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Jesse 6 by Merkin

"Hi Katherine, it's Fred. Just checking in to see how you and Jesse are doing."

"Why hello, Fred! How nice to hear my brother's voice! I was just thinking about when we used to swing out back from that big tree by the arbor. D'you remember? There's still a rope swing hanging there, but I doubt Jesse's been on it much. Too juvenile, I'm sure he'd say. I've been out there pulling weeds all morning from Howard's old garden. I wish Jesse was here to lend a hand but you know how he disappears when he senses yard work. I'm sure he'll be sorry to have missed a chance to talk to you, you certainly have won him over with your so-called driving lesson and I'll never hear the end of it now will I, you really shouldn't encourage him like that and you know full well I'm the one that's going to bear the brunt of his impossible notions to be able to drive before the law says he may. Not that he needs to drive anywhere, about the only place he seems to want to go now that school's out is the bookstore--you remember Cleary's Booknook? Jesse's quite the bookworm, spends all his time down there, of course it's an easy bike ride.

"Plus his new friend Brian has a summer job in the coffee shop part, he's old Mr. Cleary's grandson and it's so good to know that one of Jesse's friends comes from such a nice family. Of course the Baxter's are nice, too, and he's been best friends with Artie Baxter practically forever although that might be tapering off some since Artie's gone off on his own to some kind of coed camp this summer. Can you imagine? Boys and girls in the same camp! Jesse didn't seem very interested in going. I know Artie was disappointed but Jesse said 'yuk' when Artie asked him. I suppose you might have said the same thing at his age. I don't think camps were held for boys and girls together when we were young and I'm sure we would never have been sent to one, I declare!

"Jesse would love to have a summer job like Brian Cleary's but of course he isn't old enough, although Lord knows Brian is just a teeny bit underage to be working, he won't be sixteen until next month even though he's just finished tenth grade since he started school when he was five. It's a family business so I suppose that's all right. Jesse is really jealous, though, and says he can't wait 'to earn the big bucks.' I say his allowance should still be enough for his needs at his age and anyway Brian seems to pay for everything when they're together.

"My goodness, look at the time! How I go on. Remember we're counting on you and Dave for Sunday dinner. Jesse loves his chance at man talk when you come down, and I'm sure you know I'm grateful. But no more driving lessons, if you please. Enough is enough. Oh, and Brian will be coming over this week for Sunday dinner, too. They're thick as thieves, those two.

Bye Fred, and give our love to Dave."


I think this will be the last installment of Jesse's story. My aim here has been to portray some of the trials and tribulations of modern-day boyhood, and now it seems Jesse is ready to move on into a much more complex narrative.

My other reason for stopping is that I believe flash fiction, to be effective, should be able to be read as a stand-alone experience, and it should largely "make sense" within each single presentation. I fear that Jesse's saga has thwarted that objective by increasingly requiring the reader to have foreknowledge of story context and of each element's antecedents.

I hope you have enjoyed my experiment in stringing together flash glimpses to achieve a continuous tale. I hasten to credit Steven Keiths for showing the way, with his inspired five-part flash series (Work Ethic... A Dream Come True) about a pushcart entrepreneur.

James Merkin

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  • 2 weeks later...

I for one would like to see you in the authors list of awesomedude.com with some "real" short stories ;)

What about Jesse's dad, why does Jesse need to write him letters instead of just telling him stuff? And, did Keith like his valentine? Will he be jealous of Jesse being very friendly with his classmate? Being a jock, could he even admit to himself being jealous? Don't keep us hanging here man! :D

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Hi, Pipo. All good questions. What I tried to get across in the short story version of these flash episodes was that Jesse's dad is deceased, a Marine deployed abroad who never came back, and that Jesse's uncles have stepped up to give him male support within his family situation during this key year for Jesse. As to Keith, he only had a walk-on part in this story. Keith served the purpose of being Brian's first crush but, since he was a senior and a jock, perhaps never even noticed Brian who was a sophomore at the time.


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  • 4 weeks later...

For what it's worth, James, though I did read "Special Delivery", there was no mention of it being part of a series that I recall, and I approached this piece as a stand alone--and found it to do that quite nicely!

Mom is just too funny! And being one myself made it all the more delightful, as I could picture my own friends and family as I was here, wondering how I could be so oblivious to the sum of the words rolling off my tongue...

So off I go to fill in the middle. As always, thank you for your effort. I'd call this one FunFlash at it's best.


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?Why hello, Fred! How nice to hear my brother?s voice! ... Bye Fred, and give our love to Dave.?

My frustration at the run off at the mouth mom eclipsed and soured everything she said. :wink:

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I'm sorry if it touched a nerve, Trab. I suppose that's one of the reasons I folded the entire series into a single short story, "Jesse's Year," and added some new elements to weave it more tightly together -- including, by the way, a revised version of this mother's conversation with Fred, hoping to give it a more comic turn.


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A big part of Flash Fiction appears to be what isn't written. Stuff is always left to the imagination of the reader. It makes it more enjoyable that we, the readers, get to decorate the story and a lot of the meaning of conversations anyway we want.

We really don't know the mother at all, or where she's coming from, and what she's feeling when she calls. This is all spelled out in a regular story, but left for the reader to do in a Flash.

Whether what she said is comical or critical or a senior moment or an Alzheimer's-afflicted peroration or an attempt to connect with someone due to lonliness or drunkedness or, well, we just fill in that blank ourselves, picture her and her speech any way we like.

I found it all delightful.


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