The Last Drop

The following piece started life as an exericise in mood, atmosphere, and tone.

I’m waiting for some first readers to get back to me on it. One first reader offered, “I got a sickening chill when I got to the end.”

Hurray! I won!

Let me know what you think.


The Last Drop


People use to come from miles around to watch my father pour gas. He could pour gas through the eye of a needle into a siphon-tank without spilling a drop. They’d come, their near empty gas cans on the back of their buckboards, the cans braced all around so they wouldn’t fall over, spill, slosh around.

There were special gas pouring days back then and dad was the only one in our country who had a license to pour.

It was a wondrous thing to watch. He’d put one can on the ground in front of him, walk around it a few times, maybe put his hands on his hips or cross them over his chest and lift one hand to stroke the stubble on his chin, considering. Real difficult pours, he’d get down on his knees and hands, put his head down at ground level, looking around the can, checking for balance; would the can teeter as it filled? Would it slide as it neared full?

Then he’d start with a single, small, drop. A “test drop,” he’d call it. Everybody held their breath. He’d check the neck of the can after the test drop, make sure there was no spillage.

Warm days were the worst. Everybody’d have to stand back lest the fumes got inhaled. Couldn’t have that. Other pourers weren’t as careful as my dad. The fumes would escape and everybody’d have to go see the magistrate, explain what happened. Why weren’t proper precautions taken? My father never had to face that, never had to worry about asking the community to make a decision; make them decide what value would this person bring us? Is their contribution moving forward worth the gasoline fumes now resting in their lungs, in their blood? We can extract the fumes, reconstitute the gasoline, but the person would die.


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The Grand Ture

The following piece has been in my unfinished pile since April 1991 (and probably predates that by a few months). It’s gone from 5,000 words to its present ~775. The core idea has remained throughout, it’s framing and presenting it properly that’s taken me years to figure out.

I’m waiting for some first readers to get back to me on it. Let me know what you think.


The Grand Ture


Mace stepped out of his tractor and into the early August heat of the Boston blast zone. He listened for the ocean. It shouldn’t be too far away. Much of Boston was landfill and the bombs – the big ones hidden for years in abandoned buildings – caused the sea to reclaim its own. The stench of The Charles entered him like swallowed bile and he watched the waves come up from the east, from the Atlantic, as if the ocean pushed The Charles’ filth back, refused it, said, “No thanks, those bodies and wrecks are yours, keep them to yourself. I don’t need them.”

The young girl’s voice called him from the bunker. “Hello? I’m not going to open the door until you tell me who you are.”

Mace lifted his service pack out of the tractor, strapped it on his back, and tightened its belt around his narrow waist.

“Hello? Can you hear me?”

Just inside the tractor’s door, on the right and only visible when the door’s pneumatics opened it fully, rested like a high-resolution mezuza; a photograph of a little girl, her arms raised and waiting to be lifted in someone’s arms, her eyes and smile open and wide, her blonde hair caught in some wind.

Mace’s fingers went from his lips to the photograph and he tapped the door to close.

“Hello? I know you’re out there. Who are you? Answer me!”


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He stands naked in a ditch.

I mentioned back in Four pieces for a workshop I’m taking an online writing course. I’m sharing the exercises from that class in that post, Two Pieces for a Workshop, and in Four (Other) Pieces for a Workshop. This post is from the last class in that series. Here we were given “He stands naked in a ditch.” as a prompt and asked to create an atmospheric flash piece/tone poem from it.

I came up with the following 54 word piece.

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Four (Other) Pieces for a Workshop

I mentioned back in Four pieces for a workshop that I’m taking an online writing course and shared the requested exercises in that post and in Two Pieces for a Workshop. This time we were asked to 1) evoke emotion in two lines and 2) write about someone experiencing a strong emotion.

Evoke Emotion in Two Lines

  • He couldn’t believe what he heard,
    A siren calling his name.
  • The sky fell down around him,
    Drunken stars lit like father’s eyes.
  • She dabbed nail-polish on his nose.
    Easier that scratching his cheeks.
  • The guitar played itself in the corner
    Memories of old songs lost in time.

Someone experiencing a strong emotion
My sister lost her grip on the inner tube I sat in. The current pulled me out, away from the dock. I was focused on my parents and their friends drinking, laughing, eying each others’ buttocks and bulges and breasts, deciding who would spend the night with whom.

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The Exchange

This story came about from a book I’m reading intersecting with a conversation I had, a TV show Susan and I watched, and a desire to practice my flash storytelling techniques.

Hope you enjoy.


The Exchange

Dolan stood beside her Chevy Suburban’s open driver door and watched the woman approach. The black Suburban, the government plates, the fogged windows, it was a magnet to some people. Usually men, though. Their eyes lit up like kids on Christmas morning. “Hey, you with the Government?”

The woman stopped on the other side of the Suburban and held up a mobile so Dolan could see her son on the screen, sitting at a table playing with some building blocks. Behind him a window showed a cityscape.

“As you can see, Ms. Gelina, your son is quite safe and happy. How long he stays that way is completely up to you.”

Dolan kept her eyes on the screen. “What do you want?”

“What we want is for you to do exactly what we tell you to do. Do what we tell you to do and your son will be safe and home in twenty-four hours. Don’t do what we ask, you’ll never see him again.”

Dolan swallowed.

“And if anything happens to me, anything at all, your son dies.”

Dolan nodded. She opened her purse.

The woman shook her head. “We don’t want money.”

Dolan removed a pistol, aimed it at the woman’s vagina and pulled the trigger. The woman fell, her mobile falling from her grasp.


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