Merkin

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Everything posted by Merkin

  1. Support System a Boys on Trains flash by James Merkin Sometimes, when I’m having a slow day and I don’t swing along fast enough, a trainman will shut the doors in my face just as I get there and leave me standing on the platform. I’ve looked up and caught his sneer but fuck it, it’s just one more thing to deal with. Sometimes someone will hold the train by standing against the edge of the sliding door until I can swing myself into the subway car. It’s usually an older guy, somebody’s dad, and I flash him a grateful smile. Of course he’ll look away quickly and avert his eyes. I’m used to that. If it’s a good day I can just make it to the train when schools have let out. I always try to find a seat in the middle of the car. Those seats face into the center and I can see best there. I can watch the schoolboys as they jostle and push and stand or sit in groups full of talk and camaraderie. Every once in a while a cute boy will catch my eye. I live for those moments. I’ll look him over and daydream about him and commit him to my memory. Sometimes he’ll notice and look back at me. Once or twice when that happened the boy even smiled at me. I dreamed about that boy for weeks. But usually if I look too long and he senses my glance he’ll turn away or make a face or say something rude or angry about me. I guess if I were in his shoes and an ugly dwarf with bent legs and crutches stared at me I’d get angry, too. They never bother me or try to retaliate. They can tell right away how strong I am. Nearly twenty years on crutches will do that for your upper body and arms. No, they just turn away, maybe whisper something to a friend, and make a point of not looking in my direction for the rest of the trip. I generally stop looking, too, once they turn away and lose their cuteness to some other emotion. Yesterday, though, I saw a really cute boy come onto the subway car. He was very young – maybe only fourteen or fifteen -- and he had that soft fresh complexion boys have before they have to start shaving. He had brown hair that touched his collar and his big brown eyes, pert nose, and soft lips made a portrait I won’t forget. He even noticed me looking at him and he gave me a brief grin, then blushed and looked away to find a seat across from me not too far away. He concentrated his attention on his cell phone. I guess he was playing a game or texting because from time to time he’d frown in concentration and his thumbs were flying. Every once in a while he’d laugh at something on his screen. He was so cute I memorized as much of him as I could. Luckily the train wasn’t crowded and I could watch him without interruption. I soon noticed that someone else was watching him, too. I don’t miss much, particularly the attentions of other boy watchers, and the other watcher was a guy I’d seen on the subway a couple of times already. I get a really bad vibe whenever I see him. He is always watching boys, especially very young boys, and he always looked as though he hated them. You could see the rage in his face, and his fists were clenched. His whole body looked like it was ready to spring. I’d seen him bump boys deliberately when the car was crowded and riders had to stand. It looked to me that he wanted to force them into a corner or something. A couple of times a smaller boy would seem terrified after encountering him. I kept an eye on the creepy guy, as I’d labeled him – quick glances to check on him, even though it was interfering with my own enjoyment of the boy we both had focused on. The boy finished with his phone and put it away as we pulled into an underground station. It appeared to be his stop, since he was standing up, unsteadily balancing himself as he hoisted his backpack and turned toward the doors in the center of the car. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the creepy guy stand, too. His eyes were boring into the boy’s back and his expression was truly frightening. As the car slowed to a stop the doors opened and the boy slipped out onto the platform. He was alone and he set off in the opposite direction from most of the departing crowd. He was heading into darkness and I knew I would soon lose sight of him. Then creepy guy made his move. He gathered up his scruffy gym bag and headed toward the doorway. I knew he was going to follow the boy. As he moved past me I stuck one of my crutches out slightly, as though it had slipped from my side. It was enough to catch his right foot. He went down immediately, full face onto the floor of the subway car. The gym bag fell from his grasp. As it fell it flipped over and a wicked long sharp knife fell onto the floor. Entering passengers who had just stepped onto the car gaped and drew back. The doors finally closed as he lunged for the knife. I brought my other crutch down hard on his hand. It made a satisfying crunch as I pinned his hand to the floor. He screamed. I told the guy sitting beside me to pull the Emergency Cord. I didn’t much mind spending the evening being interrogated by the transit police, after they’d cuffed the creep and taken him away. Turned out he was a known sex offender, and was already wanted for questioning. One cop even called me a hero. I just want to be able to see the boy again. _____
  2. I can't believe Trump said this!

    I think any teacher who scores a takedown should get a bonus in her pay envelope. Maybe even a sticker for her purse, much like those on the backs of collegiate football helmets.
  3. More About Boys on Trains

    I'd say they had made their point as soon as they grasped their opportunity, Cole.
  4. Terminus

    The more things change the more some things may stay the same. A train can travel in more than one dimension. Good one, William.
  5. Support System, by James Merkin

    Thank you, fellas. It's a great theme to work with, and the possibilities (and characters) on a train are wide open -- as Agatha Christie herself discovered.
  6. London Bridge is Down

    I confess that I am a bit spooked by this piece. Is this the actual procedure to be followed upon the death of the monarch? It seems to lack safeguard against false alarm. I''m particularly worried about the new hire, Anthony, kicking off the process. Also, it seems unfinished -- where is the story going? Kiran and Adam and John, barely introduced, would appear to be the key to the next part of the story. Are you planning to go on with this, William?
  7. Valentine's Day 2018

    I second that! I enjoyed every one of them. I love the special occasion stories we put together for Valentine's Day and Hallowe'en.
  8. Can you help me find this story?

    My high school drama teacher always said "What happens backstage, stays backstage -- unless I catch you at it!"
  9. Caravaggio Eyes

    So bittersweet, to have stumbled upon a real-life analog to an artistic vision--and so human, to fail to seize the moment. A wonderful poem for all of us who have spent hours musing over what we should have done.
  10. The em dash

    Poets have long used the em-dash, as one of a set that includes the comma, the semicolon, and the colon, as a rhythm determinator. Witness the citation given Emily Dickinson within the article vwl has linked for us--although sweet Emily was overly prone to using it for gasps and 'dear me' moments within her verse. These expressions of poetic rhythm and pace is key to the ability of non-rhyming free verse to seize upon a reader's imagination and understanding.
  11. "Of course I won't laugh," said the nurse to the patient, "I'm a professional. In over twenty years I've never laughed at a patient." "Okay then," said Bob, and he proceeded to drop his trousers, revealing the smallest adult male organ the nurse had ever seen in her life.. In length and width it was almost identical to a AAA battery. Unable to control herself, the nurse tried to stop a giggle, but it just came out. And then she started laughing at the fact that she was laughing. Feeling very badly that she had laughed at the man's private part, she composed herself as well as she could. "I am so sorry," she said, "I don't know what came over me. On my honor as a nurse and a lady, I promise that it won't happen again. Now, tell me, what seems to be the problem?" "It's swollen," Bob replied. She ran out of the room. (Thanks to kiwi for this one. May he rest in peace.)
  12. You Belong To Me

    Can't decide whether this fine story is wonderfully uplifting or profoundly heart-breaking. So much lost time!
  13. Slang

    I suspect that Australians, just like Yanks, have generational slang, and the slang the old folks continue to use brings a wince to any younger Aussies who hear it. Likewise, I bet older Australians deplore what comes out of the mouths of their younger generations, and view it as yet more proof that their culture is crumbling.
  14. AwesomeDude 2018

    That’s an awesome set of changes, Mike, and I applaud your willingness to keep fine-tuning the site. I think we will all benefit from these initiatives. I think the addition of Flash Fiction to our author pages is a fine idea. Will this be retroactive to include earlier entries, or could each of us be responsible for bringing up nominations from the past for this new listing? I am of the opinion that not all of my previous contributions to Flash Fiction are all that worth preserving, but there are a couple of titles I’d like to bring forward to be listed. I’m looking forward to April, when AD turns 14, and hope to learn that you have been able to restore that hair. Keep looking in the mirror. James
  15. Brass Balls

    The end of "Brass Balls"--or is it? A wonderful wrap-up, immensely thoughtful as is your style, Chris, plus just the wee hint that there might be more to come, one of these days. Thank you, Chris, for this lovely gift culminating now in the holiday season. And what better way to observe whatever holiday all of you follow, than to find and press Dude's Donate Button? Please do it, one and all. James
  16. Nicolosi

    Thanks for the nudge, bi_janus. Joseph Nicolosi was a founding member of NARTH, and the originator of “Reparative Therapy” 'through which he "helped" thousands of individuals with unwanted same sex attraction.' -- as stated on the website Catholic Therapists.com, which in itself is an oxymoron...
  17. Can we say this now? About Frickin time

    I think the old ‘house’ system might be of great benefit in large comprehensive schools. Call them ‘pods’ or ‘covens’ or by whatever educational jargon is currently fashionable, but a division of large school populations into subsets with staff trained and assigned to facilitate the civic well-being of these more manageable smaller communities might go far in detecting unrest and identifying bullying.
  18. Christmas is often a hard holiday for persons who are feeling lost, abandoned, or bereft. It is difficult to discover the hope that the season offers, even harder to reach out and grasp that possibility. Sometimes it becomes our responsibility, as writers, to examine that possibility and offer it up framed in such a way that, just perhaps, our version may touch the heart and mind of someone who is adrift. We may all have examples to cite of stories that work this magic. One of those stories, in my opinion, is Eliot Moore’s “A Fragile Light”: http://m.dabeagle.com/stories/eliotmoore/afl/afl.htm
  19. Sex in novels

    Writing gay fiction aimed toward a receptive audience has very nearly become an apples and oranges undertaking, with some readers committed to seeking out stories stuffed with sex scenes while other readers are mostly interested in savoring the romantic interactions and aspirations of the main characters. Any extended perusal of Nifty soon reveals that writers long ago ran out of new and inventive ways of describing how one person’s Part A can fit into someone else’s Part B. Even multiplying the number of people involved appears to have stretched the writing imagination as far as it can go, short of dismembering the participants. Romance, however, seems to spring eternal, and the possibilities may be inexhaustible. Writers interested in lengthy careers and building an expanding fan base might do well to consider the rewards of examining love over lust.
  20. How the Internet changed the way we write

    Thanks, FreeThinker, for the link. A lot of what that writer states makes me wince. I find it amusing that he claims to have written a 'style book' for what he brags is a constantly changing language and grammar. I think the most curious claim he makes is this: ' Prescriptivism (i.e., following the rules) has the potential to make a piece of writing seem dated or stodgy.' In my opinion, there is nothing that dates a written work and makes it awkward or even hilarious to read than a writer who insists on using what he perceives to be the "youthspeak" of a generation where he does not have personal experience. That is the precise condition that 'following the rules' permits us to avoid, by providing a level playing field for our written communication and story-telling. Bah, humbug!
  21. God's Plan for Mike Pence

    Too plausible to ignore: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/god’s-plan-for-mike-pence/ar-BBGfo6g?li=BBnbcA1&ocid=mailsignout
  22. The Frost Covered Marker

    This incredibly moving story deserves far wider circulation to a far greater audience.
  23. Australia votes YES for same sex marriage

    I love the concept of a Conscience Vote. If only our Congress had the same provision. But I doubt any lobby or moneyed interest would ever release a congressman. Plus I highly doubt any of them have a conscience...
  24. Another Day

    Y’know, I had an entirely different take on Andrew’s willingness to be pushed around, when he might well have been able to do it himself. I read it as a kind of sorting mechanism, a way for Andrew to discover who might be truly willing to befriend him. And so it proved to be, and both Thomas and Percy became more to Andrew than friendly bystanders, in Thomas’s case much more. I thought that was a very adroit piece of writing.