I’ve decided to post one piece of flash fiction each week in 2011, and I’m starting a little bit early. They’ll be first drafts, and I expect they’ll be all over the map in terms of quality and subject matter. Anybody else want to do the same thing? Could be a fun challenge.
Here’s the first, titled The day I met Barry. It’s where my mind went after one of my Facebook friends mentioned a dream in which he interacted with Barack Obama.
The Day I Met Barry by Laura McHale Holland
I like to walk my dog, Barry. Block after block we go, just the two of us, and people always ooh and aah over him because he’s got silky blue hair and green eyes. No lie. I didn’t always walk with Barry, and things were a little boring because I’m not the kind of person people ooh and aah over, but then most of us aren’t, so I guess that doesn’t much matter.
Before Barry, I was walking along Doubie Avenue one day, and the world was humming. It was barely audible, but I could feel the vibration coming up right through the soles of my shoes, making my whole body tremble with the joy of this peculiar, harmonious hum. I was a harp, a gourd, a walking sonata inside of a symphony.
I wondered, as traffic whipped by and a bus belched to a stop just as I reached the corner, whether the world had been humming all this time and I hadn’t noticed or whether the world had just started humming that day. Either way, I had a lot of questions and no answers.
And then I saw that the world had a fine pink glow to it, like an early sunset that had expanded from the distant horizon and enveloped the neighborhood with hues of pink and purple and orange and red. Can you imagine that, walking through a sunset, and at noon? It was stupendous. So stupendous that I had to step into Marvin’s. I hadn’t been in the butcher shop for quite a while. I was trying to lessen my intake of meat, especially red meat, doctor’s orders, too much fat, bad for arteries, bad for the digestive tract and all that. But, hey, I figured a good steak or even just beef stew would taste good on a day like today. I mean this was a day to remember. I could cook a steak on the grill on the back porch and then kick back and just listen to the hum and watch the glow while I chewed.
The shop had more of a crowd than I like. Back when I ate a lot of beef, I’d slip into Marvin’s just before closing so I wouldn’t have to stand in some line with a bunch of strangers who could have worms in their pockets for all I knew. But I had beef on my mind that luscious day, so I took a number and stood there, closed my eyes and swayed to the hum as I waited for my number to be called. Thirty-four, it was. The little red digital display on the wall was at 26, so I had a bit of a wait. But finally I heard a vaguely familiar voice call out 34. “Here,” I said, poking my way through the crowd. It was bugging me that I couldn’t quite place the voice. It certainly wasn’t Marvin’s voice. And then I got to the counter, and Barack Obama asked me, “What can I do for you today?”
Well, there’s a whole lot I’d like Obama to do for me any day, but then I was at the meat counter and lots of folks were waiting, and I thought it wouldn’t be very polite to go into all that, so I just said, “I’ll take one of those T-bones, there.” He winked and grabbed it, wrapped it up real nice in that white waxy paper and told me it was going to be $3. I thought, jeez, if it’s that cheap, there must be something wrong with it, but then I didn’t want to make a scene, and I just paid up and headed for the door. I looked over my shoulder and saw him wipe his hands on his apron, straighten his little butchers cap and greet the next customer.
I plunked down on the bench outside of Marvin’s and sat there for a while. Someone had left a dog there tied up, and I figured the right thing to do was to keep the dog company until the owner came for it. He was such a strange looking dog, with a silky blue coat and green eyes. Every so often I’d look through the window to glance at Obama, and everyone was pretending not to notice who he was, like I did.
Eventually, every last customer came out. And the vibrations were slowing down and the glow was fading, and this beautiful silky mutt with blue shimmering hair and green eyes was at my feet, panting. I looked into the store again and saw Obama take off his cap and apron and shake Marvin’s hand. Then he sauntered to the back of the store and through some door.
The hum was all gone now, and the glow, too. I guessed it was time to go, but I couldn’t just leave the dog there, so I untied his leash and walked around the corner and down to the alley just in time to see a neon magenta limo rev up outside of Marvin’s back door and lift off straight into the air. I waited some more, seeking a sign or explanation, but then I started to turn into a flat cardboard statue of Wayne Newton, and that scared me, so I took the dog home for protection.
And that’s how I got my dog. I named him Barry because I figured people would never guess it’s a reference to the humming sunset day Obama took my order at Marvin’s butcher shop on Doubie Avenue, and I thought that was cool.