The bones feel disconnected in his hands; they feel limp like a sleeping infant. Barnabus is almost afraid to peel back the silken edges, afraid of what he might find though the linear part of his brain knows very well what he will see. They gleam against the blanket, against the succulent soil in mounds.
Years ago I was challenged by my friend Joseph Bouthiette Jr. to create what he liked to call 55’s. These are pieces of fiction with exactly 55 words. He is obsessed with the number five. I have no idea why. He had invited me to be a part of an anthology that was made up entirely of 55 word stories. All the numbers moved around by five.
It seemed like a daunting task at the time as I was not a big fiction writer and had spent most of my time dealing in poetry. I had played around with flash fiction, but to be able to cut a precise piece of story out of the air in 55 words is exhilarating.
This challenge led me to write them all the time and honed the fiction I produce now. There was talk of another book, but it seems like his publishing days are on hold. Here is a story from what was supposed to be the final book in the collection:
I am haunted daily by his memory, knowing each thread was built on well crafted lies made to create a marble statue in his likeness. The truth has not set me free. Honesty has not made me stronger. Independence doesn’t feel courageous. Ghosts linger rattling chains made of spiderwebs. I should set myself on fire.
Liridona fidgeted uncomfortably in her fanciest dress. It was hot in Altdorf, blistering in unusual calidity, as she waited for the symphony to begin. The forest surrounding them normally barred the heat from bringing a flush to their faces. Liridona fanned herself with the white silk charm her father had brought back from China. It did little against the pinching of her corset beneath her gown. Her mother had scolded her when she originally refused to go. These chances for culture ran through their valley scarcely.
She was here against her will with Petrus, whom Liridona had never looked at twice with any agreeable feelings. She wished she was with her friends in the wilderness around the Reuss or fireside watching the moon at Lake Lucerne. But she was stuck here, with him being held without right cause to view the orchestra perform Honegger’s “Liturgique”.
The lights dimmed only making the heat black, but no less powerful. Perspiration gathered at the back of her neck to make her appear like a lower class woman poured into a lady’s dress. The corset dug into her ribs which cried for space against the stifling air. The music was turbulent and excitable. Liridona had an insidious tingle crawl through her body that mingled with the swelter inside the music hall. It tasted dangerous and otherworldly on her tongue as she breathed it in.
Petrus’ fingers rested on her knee with an almost imperceptible tremble, shaking his fingerprints off onto the silken blue fabric of her dress. Liridona angled her face ever so slightly, peered at him from the corner of her eye, and saw for the first time the effervescence about his eyes. She noted the way his mouth wanted to devour every inch of her if given the chance. She sat a little straighter in her chair waiting for his next advance.