Flash Fiction Thursday: Just a Box

There’s a cardboard box lying on the floor. That’s all, just a box, taped together at the bottom and top, no bigger than a six-pack. Why am I thinking of beer? Oh, yeah, it’s because I’m holding one. Fancy that. I look at the bottle, then look through it to the box on the floor. The empty room takes on a tinge of green. I stop looking and take a long, fulfilling gulp. Oh, dear. Now the bottle’s empty. Might as well smash it as hard as I can against the wall.

It doesn’t shatter or anything. Damn. Even the damn bottle doesn’t do what I want it to do. I want it to smash, to crash, to splinter. I want it to make a noise in this too-quiet room. It’s much to quiet in here. It’s creepy, like she left a damn ghost here or something. I look hopefully around again, almost wishing I’d see her body swinging. But no, the room’s just as empty as it was when I got back from the train-station earlier today. That damn box is still on the floor.

I try to recall the past months, but I’m finding it kind of hard to concentrate. Guess the barman was right for telling me to quit it and go home. It’s not even nine, and the idiot told me he wasn’t going to serve me anymore. I told him where to put his head and went and bought a beer and started walking home. When I ran out of one, I bought another. That one, the one I threw, is the fourth. What? It was a damn long walk home. I needed the fluids, or the sustenance, or something.

Truth is, I just needed something to fill up the ache. I thought that maybe, just maybe, when I got home I’d find all her stuff back here. I’m home now, or what I used to call home, and she’s still gone. So’s her sofa, and TV, and her clothes and her dishes and everything else. I can still smell her here, though, even through the stink of beer coming from my own mouth.

And that damn box is still there on the floor. Is that all that was mine in here? Or did she leave me some stupid long letter about meeting the stud-muffin of her life and leaving with him? I don’t know. I collapse on the floor, the room suddenly spinning worse. I decide that whatever’s in there, it can’t hurt more than what I’m feeling right now. So I let myself drift away, knowing that the box and a headache will be waiting for me tomorrow.

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Travel Fever

There are two kinds of travel fever, as far as I am concerned.

The first is the one that can be a curse, but is ultimately a good feeling. It’s that itch, that undefinable wiggle in your heart that tells you to go, to get out, to move, to travel, to be somewhere else. It’s that feeling that begins to mount inside your chest two or three months before the blessed event of the vacation or trip – that stomach-leaping, heart-racing, whoop-of-excitement sort of fever that grips you joyfully in moments when you don’t expect it. It’s that feeling of anticipation that’s almost unbearable because it’s so wonderful and intense.

Then there’s the second kind of travel fever. This is the kind that is only a curse, and comes with some similar symptoms. This time, though, the stomach leaps with fear and nerves, the heart races with anxiety and worry and the sound caught in the throat is more of a moan, a stifled sigh, a cry of dismay and exhaustion and an instinct that says that home is the best and travel is unneeded, a hassle and a trial. It’s the kind of travel fever that puts the entire household into a bad mood, that makes the various packers snap at each other and rush around trying to recover lost objects while inevitably finding them in the entirely wrong place and blaming everyone else for it. It’s the feeling that grips your very guts as you push yourself through the various tasks and chores of lugging, checking in, being polite to security and trudging around dismal shops in the airport.

I am in the grips of this second travel fever. My mother and I fly to New York tonight in order to complete that dreaded chore – vacating my dorm room and putting all my things in storage to await my return, hopefully, in the fall. We will be flying back on Friday, and this is most assuredly not a pleasure jaunt but more of a necessary and emotionally painful inconvenience. Hopefully, all will go well and we’ll suffer no travel delays due to various weather conditions!

The Servant

The Servant walked through the halls and knew himself to be invisible. Every effort he made to please went unnoticed and unremarked upon. Every action he took was taken for granted, never acknowledged. Every breath that he took seemed to be silent and he so rarely used his voice that he almost forgot what it sounded like. He must be invisible then, perhaps not even substantial enough to be considered a living human being.

And yet his hands felt substantial enough when he lifted the dinner things off the table. The muscles in his arms hurt when he took the heavy coal box from one room to the next in the winter. His legs ached and his feet blistered as he trudged through the snow to get the carriage or the horses or the ponies for the girls in the winter. In every physical aspect he felt real and alive – so he cherished his work and bore it, day after day, because he felt through it what it was like to be a person.

On the other hand, he very much doubted that the Master or the Mistress or the little girls often felt such aches and pains as him and they considered themselves to be extremely alive – more alive than him for certain. Perhaps, if so, the pain he bore wasn’t a sign of being a person? Perhaps it meant something else – that he was like an animal, bred only to do the work for others. Of course, unlike animals, he received a sum of money for his constant drudgery.

Every time he remember the fact that he earned wages, The Servant felt slightly better. It was then that he would think of his free day once every two weeks; it was then that he would remember what it was like to whirl a pretty girl around the dance floor at the best tavern in town; it was then that he would remember that he knew how to laugh and that he could make others laugh too. So long as he was stuck in the house with Master and Mistress and the little girls, though, he felt he was invisible, a ghost that came to life only once in two weeks but was dead as can be the rest of his days.

Phases

As you may know, if you frequent this page, I am a walker. I walk daily, and a day without a long, brisk walk is a day that is plain wrong. Tonight, as I was taking a walk, I realized that my walks have phases, and they are the same phases each and every time.

The Beginning: When I set out, I am normally optimistic about the coming walk – thinking to myself how good it is to be out, breathing the fresh, hopefully cool, air. This feeling fades though, rather quickly, and this phase doesn’t normally last more than three to four minutes.

The Misery: This is the phase that comes over me as the muscles in my legs begin to ache, as I begin getting warm and uncomfortable, as I begin to think longingly of getting home already. My music begins to annoy me, I feel everyone is staring at me, my muscles burn and my hands freeze or seize up. I begin a fierce, silent battle in my mind – a small part of me trying to convince the rest of me to cut the walk short, to take a shortcut, to give up, that it’s not a big deal. I hope never to succumb to this feeling. Shortly after the halfway point of my walk though, this phase blissfully fades away.

The Glass Half Full: About three minutes after my halfway point, I begin feeling optimistic once more. I think to myself – I’ve finished half already! Even though the weariness in my muscles is still prevailing over my physical well being, my mood begins to lighten and I feel the very beginnings of what will come in the next phase…

The Reason I Walk Every Day: This is my favorite part. On a good day, it lasts almost half my walk. This is the part where my energy and stamina suddenly rise, adrenaline pumping through me, my muscles miraculously become free of pain or discomfort, only full now of the urge to move on and on and on. I feel like I could walk forever, and keep enjoying it. I suddenly feel like bouncing, running, jumping. Every breath of wind feels like a blessing, as if it knows I need the cool air on my face. I feel elated, so proud that I didn’t cave into my discomfort, so in control of my body and energy.

The Ending: This phase is a more tired state of the previous one. It happens only as I walk into the driveway of my building, shaking a little still with the force of the energy flowing through me, out of me. I feel exhausted,  but pleased, satisfied, proud and content all at once.