Correctional [Flash Fiction]

Photo / National Library of Scotland

Raw red and stinging, the bite mark hurt Gavin more than any of the many wounds he’d been receiving. It seared through the small, perfectly round, puncture mark and spread through his arm the way wildfire spreads in forests: first in a way that makes sense, treetop to treetop, then in a sudden burst appearing a hundred yards away in an unexpected spot, signalling that it’s out of control. His entire arm was now inflamed, including the shoulder, which was sending bolts of sticky white pain down his back, through his spine.

Gavin sat silently, alternately sucking and biting on his lips. He didn’t intend to make them bleed – he was in enough pain already – but the motion calmed him. He could almost imagine that his own lips were another’s, a woman’s. He’d never kissed anyone before. Unless you counted his mother, which he emphatically didn’t. He hadn’t let her kiss him full on the mouth since his tenth birthday, when his friends had seen her kiss him goodbye before going to play and had made fun of him all day for it. He’d never forget that day. He’d felt stuffed with chalk and stone all day, both heavy and so fragile that the lightest scratch would make him crumble.

He hadn’t written his mother in over a week. Now was a good time. It would take his mind off the awful bite, and Lord only knew what terrible insect gave it to him, and off his belly, which was gurgling with emptiness. There was a ration van on its way to replenish their supplies, but it was running late. No one knew way, not even the commanders, and Gavin and the others were trying not to panic. Some fights had already broken out, though. It was going to be a long afternoon if the van didn’t get here soon.

Gavin pulled his pack closer to him and spread his legs to settle it between them as a kind of writing desk. But even the small strain of keeping the pack balanced with his arm was too much. It was ridiculous, but there he was, lying awkwardly sideways, kicking his pack out of the way. He found a block of wood among the detritus spread around him and used it as a surface to keep his atrocious handwriting more in check than it would have been on the uneven ground. His mother’s letters, when he got them, were usually full of complaints, and one of the repeated ones had to do with her inability to decipher his scrawl. It made the process of writing to her all the more frustrating for Gavin. He wanted to assure her that he was safe, but it seemed that he could never get the message across.

Then again, he wasn’t entirely safe. There was a war on. He and his unit were moving from one camp to another, and none of them knew when they’d face actual combat. But they all knew they would, eventually. They’d reach a field, a valley, a dale – somewhere – where they’d dig trenches and face the dreadful others. The enemy. They’d pull out their guns, and they’d keep their tomahawks handy, just in case anyone got close enough and needed a last minute blow, even though everyone knew the knives were really mostly for show, and they’d kill people. He, Gavin, would kill people.

It wasn’t until he finished writing the letter to his mother that he looked up and realized that the ration van, meaning food, had arrived. His mouth went dry, his stomach gave a leap and a particularly strong gurgle before trying to convince him that, in fact, he wasn’t at all hungry – it often did this when he was excited – and his lips rested softly together, tired f their kissing practice. Food was more important than the idea of killing a man, or many men, more important than a pretty girl, more important than writing home. He got up and ran to join the other latecomers, praying to God that he wouldn’t miss out on anything.

Back!

I’m back in Israel, land of Jews, Jesus and Jonflicts [because “conflict” doesn’t start with a “J”].

I took over a thousand photographs during my two-week visit to Los Angeles – something I’ve never done before. I never was a photographing kind of person, but I had a camera of my very own that I received for my nineteenth birthday, and I decided to finally use it properly. Plus, this way I’ll be able to show Sir B. F. some of the City of Angels’ marvels. I know they may not seem so special to many people, but the fact is that I grew up in a country where the architecture of choice for apartment buildings seems to be concrete boxes on concrete pillars, naked of any ornament or exterior decor. The houses in Los Angeles are like looking at the window of a candy store for me – each is more beautiful than the next. This is excluding the many monstrosities, of course.

Can you tell I’m┬ájet-lagged? I sure can. Whenever my mind is confused about what time zone it’s in, I begin rambling, words tumbling out too fast for anyone around me to make the connections between subjects that are perfectly clear in my overdriven thoughts. Which is why I’m now going to post a photograph, and shut up. Starting tomorrow, I’ll try very hard to get back to my schedule of writing every day, and writing fiction, poems or at least more coherent ramblings. See? I said I’d shut up, but here I am, still a-writing. Okay, here we go – photo:

An Exercise

I’ve been researching some writing exercises the past few days and trying to find the time to really work on one. I randomly picked one from a random website – I’ve lost which one it was, or I would post the link – and decided to work on it at work today. I always use the down time between phone calls from customers for scribbling, but more often than not I’m just nattering away about nothing in particular. Today, however, I had a goal.

The writing exercise was simple – there was a picture of a boy sliding down a water slide, and the instructions were to write about the boy: who he is, where he is, what he was doing before and after the picture, etc. I didn’t actually have the picture with me at work, but I could remember it pretty well. For some reason, this ended up being the result – I didn’t follow the instructions very well, but I got an idea and went with it.

A picture frame hangs on a wall, the only ornament in the whole dreary living room. The picture, whose colors are perfectly bright and cheerful in comparison to the gray walls, is a photograph of a boy. The boy is grinning widely, and is featured mid-slide on a wild looking water ride – he’s wearing a bright orange swim-suit and upon closer inspection, you could say that he is laughing more than grinning. In fact, you can almost hear the delightful peals of laughter as you look at the photo.

So the balding man that lived in this room felt – as if the boy in the photograph was constantly laughing at him. So many times the man had tried to take the photo off the wall, and yet, again and again, he could not bring himself to do it.

And so, the man lived out his life, jumping from one hated job to another, never happy with the person that he had become. All his days, the boy laughed in his wooden frame, reminding the man of the boy he had been: so full of hope and happiness. The future had seemed endless then, opportunities just waiting right around the bend. Sometimes, when the man lay in bed late at night, he could admit to himself that the reason he never took that old photograph off the wall was that he needed to remind himself how he had squandered his opportunities, how he had wasted his life. And yet, by day, he never changed a thing, and the laughing boy that he had been shined out of the picture frame forever more, while the man he was dwindled in body and in spirit as the days passed.

Even to himself, the man never managed to explain why he didn’t change a thing. Perhaps he lived in the boy in the picture on the wall rather than in his reality; perhaps he just didn’t know how to change; perhaps he didn’t want to change really; and perhaps, just perhaps, there was no one there who cared enough to help him change. Who knows?