PICKING PLUMS

Five women were picking plums from the ground. Four were doing the actual work. They were carrying swollen bags of fruit, bent over to pile more on top. One, presumably the hardest worker, had already abandoned her bag and was continuing to catch the remaining morsels in her apron. Two others had wandered off in the distance as the plums became harder and harder to find. The fourth was grabbing the last few in the foreground, when she happened upon a sullen, black rock.

The fifth woman was standing with a platter in the center of it all. She was dressed differently than the rest. Her apron was white, and where the others wore a red over-coat, she bore no such garment. Her eyes darted between the women, but returned to the girl standing in the foreground. Her face was a mix of contempt and anguish, as if the girl had done something to wrong her that she couldn’t speak of in front of the rest of the women.

The platter she carried was a small, black platter, perhaps of well-polished, painted wood, or porcelain. It contained plums that looked similar to what the other women were picking, yet they appeared to be the deep color of overripe fruit and, perhaps, were for reference only.

I liked to think, as I passed by, that she was the headmaster’s wife. She was angry at this girl for having slept with the master, and had taken her anger out on her group of maids as a whole. In the heat of day, she had forced them to pick bags and bags of fruit—so many that they had run out of the massive bags, and yet still she made them relentlessly continue. It looked as though they had picked the orchard nearly clean, too. I think they would have kept picking too, had things not changed as I walked out of view.

A sharp cry echoed from behind me, followed by the soft thumps of a dozen or so fruit. I heard footsteps rushing through the woods, then a heavy thud of a rock against something. The footsteps stopped. Two, three, four more times the rock came down, and with each thud emerged a sickening crunch.

When I finally decided to turn back, the grove had been emptied. No bags were anywhere to be seen, nor any women, though there were two patches of plums. The first was far in the distance, where the two women had gone off in search of more. It appeared they had dropped a small handful from their bags as they left, which had rolled harmlessly for a few feet before stopping. The second patch was less fortunate. A dozen plums, much deeper purple, had smashed onto the ground; splattering across the floor. The pulp and juice seeped from beneath the little heads, creating a pool of matter that mixed in with the dirt as they rotted.

——

 

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PEN TO PAPER – 50 WORD STORY

I touched my pen to paper, and it exploded with brilliant hues of reds and greens. The canvas of my mind spattered with the colors of reason; as vibrant as the open window at the end of the table. Then, just as quickly, it faded back to black and white.

——

 

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HEADLIGHTS

The road had become so routine that my half-closed eyes hardly noticed the flickering of my headlights. So too did they miss the tankard smashing through the center divider; straight into the car behind me. Nor did they attend to the bloody arm reaching for help as I drove away.

——

 

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BAT SONGS

The shade of bats fluttering in the distance engulfed the lights of the stars, like lines of black paint against the night. The chill metal of the bench was sharpened as they passed overhead; their shrill chatter echoing in my ears. Their beckoning song seemed to call out, “Sleep, Ulysses.”

——

 

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A WALK IN A STORM

Soooo I realized I really like these 50 word stories. They’re short, simple, and yet really difficult to do well. So I think I’m going to continue doing them sometimes to improve more. 🙂 here’s this week’s:

A Walk in a Storm

Being pelted with rain made for a weary walk. The flashes of lightning in the distance patterned the sky like dancers moving in sharp, jagged motions. I felt water beginning to soak through my gloves, yet when I squeezed my fists there was nothing but rhythmic determination to continue farther.

——

 

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A RICH LIFE

I have always had a strong imagination. When I was a child, there were nights where I would lie in bed, waiting for sleep to claim me, with more vivid fantasies about knights and magicians than the dreams that would follow. On the walk to school every morning, I would picture the world coming to an end in a new way, just to pass the time (and, perhaps, in hopes that I could somehow make the school explode).

Until one day I realized that I had to move on. The perfectly detailed gun battles, the stealth missions against giant aliens, the jumps from thousand foot buildings with a parachute—they all were too little for me. I started spending my time on schoolwork. Instead playing clips of unwritten movies in my head at night, I passed out with a pen in hand and a notebook under my head.

I got a degree in finance, and was set up with a steady job. The office walls had that dirty, faded white color that looks simultaneously unfinished and ancient. Things were pretty good. During my breaks, I got a brief moment to myself to breathe. I usually spent this time picturing what it would be like if I were outside, but company policy was that all breaks not spent on the can were to be spent in the break room. Then it was back to the tip-tap­ of the keyboard.

And that was twenty-five years gone. Nothing changed. The occasional pay raise kept me feeling humble about myself, while the company’s profits quintupled under a budget plan I had proposed. They even offered me full health insurance coverage—and I mean FULL. They even scheduled check ups for me, I was considered that important to the company. Plus, the big guys said they could write off any costs anyway.

Then the day came where the check up didn’t go so well. It was an overcast day, with the sun just barely peeking out from behind the clouds. The doctors’ office was colder than it was outdoors. I came in for a routine check up, which I had once a year, and the doctor found a strange clump in my chest. The tests came back a week later, and they told me it was breast cancer. It had progressed fast, too, and was likely to begin impacting my health seriously within the next two months.

The company gave me leave—something that came marking both my twenty-fifth anniversary with the company, and the tenth year since they monopolized the market (of course, in America they can’t call it that, but the results were the same). I went to Spain, to Germany, and a load of other countries to try to clear my head. The head of the Euro branch of affairs found me a top-notch place to stay at, and I began to burn through my hefty savings.

One night, I took a break from the parties and the escapes, and went to bed early. I was nostalgic about my life. I had called family, friends, and even past co-workers about my conditions. My childhood memories of imagining things before bed came back to me, and I closed my eyes to picture myself in a meadow. It started well, but soon I had lost myself in a story about beautiful queens and valorous knights.

And it struck me that I had never been valorous. There was no adventure to my life. Sure, I was frequenting the top of the top in society, but the blow was hardly fulfilling anymore. There were no roadside breakdowns. No struggles. No victories. Just fun. So much fun, that it didn’t feel special anymore.

The next day I took a walk through the street market. An old couple was deciding between two vegetables, while a child ran from his parents in ragged clothes. They all had such smiles on their faces. They had made it. No, they weren’t spraying champagne into crowds of cheering faces, or sleeping with gorgeous models, but they had the heart-wrenching expressions just the same.

I walked my way up through a cobblestone tower with a name I couldn’t pronounce and looked out over the world. It was a misty day, with just enough fog to coat the horizon, but not so much to cover the city. They didn’t have ledge guards here—if you fell, you fell. And as I stood there, I pictured the life I could have had. I could have ditched that class, went on that hike, or went to that dinner. Maybe then, I wouldn’t be standing where I was now—rich, famous, and utterly alone.

And I jumped.

——

 

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DROPPED NUTS

Ok, I’ll take a break from 50 word stories for at least a week after this one:

Wandering through the park to work, I came across a dead squirrel at the base of a tree. He had slipped from a branch while retrieving nuts, and crashed headfirst into a massive root. His head had split open, and the nuts that had distracted him were soaked in blood.

——

 

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RETURN HOME

I really enjoyed writing my fifty-word story last week, so I thought I’d try another this week:

 

The walk home from the winter train station always feels like a Debussy song. Each step through the snowscape is like strolling on a cloud in the summer sky, despite the cold. When I cross the bridge, I can faintly hear them. In the reflection below I see myself smile.

——

 

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BULLETHOLES

Happy Thanksgiving America! This is my first attempt at a 50-word story. Let me know what you think. 🙂

 

I had brought a knife to a gunfight. He had all these bullets, written out in points on his pad of paper, which pierced my heart till the blood flowed like water down a stream. Yet my “I love you” had hit him hilt-first, and bounced harmlessly to the floor.

——

 

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DEPARTURE

I was out on a walk through the city when my mind shifted between the membranes of existence. I had been looking at the crowds, breathing the air—both the fresh and the foul—and letting the tail ends of the trees brush through my fingers, just like any other person. Then, I was outside myself, looking down on everything else. Not as a god, but a hopeless observer. My body was still moving below; still enjoying the views and smiling at passers by, and I could feel it’s every movement and ache within myself. But my eyes had left this world. I was out over the clouds, looking down at my own personal globe of reality.

I turned the vision, and saw the whole mass of people on earth. For months, I followed them around, growing further and further from my body each day. It wasn’t long before I lost connection to it altogether, and had to track it down myself, instead of just feeling its movements. By that time, I was beginning to grow bored with my new world. Being an observer is hard.

The people below don’t even think about what they are doing. They go about their days, listening to iPods, working mindlessly, and ignoring nearly everyone else. Many of these people go home, look up to the sky, and hope for something to change, but never take the first step to do so. The more they talked, the less I listened. They weren’t all like this, some brave souls tried to explain the problems to the youth, but too often it was too late for them too. Eventually, I found myself more interested in the flowers and the trees than people.

I could follow the roots, below the ground, and watch as they sucked the water from the dirt. I could track the petals as the fluttered through the sky. I would try to console the wilting plants, neglected by their owners, before they washed away into the earth and became part of the collective again, but the truth is they never heard me. I could dive down with the fishes, and see in the dark. The bottom of the ocean is more quiet than the biggest caves. The creatures down there don’t move so fast. They drift, like wood on the surface, wherever the unseen current would take them.

I could even slip between the rocks, and watch the long conversations they had. One day, while I was listening to them, I felt a tug at my soul. First it was light, like a child pulling blankets in the night, but then it began to pull harder, and I felt myself flying through the world. Faster and faster, until I couldn’t even see where we were going. I tried to dig in, to grasp at my globe, but the force pulled me along. Then, as quickly as it started, it all stopped again. I awoke with a start, in my bed, as if from a nightmare. It was dark in my room. I moved to the doorway without even thinking, and flicked the light switch. I was home again. I was back in my body. My heart began to race. I didn’t want to go back. It was so boring here. I climbed back into bed, hoping to escape in the sanctuary of dreams, and fell asleep.

——

 

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