Mechanic

The curve of her hips reminded him of a bruised pear as she walked toward the bar, not quite limping. She wore a dark, thin dress that clung to her milk white skin. She ordered a Golden Apple and the bartender, a simple automata, produced the thick, amber liquid before she sat down.

Mik learned long ago how to size up a client. He eyed her with a mechanical look, taking in all that she was before he made his way over and ordered a shot of amber himself. Not that he needed it, but he liked to keep the tank full just in case. She gave him a glance then focused on her drink. He knew he wasn’t attractive. In fact, he designed himself to blend into a crowd.

“Trouble with the RL-36?” he said.

She turned to him with a look of disgust, a look that would have been appropriate to such a question, but she remembered where she was and understanding flickered across her features. Mik liked seeing emotions play across his clients’ faces. They revealed many things. He had installed a dampener that only allowed himself a sly smile. He didn’t like others knowing what he was thinking.

“35 actually,” she said, relaxing a bit, “I haven’t had time to get it properly looked at.”

He nodded. He didn’t ask why she came here. It was both impolite and none of his business. She had her reasons.

“Come with me,” he said. He placed his glass upside down on the bar then led her to a back room and gestured her to the table in the center. She laid down without a word. He sat in a chair on her right side, eye level. He slid her dress up, professionally, only enough to reveal the soft, smooth skin of her right hip. Her eyes locked with the ceiling.

“You might want to turn your receptors down for this.”

“I can take the pain,” she said.

He shrugged then cut and pulled back a small section of skin, just enough to reveal the servo underneath. It was in fact the RL-35. He was impressed. She kept herself in good condition. He quelled the many questions rising within him and returned to his work. He left no trace of any incision and pulled her dress back into place. Her eyes finally left the ceiling.

“That’s it?” she asked.

“That’s it.”

She sat up. “And your price?”

He looked away pretending to think, then returned with his signature smile.

“For you, an answer.”

“To what?”

“What would the daughter of an emperor pay for a simple fix?”

A smirk crept onto her lips. “That is an observant question.”

Stricken

At the edge of winter I found myself at an in-between place. I had, out of strange coincidences, found myself standing outside of a restaurant called Cheddar’s in Columbia, Missouri. I had always seen the sign as I drove through on my way home from or to the university. Lit up orange, ironically, I never really knew what kind of place it was, but I was about to find out. I was there to meet someone. A woman whom I’d met through an online dating app that I loaded onto my phone for the purpose of entertainment, which sounds awful but the app existed on a superficial basis of prejudice to begin with. I was in college and my roommate and other friends had been using it for legitimate purposes and I found it interesting and a good way to waste time. I never thought I’d meet someone. We agreed to meet at the restaurant for lunch since it was a mutual, public place, and she lived in the area.

I planned to arrive fifteen minutes early because I hate being late. When I got there, she hadn’t arrived so I made a reservation and decided to stand outside. It wasn’t too cold, but I could see my breath. I wore jeans and a thick peacoat. There I waited, on a sidewalk, nervous yet excited. Then she arrived. She wore jeans and a pink coat. She seemed to bounce when she walked and her hair, tied up in a ponytail, bounced along behind her. From side to side like a counterbalance. A way to physically balance the life beaming out of her. She smiled and I froze. A giddiness rose in me that overrode the nervousness and I smiled back.

“Ryan?” she asked.

“That’s me.” We hugged, not really knowing what else to do.

We walked inside and waited among a small crowd of people until our table was ready. We made small talk about the drive in and the weather until we got to our booth. The small talk turned to food and she admitted she’d been there before so I asked for recommendations and she suggested the buffalo chicken wrap which I ordered. The conversation moved from topic to topic smoothly without a lull or any feeling of discomfort. We were strangers meeting for the first time but fell together like a flock of birds weaving through the sky. We’d talked through text for a short while before we set up the date. That was two weeks prior and she had initiated the conversation (something she will take credit for the rest of our lives).

As we ate, we discussed the strangeness of online dating. Neither of us had done it before and agreed it was a strange way to meet and joked about the possibilities of each other being murderers. Then we realized how small our chances of connecting had been. The app only searched within a maximum fifty mile radius. She lived in the middle of the state and I was attending school on one edge of the state, but had driven home, to the other side of the state, the weekend we matched. My drive brought me within range of her. If I had decided to visit home a weekend earlier or later, we probably would never have met. It’s a small world, but at the same time immense, and our chance of meeting seemed infinitesimal. Smaller than being struck by lightning, yet we were both in that moment mesmerized.

Audience. Do you have one?

The world is a crazy place. Last week there was the possibility of nuclear war (which isn’t completely out of the picture) and now this week we are plagued with a threat of American Nazism. It may be a strange jump, but I thought I’d take this weeks post to talk about audience. The main reason the flash fiction is making its comeback is supposedly due to the decreased attention spans of the general public.

Let’s face it, it’s true. I’d bet nearly a third of the American population and possibly even that much of the world population (if not more) could be diagnosed with the all too common Attention Deficit Disorder or A.D.D. This is not a disregard for the actual disorder mind you. I’ve worked with students who have the disorder and students with various other disorders and they are real and vary greatly and do cause issues when learning material or staying focused. Many cases are validated and diagnosed correctly. On the other hand, the general public is also somewhat idiotic on average and can’t pay attention to anything longer than a minute unless it’s for their direct, selfish gain or a sudden medical need (which can be argued as a selfish gain, but lets not go into that debate right now).

The point I’m making is we are overstimulated and have a trillion different options for entertainment at any given time (and that might just be on Youtube alone). I can’t help but fell, as an artist, the pull to dumb down my work to fit the trend the general public wants at this particular minute of the day just to have an audience. But of course I, as an author, might be a bit stuck up and believe my work is the shit (when it very well might be actual shit instead of “the” shit). Author’s are often weird that way with their work. Once moment we think it’s the best thing ever written in history, and the next we think it’s the worst and that we are wasting our lives. Being an author is similar to having bipolar disorder (of course I wouldn’t know, maybe?, what that would actually be like).

Anyway, back to the topic. Audience. Artists are always hoping for or looking for, or even considering directly, the audience their art is for. Also, sometimes we create just for ourselves and let the audience for the work find the work. But there is almost always some audience for any work. Yes, despite my earlier comment about the convolution of entertainment, there is an audience for your work (and maybe even mine). Some artists produce work for years before they people notice and some artists make only one thing that catches the eyes of the masses. It’s really up in the air. You can play the trend and hope for the best or feed the masses insignificant dribble to satisfy their thirst for the day, but work of that kind rarely lasts or has any meaning. “But how do you get people to like your work?” Don’t. Don’t try to make people like your work. Just make your work the way you like it and the right kind of people will find it eventually (hopefully). Some artists don’t have their work recognized by large groups until after they are dead. Of course everyone wants instant fame and fortune, but if any artist is only going after fame and fortune they aren’t really in it for the art.

Things are changing constantly. What is popular today will be eons old tomorrow. As an artist, you do you. And I’ll do me. Once I get some major work out there, of course I’ll network and promote, but I promise to always do what I want and like to do. I won’t compromise my work for anything because I know that somewhere out in the world there is someone who may find my work and it will mean the world to them. Much like there are authors who have meant the world to me at different stages of my life. They still mean a great deal. For that audience, even if it’s one person, I have to stay true to my work. To stay true to myself. I encourage you to do the same. There are billions of people in the world and many works that have large followings (many of which I don’t know how, but many of which I understand). There are also many works (probably greater in this category) that have a small following that deserve so much more credit.

Everyone has an audience. As such, we are responsible for what we say to that audience, but we are not responsible for how it is interpreted. Everyone is different and there will be people who hate my work. It can’t be helped. Because of that, it is easy to remove any urge to “please people” because no matter what (I’ve learned many times), people will always find something to complain about.

So here we are with so much to take in on the daily. Sometimes it’s good to unplug for a second if not for a year. Sit back and put the phone down and pick up a book. One day it might be one I’ve written. You do you, and I’ll do me. Happy writing. – Ryan

Dystopian Novels

I started a reread of Fahrenheit 451. I haven’t read the book since high school and remembered enjoying it so I picked up a copy at the book store. It turned out to be a 60th anniversary edition. I started reading and it’s a quick read but, as with many successful dystopian novels, there are eerie similarities to modern times. If you haven’t read this book, I recommend it. It’s only 158 pages and is a great read.

With the threat of nuclear war currently on the horizon, and the current political climate here in America, it’s not surprising that 1984 by George Orwell has made it onto today’s bestseller list. In 1984, there is the continuous war. In Fahrenheit 451 there is also a war going on though the only hint of it is the consistent flyover of bomber planes. But war doesn’t necessarily make a story dystopian, obviously, but it’s ironic that many dystopian novels have war as an underlying element. Humanity has consistently been at war with itself throughout history. 1984 has a continual war as a means to maintain control. Fahrenheit 451 has a war that gives hope for change from the current social infrastructure.

That social infrastructure is frighteningly too familiar in the way it mirrors society today with the internet and everyone’s faces glued to a screen with the most common being a cell phone. These books, written between 60 and 70 years ago (next year will be 1984‘s 70th anniversary), were meant to be cautionary tales about what the future could become. There were reasons 1984 was banned from many countries (not all of them communist countries) shortly after its release.

Fahrenheit 451, thought dated in some ways, stands up to time because is connects on a fundamentally human level and accurately predicted (closely enough) the direction society was heading. Empathy is becoming less common. The anonymity of internet users allows them to openly show how terrible of a person they are without consequence or association with their real identities, leaving them to berate a stranger and turn to their families and keep a facade of perfect parent or “normal” teenager.

These books are important. Not because they are warnings of a dangerous road, but because they are reminders that even in evil times there is still good. That even though things look bad, there is still a chance to turn it around. That good people exist and all we need is for them to act on what they know to be right instead of remain bystanders to the those acting selfishly and with no regard to fellow human beings. I’m curious how a dystopian novel written today would read. I think it’s easy to assume that it would become a post-apocalyptic novel vs. actual dystopian. I’m currently turning gears about how the world might look in fifty or one hundred years. Will it be scary or beautiful? Or will it be a little of both and not seem much different from right now? Who knows, but time will tell if we make it that far. Here’s to hoping we make some good decisions as a species.

Pluet

“I finally come to visit you and no one knows where you are. The nurses are in a slight panic, though they don’t want me to know that they can’t find my mom. They told me you were with the doctor.”

She laughed as he took a seat next to her on the bench. Her hair had grayed fully and thinned so much over the last year that it now reminded him of a wisp of cloud. Her once stocky build atrophied to bone nearly seen through opaque skin. He hardly recognized her once strong back stooped as if the mere act of sitting was too much for the spine to bear. As if she might at any moment snap in too. The woman sitting next to him was the same who gave him life, but was not the woman from his memory who would remain his true mother.

“So why aren’t you in your room?” he continued.

“They can’t help me anymore. If I’m going to die, I’ll do it on my own instead of cooped up in someone else’s deathbed.”

“They can help you-”

“With what? Attempting to make this feeble body last a bit longer, as if it hasn’t passed its expiration date already? There is no escaping where I’m going. Everyone knows it and everyone is in denial because I’m just a reminder that they’re headed there too.”

The green grass before them darkened as clouds gave shelter from the sun. The wind picked up and a chill pierced through his jacket. His mother only wore a thin robe so he took of his jacket and offered it to her.

“Here, the last thing you need is to catch a cold. You must be freezing.”

“Keep it,” she said, waving the proffered clothing away, “I don’t have enough time to catch a cold.”

“Don’t say that,” he said. He held the folded jacket out for her a moment longer before giving in and keeping it, tough he didn’t put it back on.

The wind died down and the sun reappeared but dark clouds still hung in the sky. The sunlight felt warm and foreign on his face. He glanced over and saw she had closed her eyes and was enjoying its warmth.

Rain drops began pattering randomly about them.

“Let’s go inside, mom. It’s starting to rain.”

“Leave me be. I’ve always found the rain peaceful.”

The rain picked up and evened to a steady shower. They sat on the bench in silence. He looked at over at his mother and saw her head tilted toward the sky with her eyes closed. Though he didn’t want to get wet, he couldn’t bring himself to leave her here, so he watched the rain soak into his jacket, felt it dampen his jeans. Water began to streak down his face as his hair grew over saturated. Another chill ran through him. He glanced over at her again. She had opened her eyes.

“Mom?”

She didn’t stir.

“Goodbye mom.”

He sat there until the nurses found them. Even then, he refused move out of the rain.