On Monday, I threw out a flash fiction challenge. I asked you to provide a few prompts--people, places, themes, or situations--and I promised to deliver a short piece involving one (or two) of the prompts. Thanks to Abby Barnhart (a prolific suggester) and John Blase for providing this week's prompts. John suggested the pocket contents and Abby suggested "face transplant." I hope you enjoy the story. In the comments, provide me with suggestions for the next flash fiction challenge. And if you want to write your own prompt around the suggested themes, come back here and leave us a link to your piece.
Carson stood in the turn lane of Garrison Avenue, noted the dancing fibers of his canary-yellow cashmere sweater in the traffic wind. "Circus yellow," he thought, and then hummed a bar of “Send in the Clowns.”
Rubbing the contents of his right pocket, Carson felt the frayed paper edges of ticket stubs, the cold of tiny marbles. His left hand was raised waste-high, palm open as if waiting to receive a gift from the heavens. Cold glove-leather closed around his upturned hand, and Carson heard a voice asking "where're you, headed, sir?”
The voice came as if through a cone, or a metal siphon. It was round sounding, he thought. Smooth. Carson looked at the man now holding his hand. The face--bug-eye reflectored, lean.
“I reckon I'm heading to the ATM or either from it. Yes. I'm coming from the ATM."
A square-grilled dually lumbered lazily down the left lane, slowing as it approached the men. It blew a warning, and its extended mirror reached into the turn lane, passing within a half-foot of the men. As if the dually were a magnet, as if Carson were a piece of scrap metal, the passing truck pulled Carson into and against the younger, more sure-legged man.
“This ain’t the crosswalk, pops,” Carson's pillar said, and he presently found himself being led by the arm through an apparent lull in the traffic and into the shadow of a side-walk awning. "Boots & More," the awning fringe said. There was a green bench. Carson sat.
Carson noted his companion hovering, noted his copper-plated heart. Felt studied as if under a microscope, studied to the point of discomfort, and Carson suddenly wished the man would vanish like a cashmere clown. Presently, though, he could not recall precisely what a cashmere clown was.
“I best be getting to the store, fella,” Carson said, standing.
Carson paused, filled his cheeks, and then blew out with deliberation. “Why’s what?” he asked, searching the concrete for a crack in which to hide. Remembering he had been after an old recording of “Amazing Grace,” he told his companion that the song Judith’s favorite.
“It's her morning song," Carson said. “She plays it on the phonograph when she prays her rosary. Her rosary is blue. Carries it with her everywhere she goes.”
“Is that right?” the man said.
“Judy Collins got a face transplant,” Carson blurted. “She used to be pretty, soft-cheeked. Now, she’s all taughted up and cat-eyed. Isn’t that rich? She sang Amazing Grace at a concert in 1979.”
"Anyone know you're out, sir? It's a cutting cold," the man asked, smiling.
"Cutting," Carson repeated. “Sharp as a knife, this one,” Carson quipped, turning his finger toward his chest and jabbing inward. He crowed a laugh, then said, “think you could walk me to the ATM, boy?”
"My pleasure," the man with the copper-plated heart responded, "but let's ride where it's warm."
Carson was again pulled by the arm into the passenger seat of large cruiser, where Carson noticed the in-dash radio. The young man slid into the driver's seat, asked “you got your card on you?”
Carson nodded, reached into his pocket, and handed over the contents--an ATM card, three Judy Collins ticket stubs from 1979, a blue glass-beaded rosary, and a $20 bill. Carson felt suddenly drowsy as the smooth voice called his name into the radio. A responder on the other end said, “that's right. Butterfield Retirement Village. They know you’re coming.”
Carson chuckled easy at the thought of Judy Collins' tiger eyes, and hummed a bar of Amazing Grace. Closing his eyes, he conjured images of Judith swaying to music like cashmere fibers to traffic wind. Then, under the purr of the cruiser's engine, Carson slept.
Throw out a theme for the next flash fiction challenge. Who's first?