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Fiction: Keypads, Prologue

“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”
― Philip K. Dick


The promenade took on a subtle, but detectable, shift in mood as the spectrum of dusk oscillated on the glossy, sullen surface of the Housatonic Seaway. Most of the street vendors tended to pack it in an hour or so before dark owing to infrequent foot patrols following recent budget cutbacks. Quite a few of the first floor shops, cafes, and clubs would be open until midnight, though. The brick and mortar establishments tended to have their own muscle at the door, or at least fairly competent security bots. The more committed buskers remained, serenading tourists in love from pools of lamplight just flickering to life on the cobblestones. As the stars winked into existence, so too did sketchier characters whose various trades have been at home on waterfronts everywhere since the invention of the dock.

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FICTION: Cellar Spider

"Pholcus phalangioides," by Olaf Leillinger
"Pholcus phalangioides," by Olaf Leillinger CC BY-SA 3.0

“Kill it, Daddy.”

He looked at his little girl, stiff and wide-eyed on the hotel room cot, with the covers pulled up just below her eyes. The contours of her nose, mouth, and chin under the taut sheet gave her face a shrink-wrapped look.

"Pholcus phalangioides," by Olaf Leillinger (CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Pholcus phalangioides,” by Olaf Leillinger CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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Selecting Cantaloupes

By Toby Hudson (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
By Toby Hudson (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

by Jason Velázquez

"Rock Melons," by Toby Hudson (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
“Rock Melons,” by Toby Hudson (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
He remembered that she liked cantaloupe. Correction: he remembered that she loved cantaloupe. She told him that if he were ever to be exiled to a desert island and only given three food choices for the rest of his life, he should choose turkey, kale, and cantaloupe because they provided (in combination) all the nutrients a body needed to survive. But that had nothing to do with her love of cantaloupe. She just ate the hell out of it whenever it was around.

She taught him how to pick out a good one, too, at the store. She had never been wrong. This past Saturday, at the store, there was something about the way the old lady in the produce section was holding the cantaloupe Saturday afternoon that reminded him of her. Except that when he asked the old lady if she’d found a good one, she told him, no, she didn’t think so. She was never very good at selecting fruits or vegetables if she couldn’t see, plainly, how ripe they were.

He stepped up to the pile in the display bin and sorted through some until he located one with a mostly beige cast to its exterior. He picked up the lacy-skinned melon, and held its navel up to his nose. He inhaled slowly but deeply with both his nose and mouth, allowing the scent of the nectar inside to travel into his brain, allowing his instincts to guide his judgment. Then, holding the cantaloupe centered on his left palm, he thocked the rind firmly in several places on the fruit’s body. He listened for a certain tone, a certain resonance. Echolocation for sweetness and succulence, she had laughed, back then.

Lastly, he held the cantaloupe in both hands and weighed it. Not for its total mass, but more to judge its density, it’s ratio of sugar to size to juice to flesh. He hefted it up and down a few times. His face changed from a set of critical concentration to an easy, relaxed smile of approval.

He had been explaining the entire process to the old woman as he went along. The old woman did not take notes, but seemed to be hanging on his every pronouncement. When he placed the chosen one into her hands, she thanked him with a relief that was visible. She asked him if the same technique could be used on other melons. Somewhat with honeydews, he told her. Not at all with watermelons.

How the hell did anyone get to be her age and not know how to select a good cantaloupe?

He picked one out for himself and ambled over to an express check-out line behind a young couple who were purchasing twelve gallon-jugs of spring water. After they carried their water away, the young cashier caught herself flirting with him, and then, annoyed at his taking notice, switched to curt, just shy of brusque. She rang up his eggs, mouthwash, and cantaloupe. He told her he didn’t need a bag, either paper or plastic.

About midway into the next month, the light in the back of the refrigerator revealed that the cantaloupe, now also in the back of the refrigerator on the top shelf, had developed a white fuzzy glaze on one side. The mold had almost exactly the same pristine white appearance as that of the decorative glaze on gingerbread men and certain other Christmas cookies. The melon had begun to collapse in on itself. It sat in a gooey pool of the juices of its own disintegration, leaking from a crack in the rind either in the back or on the bottom that he couldn’t see from this angle.

He pushed a glass jar with three green olives in it and a plate of carrot cake that he should probably have covered out of the way to make room for the remainder of the rotisserie chicken that he’d purchased at the very same market the cantaloupe had come from.





“Jerry’s Java for Jesus” — Flash Fiction

"Homeless on Bench," by Tomas Castelazo; CC BY-SA 3.0; GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons
"Homeless on Bench," by Tomas Castelazo [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

"Homeless on Bench," by Tomas Castelazo; CC BY-SA 3.0; GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons
“Homeless on Bench,” by Tomas Castelazo [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
flash fiction by Sheila Velazquez

Once a day, around noon, an old white Ford van pulls into the alley and parks in the lot of the apartment buildings.

Jerry serves between forty-five and sixty meals a day. He calls his mobile ministry “Java for Jesus,” and although he is not connected to any particular religion, Jerry does operate on faith. Most of the food Jerry serves comes from the local food bank and the Salvation Army, and the other costs are supported by donations. He never asks for money, but he manages to get by with help that comes in unexpected ways.

Jerry says that whenever he has a need, it is somehow met. On one particular day, he had plenty of hot dogs to cook for the hungry, but no buns, and no money to buy them. Just as he was about to serve the hot dogs, a man stopped at the van and told Jerry he had twelve dozen hot dog buns in his car, left over from an event held the previous evening. Did Jerry want them?

Along with the meals Jerry cooks and serves, he often gives away goods that he stocks in the van. Most popular are socks. Many of the homeless have no way to do laundry, and new socks are always welcome. He has blankets and other clothing and occasionally is able to offer donated sleeping bags and tents. He has been working on the old bus parked in his driveway for four years, a vehicle large enough to accommodate both a soup kitchen and more supplies, but it isn’t yet ready. With all of its riches, the town doesn’t have a homeless shelter. A church offers shower facilities, and Jerry offers food. He would like to open a shelter and set up a system for day laborers. The homeless are often put on a bus and sent elsewhere. No sense cluttering up the view with them.

Many of the people Jerry serves are drug and alcohol abusers, and he says that meth use is wreaking havoc on poor families. He notes that many of his clients aren’t really homeless, “just houseless.” Some live in their cars, while others have set up small camps. Some survive as mountain men, living off the land and fishing. Jerry serves hitchhikers who are passing through. He wishes that more working people and businessmen would come for a free lunch so that they could see the need and meet the needy.

“Wherefore, Egypt?” — Microfiction

by Jason Velázquez

“¿Mamá?” Esperanza’s question reverberates musically in the back of the Econoline, “¿Will I get to meet my papá?”

Dolores strokes the 11-year-old’s hair with one hand as the other glides reflexively to where, under her oil-stained work shirt, a circular pattern of raised, and occasionally sensitive, skin is a lighter color than the surrounding flesh.

Esperanza’s features are so fine, her frame so delicate and unlike her own, Dolores considers, that she might actually be able to identify the father. He will certainly introduce himself to Esperanza. The barest hint of curve, disguising the bony angles of fifth grade, will not escape their notice. ¿How long—weeks? Maybe just days after the pair is deposited in a town she hasn’t seen since she was still Lolita.

“Yes, bebé,” Dolores quietly decides as the van sails through the darkness. “You are going to meet your papá,” she reassures the figure cradled in her lap that is so graceful, even now, in its stillness.

FICTION: “A Contest of Wills”

“A Contest of Wills”
by Jason Velázquez

A few wire hangers bobbed back and forth absently, out of time, in the closet on his side of the bed. The deflated heap composed of grey wool socks, jeans, boxers, flannel shirt, and tee shirt huddled apologetically on the floor in front of the nightstand.

“You can damn well sit there until this house crumbles around you,” she informed the heap tonelessly as the Goodwill truck below rumbled and navigated the tight corner out of the driveway in reverse, beeping incessantly in warning.

#‎microfiction‬ ‪#‎fiction‬

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