He’s in the Kitchen [Flash Fiction]

Who? Satan, that’s who. He’s a chum, a pal, you see, of my pop. Pop has him over round ’bout once a month, for beer and a chat. They yap their jaws like nobody’s business. They talk and talk and I lie abed like Pop told me to and try to listen, but I can never understand no words nohow. It gets so mighty hard to take, knowin’ the king of hell is in the room just across the hallway, but Pop says he made a deal and he’s gotta abide by it. Pop’s a man of his word, I know that. He’s never made me a promise he didn’t keep, and I know he won’t ever.
Lacy says that Satan once came and spoke to her but she’s a big liar and likes to make hersel’ seem big and important, that she does. She says that Satan gave her an offer, jus’ like he gave Pop, but she said no on account of bein’ too young. She said he should come back in five years and ask again. That was two years ago. Lacy is seventeen now, and I’m fifteen. I guess fifteen is the age Satan likes, cause tonight he comes and knocks on the door to my room.
“I haven’t seen you since you was in diapers,” says Satan, nodding his big head and smilin’ all kind-like. He ain’t so scary once you get used to him. Sure, his skin’s a little strange, and his horns take some gettin’ used to, but all-round he looks a mighty lot like Santa Clause, only in a fisherman’s gear and not a big red suit. He’s fat and jolly, is Satan.
“Yessir,” says I. I wait but he jus’ smiles down at me. He looks like he’s gettin’ taller every second. Pop says that can happen with him – he doesn’t look the same two seconds in a row.
“Gertie,” he says all solemn suddenly.
“Yessir?”
“I have a proposal for ya.”
“Sir?”
“The same one I made your pop all those long years ago.”
I guess Lacy wasn’t lying, and that’s a surprise right there. I think my mouth stays open too long, cause Satan puts a finger under my chin and closes it and says “Don’t want the flies getting in there, do ya?” I don’t know what to say, so I shut up for a while and think.
What have I got to lose? I’m short and ugly, Lacy got all our ma’s looks, and I ain’t brainy neither. Pop is good to me and I’m his favorite, that’s true, but nobody else in town takes much store by me. I think now that Pop maybe never made an effort with Lacy and me really cause he knew Satan would help us along by and by. I think of Sunday school and the old preacher-man who talks for hours and doesn’t say anything. And I think of the talks that Satan and Pop have. I hear ’em laughing a lot. It sounds kinda nice, the way they talk, and Pop always looks kind of young and smooth after Satan leaves.
So I stretch out my hand and tell Satan “Alrighty then. Shake on it.”

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Dear Santa

August 27, 2010

Dear Santa Clause,

Mommy and Daddy say you don’t exist because we’re Jewish. But my best friend Wanda says that you do and she’s my best friend so I’m going to listen to her.

I’m 8 and I’m starting 3d grade tomorrow. I don’t want to go back to school. But Wanda says that Christmas will be here very soon (in 4 months) and that then I can get presents from you if I ask for them nicely.

Wanda got a lot of nice presents last year. She got another pony doll for her collection and a bathing suit for the summer (she says that was a funny present to get in the winter but I said it was a good idea and that you’re smart for thinking ahead) and a computer game about ponies (how do you know that she likes ponies? Does she tell you?) and also a book that’s about a horse (she likes ponies better than horses but she still liked the book. It was about a ghost horse! It was a good book. We read it together.)

I have been very good this year Santa. I wrote in my diary every day like the reading and writing teacher said I should last year because I wasn’t so good at it. Mommy helped me with spelling all the time but then she also showed me how to find the right spelling on Google. Do you know about Google Santa? I bet you do. Maybe you started it. I asked Wanda why I couldn’t email you and she said that you didn’t have internet in the North Pole (or South Pole? I can’t remember but I’ll ask Wanda before I send the letter).

I have also been helping Mommy do shopping for food every week and I take my dog Pesky for a walk every day (Mommy and Daddy take him for walks too) but only around the park because Mommy doesn’t want me to cross the street alone yet. I crossed the street alone once because Wanda dared me to but except for that I have been very good!

I know it is early to write to you, but I wanted to tell you that even though I’m Jewish and we have Hanukah I still want to have Christmas too. It’s not just for the presents. I’m not greedy! It’s just that Wanda has a fireplace and we don’t so I think you’ll have to come in through the window in my room (it’s biggest) and then I’ll get to see you. I want to meet your raindeer. Why are they called that Santa? Do they like the rain?

Like Mommy said to do I’m reading everything I wrote now to check for spelling and I fixed some stuff (ok a lot of stuff but I’m getting better!) and I know that I asked you a lot of questions. Will you write back to me Santa? I hope you will. I want a penpal.

I hope I see you in December!

Sincerely,

Me (Wanda says you know who we are and that we shouldn’t write our names in case someone else finds the letter and tries to find out where we live. But you know where we live already so that’s ok)

One Good Thing

Jodi lay on what she knew to be her deathbed, and thought about life. It was impossible for her to think about death. She’d been thinking about death for the past three years, ever since the doctors had found the first tumor. But in a few hours, the doctors said, she would die. They’d offered her morphine, to ease the pain, but she’d refused. It wasn’t because she was particularly strong, nor because she desired to suffer. It was merely that she wanted to think about life a little before she died, and she knew that she wouldn’t do that in the blissful haze that morphine gave her.

She wasn’t a very good woman. Ninety-three years old and her neighbors had been wishing her dead for two decades already. She knew that no one liked her. But that was alright. She’d realized sometime during her sixties that she didn’t like herself much either. At first she went to therapy and tried to fix herself. After four sessions, she’d decided that there was no reason to fix something that had been broken for so long, and anyway, Doctor Haddock was simply gaga.

Lying in the stinking hospital room, on her soiled sheets, Jodi wondered whether she’d done anything good in her life. She thought of her children, and concluded that they turned out to be good people despite her, not because of her. Her husband of forty-five years had died a long time ago, and she didn’t think that she’d made his life better. She thought, upon reflection, that he would have done better to have married his mistress when he started having an affair. She didn’t begrudge him anymore. Her grandchildren she hardly knew, although they were all in their twenties and probably having babies of their own by now. But her children had both run away to far corners of the earth, and so she’d never come to know their offspring well. Better this way, really, because her death wouldn’t be of much notice to anyone.

But surely, she thought frantically, she must have done something good in her life. No one would remember her for long, it was true, and if anyone did they’d remember a gruff, violent old woman who couldn’t hear very well but insisted that she did. They’d remember her spiteful cackle and the way she never opened the door for children at Halloween. None of this bothered Jodi, not really, but she still thought that there must have been something good in her, sometime.

A strange memory came upon her as she stared at the boring whitewashed ceiling. An image floated across her mind’s eye, an image of a red-haired girl giving a flower to an old drunk on the street and handing him a thermos full of strong black coffee. She remembered the man blessing that red-haired teenager, who was wearing a frightfully short yellow dress, and calling her “ma’am.” She remembered the red-haired girl laughing merrily, giving him five dollars – more than a month’s worth of allowance back then – and telling him to get a job. Finally, the last image she could see was of a janitor whistling as he swept the floors in an old office building where the red haired girl worked as a secretary. She remembered the red-haired girl smiling at him and shaking his hand and the man blessing her for the coffee and the money, but most of all for giving him hope.

Jodi’s crabbed fingers clutched at the call-button. A nurse came in, warily. She was new, and she’d heard horror stories about the old woman’s temper.

“Tell the doctors that I want the morphine, girl,” Jodi said in her rasping voice. “And be quick!” The young nurse jumped, surprised at the vigor in the words and hurried off without a word.

Jodi smiled to herself, toothless, sunken-cheeked and liver-spotted. She’d done one good thing in her life. That was good enough.

Twins

Once upon a time,

there was a girl

who lived in a town

all by herself

and she was fine.

She went to work

every day

and did what she

was told

and went to bed every night

at a reasonable hour.

She was a good girl

this girl.

Once upon a time

there was a girl

who lived in a town

all by herself

and she was fine too.

She stayed in bed

every day

and read a book every night

and she stayed up late

talking to people in her head.

She was a bad girl

this girl.

Once upon a time

there were twins

who lived in a town

together

and they worked some

and they played some

and they read some

and they slept some

and they talked some

and they danced some

and they were happy

and they were sad.

These were just girls,

these girls.

If Life is Indeed a Cabaret

If life is indeed a cabaret,

Then how is it that every day,

We simply make our weary way,

From sunup ’til in bed we lay?

**

If the world is merely a stage,

Then why work so hard for wage?

And why then do we fear to age,

If elders are supposedly sage?

**

If we’re meant to see ourselves as flowers,

That bloom and wilt after some hours,

Then why does Death make us cower?

And why does his nearness make us sour?

**

But let us say life’s a show,

One that is unnaturally slow,

And if we accept there’ll be some woe,

Does it make it any easier to go?

**

No, it doesn’t, that I’ll say!

For if life is good, we’d like to stay.

And even if it’s not, that’s still okay,

Death will come sometime, anyway.

A Little Ramble

This morning, I woke up, and I was sure it was going to be a horrible day. Now, about eight-and-a-half hours later, the day has turned out to be surprisingly lovely. I’m always a bit nervous when this happens; I keep expecting some sort of emotional lighting-bolt to hit me out of nowhere and crumble my good mood into ashes. You may say I’m being needlessly pessimistic. But I swear, I’m my own worst enemy, and I can do this to myself for not much reason at all. I guess that’s part of what brought my whole illness about.

No dwelling! I intend this to be a happy post. So I shan’t dwell, no sirree.

My mom and I baked brownies today. It’s amazing how little work it takes to make the batter. They taste so much better than a ready-made mix, and are just as quick to make. They’re currently sitting, ever-so-innocently, in their glass pan on the kitchen counter, calling out to be devoured.

I also managed to catch up on blog-reading lately, something that makes me happy because I love having all these different viewpoints, opinions and lives to learn from and peek into, if only through some words on a screen. It’s amazing, really, what a few words can make you think and feel, isn’t it?

Another good thing that happened today is that my studying has been going well. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m taking a course at the Open University here. It’s  history course focusing on Greece during the Classic period, but with some background into earlier times as well. So far, the material is fascinating, although it’s presented in a rather drab fashion – we get these course-books that summarize everything and are very dry and not appealing to read. Still, if I look past that, I find that what I actually find in the pages of the boring looking brown books is extremely interesting. Hopefully, I’ll even get credit for this class when I go back to Sarah Lawrence.

Finally, I took a walk today. I’m being allowed to walk again, and I love it. I just love walking fast, feeling my muscles work and my heartbeat rise.

So far, a good day.

Good

What does it mean to be good? Does it mean being kind? If so, is the kindness restricted to actions, or must it extend to your thoughts as well?

What does it mean to be good? Is it something inbred, a trait that you’re born with? Is it something you learn? Is it something that seeps into you from your environment? Is it something that you can seek out and acquire?

What does it mean to be good? Does it mean being what others expect goodness to be, or striving for your own sense of it? Is it being good for goodness’ sake, or being good for a cause?

What does it mean to be good? Do some of us just have it while others lack it completely? Are there degrees to it? Can someone be a little bit good or almost no good at all or full of goodness that shines out of them like a beacon?

What does it mean to be good?

Maybe, more importantly, are the reasons for being good. The reasons for wanting to be good. As to those, I guess they’re just as individual as goodness itself is.