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Postcard from the Edge

pinball

Below is an entry I submitted to the Writers’ Union of Canada’s 250-word “Postcard Story” competition last year. Another delicate, young thought-dove cast forth from my solitary literary ark, never to be heard from again. Truth is, I think I’d probably be willing to part with a kidney to have something even remotely resembling an olive branch come streaking across the horizon and into my writing life at this point. (Wait, the kidney’s the one you can donate and still get by with just one, right? Anyway, you know what I mean…)

Whatever the judges may have thought, however, I always rather liked this tight, modestly-sized narrative. It might, perhaps, be a little obscure, but, then again, so am I. So what other options do I have? Plus, you guys are clever, right?

I’d love to hear what you think.

It’s called…

SATURDAY AFTERNOON

“Show me.”

“What?”

“It’s 250 words. You’re going to want to tell me, but you need to show me.”

She was right, of course, but it was a tall order. An approach that would allow for only a single vector. Gear down, essence screaming toward truth at alarming velocity. The subtle rubber-kiss of wheels at tarmac versus a vulgar, titillating fireball.

“Only connect,” Forster rails at us from the grave, yet we are alone as always. Alone with our apparent immediacy, our e-mails and texts. Maybe more alone than we’ve ever been before.

Reclined, I can feel the warmth of the afternoon sun stealing through the window and embracing my extended legs, crossed at the ankles. Drowsing, willing myself not to surface, but, instead, to linger unfocused, suffused with the presence of absence.

What an odd sort of emotional calculus seethes within us. Equation after barely understood equation twitching at our puppet strings, overwhelming us with the complexity of the exercise. Pinball math. The glimmering buckshot of lives rocketing forward on the hard cusp of some phantom plunger. Bouncing, twirling, re-bounding, generating light and sound like fireballs along constrained parabolas infinite with possibilities. Until a final, deceptively smooth arc awakens us to the creeping momentum of our descent, beyond the salvation of bumper or paddle, accelerating toward oblivion with no second chances remaining in the breech. Oh, to swerve, to master the trajectory…

“Wake up,” she whispers.

“I am,” I respond.

Am I? I wonder.

photo credit: Marty.FM via photopin cc

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4 Comments

  1. bronxboy55 says:

    Birth and death, and what are we supposed to do with the in-between part? You have a gift for capturing the internal torment, Phil. And I don’t use the word “gift” lightly.

  2. Tom Marshall says:

    The machine imagery and the selection of the photo work quite well together. I spoke to my son today and he told me differentials are quite easy to do but creating the formula from the word problem proved difficult for him. I get this sense from the short piece a similar difficulty except we don’t know the word problem nor how to do the differentials. We only feel the “deceptively smooth arc” within our lives. I enjoyed the short story more the second time around.

    • Philster999 says:

      Yeah, I couldn’t believe how well the distorted pinball machine image I stumbled upon fit the story. Maybe there’s more to this fate stuff than I had previously thought…

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