Lynn Canyon, Compulsive Counting

lynn canyon

Flash Fiction, a short story written in 100 words or less.

I always count the steps as I walk. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten.

I count all the way to the top as I place one foot down and then the other. Each step is deliberate, careful.

Eleven. Twelve. Thirteen.

My eyes flit back and forth, watching the steps while trying to take in the views. Trees, rocks, moss, I see everything that makes this beautiful. I see but do not fully appreciate.

My attention is still on the stairs, on each step bringing me up, up, up. (Or down, down, down.)

I have to count.

 

Loving Love

Flash Fiction, a short story written in 100 words or less.

We are holding hands, both clammy and awkward but neither willing to let go.

Young love is as much about stubbornness as it is about infatuation. Who will let go first? It is a game of adolescent chicken.

I lick my lips, grimacing at their chapped surface. Putting on chap-stick seems too premediated, too expectant, but I worry about their roughness.

I would have to let go of your hand to find the chap-stick.

A slight breeze ruffles your hair. Butterflies jump in my stomach, nervous and delighted and sick all at the same time.

I love being in love.

 

Lucy

I do not look like a Lucy. I know this because everyone is always telling me “You do not look like a Lucy.” Even my parents, as if it’s somehow my fault they named me incorrectly. They could have gone with Lucille that might have worked. But no, they had to go with Lucy. I once considered legally changing my name to Lucille, or even becoming a Jolene or an Emily, but I’ve stubbornly held on to Lucy just out of spite.

I am not petite like the name would suggest. I stand tall and straight at 5’9 and I am definitely not thin, my diet of burgers and beer have thickened my waistline and fleshed out my cheeks and it is only the Zumba classes I take three times a week that stop me from becoming completely round. I do not have blonde locks and there are no strawberry tones in my hair. In fact, my hair is a rather dull ash brown with no sparkle or glimmer added and I always wear it pulled back in the same mid-length pony tail, never high enough to suggest any kind of perkiness and never so low as to appear lazy.

My features are not pretty or even unusual. They are just simple features, not even plain and simple as plain might at least be interesting. Eyes, a nose, and lips all nothing special. One summer I got freckles which sent me over the moon but it never happened again.

I don’t have an “easy manner” and I am absolutely horrid at telling jokes. I usually forget the punchline or invert the words and I always end up laughing hysterically to myself before even finishing telling the joke which inevitably leads to letdown. Apparently the joke is never as funny as I think it is.

And even worse than my joke telling talents are my small talk skills.

I loathe small talk and envy to the point of disdain people who are good at having conversations about nothing. In my first year of university I actually carried cue cards but rather than being the endearing visual I thought it would be they just made every situation stunningly awkward, especially since I usually dropped them.

The only friend I made at university was the only person who stopped to help me pick up the cue cards. We still talk on occasion, though she is married now which somehow makes us lesser friends. There is some kind of barrier between awkward single girls and their happily married friends, a mixture of pity and envy and swirling discomfort that just makes it impossible to stay close.

But back to the inappropriateness of my name. Lucy.

In high school, when I got a job and was finally able to buy my own clothes, I went through an uncomfortable gothic punk phase, uncomfortable both because of the leather pants and doc martens, and because of how terribly awkward I was at being “edgy”. I figured if I couldn’t be the perky Lucy everyone expected at least I could be rockabilly cool. I was desperate to be the next Betty Page or … I actually don’t know any of the names of famous pin up girls aside from Betty Page.

The phase didn’t last long though I often think of it fondly.

Still I am a happy woman despite my misleading name and my social ineptitude.

Tonight I am even going on a date with a man I met online, Jamie Wardman. Jamie works in IT for a company I have never heard of but immediately Googled. He is thirty three which makes me wonder why he is still single (though at thirty one I suppose I shouldn’t judge) but he has a nice smile and, judging by his profile pictures, likes to wear plaid.

I love a man in plaid.

It is our first date and we are meeting for dinner at a brew pub close to my home. The location was a complete coincidence as Jamie does not know where I live (I hope) and I wholeheartedly approve of the choice.

More than I love a man in plaid I love a man who can appreciate a good brew pub.

We have been talking for weeks and I am actually looking forward to the date quite a bit. I have even memorized some conversation pieces, nothing too heavy like religion or politics and nothing too broad like sports or the weather, but a few gems I picked up while doing quizzes on Buzzfeed. Cute facts I can throw out into the conversation (“Did you know that platypus are actually poisonous?”) to make myself seem both knowledgeable and worldly.

I even printed off our emails for study earlier today, going over and over what we’ve talked about and analyzing each punctuation mark for its significance (He said: “I am looking forward to our date!”, that has to be good).

In short I am so ready for this.

I arrive right on time never quite sure of the protocol on first dates. Is it best to arrive first and be already seated when he arrives? Or should I breeze in a few minutes late to exude a busy and not-too-eager air?

Jamie is there, seated at a table near the back. He looks nervous and is fidgeting a bit. I smile and wait for his eyes to fall on me, walking towards him.

Finally we make eye contact and he half stands before frowning slightly, not his lips mind you, just that slight furrowing of the brow when you are thinking hard. I make it to the table before he has to decide whether or not to stand up.

I stealthily wipe my hand on my coat as I fold it before reaching over to shake his hand. There is nothing worse than sweaty palms.

“Hi Jamie,” I say as I take a seat. There is already water in front of us and I wonder how long he has been here and am thankful that I did not try to arrive early. That would have been awkward, both of us arriving ages before the date even starts.

Jamie shifts in his seat bumping into the table as he does and causing the water to slosh in the glasses. He flushes a deep red and stammers a quiet apology. I feel myself smiling.

This is why he is single.

My heart sings, he is like me!

After a few stops and starts the conversation finally starts to flow and it is like our email conversations, polite and exuberant. Jamie loves my facts about platypus and he tells a charming anecdote about his attempt at home brewing a nice Berliner Weisse.

“I would love to try it one day”, I tell him while attempting a coy smile that my subconscious is sure looks like the Station Inspector’s smiles from the movie ‘Hugo’, ill-fitted and slightly disturbing. I tell my sub-conscious to can it.

He smiles back.

At the end of the date we slowly walk towards to door of the pub, he puts his hand on the small of my back then pulls it back, then puts it there again.

Finally when we are outside the pub he looks at me and smiles.

“You do notlook like a Lucy.” Jamie says and my smile begins to falter. “I am so glad.” He whispers, leaning in for a soft kiss.

For the first time in thirty one years I am thrilled to not look like a Lucy.

Good Things

Good things don’t come to those who wait; they come to those who take initiative, those who are restless in the pursuit of happiness and who are not afraid to fail. Good things come to those who get up when they fall, who don’t fear life and living, those who jump in before testing the waters.

Good things are often masked behind mistakes and rash decisions, and they sometimes take a while to fully form – the silver lining on the rainbow – but they only come to those who pursue them like an eager suitor.

Those who wait for good things to come to them are often left stood up.

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Craving Connections

Flash Fiction, a short story written in 100 words or less.

His fingers graze mine and it is charged, electric and sweaty all at once. My cheeks are flushed with excitement and embarrassment and I can feel the butterflies swarming inside. His eyes are locked on mine.

I want him to kiss me.

I want to kiss him.

The moment passes as the change hits my hand and his gaze leaves mine, I do not count it but dump it quietly into my purse. He moves on to the next order.

Loneliness hits me like a kick to the middle scattering the butterflies. I wait for my coffee in silence, alone.

Spoiled Roses

Flash Fiction, a short story written in 100 words or less.

He leans against his bicycle, chest tight, throat burning and closing off as the hot burn of tears stings his eyes. He is fighting for composure.

She was supposed to say yes. Yes, yes, unequivocally yes.

His eyes focus on the roses, now strewn across the sidewalk smashed and spoiled, ugly. The ring burns a hole in his pocket.

He has heard before that the hardening of the heart is a gradual thing but that will not be his experience. He feels it growing cold in his chest even as the hot tears finally escape to stream down his face.

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My Valentine

I loved you more than life until I didn’t anymore.

It stopped, snuffed out and dissipated like the smoke you used to blow in the air in your endless and endlessly annoying attempts at blowing smoke rings.

I loved the smell of pipe tobacco and rye whiskey until I didn’t anymore.

Now it is taking a thousand washes to get the smell out of my sheets and the pillows will have to be thrown out.

I loved the way you used to quote Shakespeare and ‘Seinfeld’ with equal amounts of irony and delight until I didn’t anymore.

These days my eye twitches in ire at the sound of the bard and I change the channel when that show comes on.

I loved the way your hand would hold mine, tightly and without entwining our fingers until I didn’t anymore.

Though my hands still flex involuntarily whenever I think of you, lonely though the rest of me is not.

I do not miss you (not much, anyway). I do not want to see you (except from a distance, maybe). I do not love you (I do not, I do not).

Not anymore.

Heaven on Earth

Flash Fiction, a short story written in 100 words or less.

My lungs are near bursting, my eyes blinking as the sweat drips beaded onto my lashes. I force my shaking legs to keep going, just one more step, just another one more step (my body ignores my mantra knowing there are many steps left).

30 Days of Hiking and I am only on day six.

In my arrogance I imagined this would be easier.

In my ignorance I did not buy rain gear.

I stop to breath and lean heavily against a tree. Beauty surrounds me.

I smile knowing that I could die right now having already arrived in heaven.

 

A London Postcard

Flash Fiction, a short story written in 100 words or less.

Lucy bought eight copies of the same postcard. She didn’t really plan on sending them and had no one to send them to, but it was a pretty picture and she was impulsive.

Later she tried to recreate the same picture with her own camera, lining up the lens just so and patiently waiting for the right moment. A red bus passed in front of the parliament buildings as they overlooked the quiet Thames.

Patience paid off.

The picture was perfect and Lucy planned to frame it next to the postcard.

Who says loneliness has to be unhappy?

Lucy smiled.

a slight incident with bleach, pt. 2

Part 2 of 4. Click here for part one.

I have never been very good at making smart decisions. Mind you, I do try and I always start off with the best of intentions, but my kind of smart decisions always end badly. For example, deciding to dye my hair as part of my ‘new personality’.

To understand why this is a bad thing you need to develop a proper picture of me inside your head. Now, after reading up to this point you can already see my body type: fat. As a size fourteen, bordering on a size sixteen, I was a pretty ample woman. My ass should’ve been granted its own postal code, my legs rubbed together whenever I walked, and my stomach jiggled when I laughed.

I had the potential to be pretty. My eyes were a dark chocolate brown, large and inviting. People had always told me that I had warm eyes. I had the coveted type of perfect brows that never needed to be plucked or shaped. My mouth was average but despite the plumpness of my face my cheekbones were still pretty prominent. Even skinny I would never be stunning, but I certainly could’ve turned heads.

But that was not all. My one perfect feature, literally my crowning glory, was my thick ash brown hair. My hair had just the right amount of curl and bounce, with a natural sheen that belonged in Clairol commercials. I had always been proud of my hair.

Which leads me to my next point. Insanity.

What other reason would I have had to take a box of peroxide bleach to my gorgeous, gorgeous hair? I had been aiming for a nice golden sheen, a touch of lightness. Instead I got white.

My hair was white.

It was a disaster. My hair was a metallic, brassy white that left me looking like a strung out cocaine addict. A fat strung out cocaine addict. Now there’s an oxymoron.

And to make matters worse the damage went beyond the colour. Gone was my lush curl and playful bounce. Instead I was left with coarse, brassy white hair.

What possessed me next I still have no idea.

Instead of doing the sensible thing and immediately buying a box of brown dye to fix this disaster, I walked calmly to the bathroom and retrieved the scissors. Like a madwoman I chopped off lengths of hair. I angled it down (unintentionally) from the back to the front, taking off inch after inch of damaged hair.

When I finally stopped it was a full minute before the tears started. To me, at this moment, this was far more damaging than vomiting had ever been.

By some miracle the hair cut was actually quite even and the parts that weren’t at least looked like they were meant to be choppy.

Finally, when the dehydration from too many tears kicked in, my body aching from the force of my sobs, I stopped and stared in the mirror.

A strangled laugh escaped my lips, the sound completely foreign to me (I had not laughed in a long time).

I had accomplished one thing. This definitely was a whole new me.

Next I sold my car to an old man who pinched my ass and called me Daisy. (I believe he was referring to a cow, not the flower). Considering I live in the Prairies this was a stupid thing to do, but it was still a few months before the snow would set in and I would deal with that when it came to it.

I worked exactly 10 minutes away from my home by car. By foot it was a 45 minute walk. It took a lot of effort those first few days, dragging myself out of bed earlier than before (who knew the sun rose at 5am!) and forcing myself to walk those 45 minutes. This was the new me, I kept reassuring myself. The new me, complete with white, brassy hair, enjoyed walking.

The old me hated the new me.

In fact, the new me hated the new me a bit too.

You may be wondering what this has to do with anything. After all, the title of my story is “a slight incident with bleach” (please, no caps). Obviously that refers to my new hair. But it’s so much more than that. My white hair was the catalyst for everything that happened over the next two weeks which in turn was the catalyst for everything that has happened since.

You may think I’m overreacting, but I would swear on my own grandmother’s grave that everything that has happened, every detail no matter how large or small, happened because I didn’t watch the clock and let that peroxide sit far longer than it should have.

My life is completely changed and my hair is completely white because of a bottle of peroxide and distraction caused by a Pinterest addiction.