,' which brought someone to a post about a train ride with an old man with very large ears and nose."

Well, just had to thank you, because someone just found my site by searching for "ears and nose never stop growing" and they ended up on my site, at that particular post. So, thanks for the link.

Thought you'd find it amusing.

Chemical Billy said...

Ha - that's great, anna.

Thank you all, kids. jason, I can't tell you how lovely that is to read - dialogue was always a bitch for me.

suzanne, if you want me to bring them back, I will. Your suggestions seem to work well for me.