Image credit Braden Piper Photography
Green note: since a tooth is imploding in my head and I’m on massive doses of a voodoo codeine concoction, I thought this the perfect time to bring home my hallucinogenic “Zero,Zero” flash that the “Full of Crow/MiCrow” folks were gracious enough to publish in 2010 yet left in a semi-functional state…
I barged into the nasty bar bathroom, drink in hand, coming down off acid. It was one size fits all, just a dinky sink and a dirty toilet with a fucked up woman straddling it, staring at the wall. Her dull, brown hair was matted at the back of her head and straggling wild in front, like from a nightmare of a sleep. A moth-eaten tan sweater barely stretched across her kickball belly, was buttoned wrong, all bunched up under her tits. Tatty sky blue knit pants were stretched down around her ankles. My feet froze to the floor, my hand to the doorknob, my eyes to the sight of her.
The woman began slowly to swivel her head toward me on its x-axis. I was sure if her head didn’t fly off and kill me on impact, the worms that leached out of it would slap around my legs and suck me down into the piss and dirt on the floor. My traitorous eyes wouldn’t shut to hide me. I was forced to watch as her head kept turning toward me until it found my y-axis and locked there at zero,zero. I braced for a bad death.
Her face was unloaded, wiped blank of everything but dried pathways that had once held tears. She didn’t move her head from zero,zero. Only her downcast lashes lifted, dragging up with them leaden eyes so dark there were no pupils. My skin turned to gooseflesh in their wake as they rolled up the front of me in their sockets—hounded, forgiving, pitiful, all-knowing—like Jesus at the ninth hour, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?! And when they fastened on my eyes, I relaxed into them, and I heard her say in a low, cigarette voice, “I just gave birth.”
I felt my body sacrifice its weight with an infinite sigh. My drink glass slipped from my hand and bounced in the filth. Jack Daniels and ice washed over my feet and I let loose the doorknob like breaking from rehab. I moved toward the woman to embrace her as innocence, but stopped, now cold again with fear. “Where is your baby?” I whispered, suspicious.
The woman said nothing, only held me steady in the darkness of her eyes, regarding me impersonally. Then, without warning, she let me drop. And that’s when I saw it, as I fell, between her thighs…
As blameless as a baby I floated, half dead and drowning in human tissue and bloody toilet water, questioning the price, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?!
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WOW!! This is brilliant, even though I’m not sure if I understood it all I am still reeling from the impact of the words. Very surreal, and quite mind dazzling.
Your reaction is what this thing was built for, Steve! (I’ll come back later and tell you my thoughts/from whence this came when I wrote it) So good, all things have passed the test of time. Thanks so much for your awesome comment!
I’m White Rabbit late! The tooth fiasco lost me a ton of time, put me in a drowning situation time-wise…OY! But OK, now here’s the biz on what drove this piece, it’s here in the discussion Paschal started : )
Hi again Miss Alister, white rabbits are allowed to be late, they are the very setters of trend at the moment, or so I hear. :)
I took a trip across and read up on the comments of the original post, you had some awesomely literary people with awesome things to say about “Zero, Zero”, and quite rightly too. It’s a brilliant piece of work.
Hi Steve, they are indeed, and as Alice, I’m allowed to be silly : )
Thanks so much for taking the time for a look back. I did hang with a sharp group back then and I’m pleased to have found in Friday Flash a group with some equally sharp folks like yourself.
wait, so you originally wrote this with stimulants to the imagination? Man you must have some heavy dreams :-)
Oh gosh no, I was straight as an arrow when I wrote this, straight arrows being the best to fly for the prime stuff! Who was it that said something like Write drunk, edit sober? Hemingway? I’ve done that when stuck a few times to enable a flow from start to finish but the next day there’s a lot of clean-up! Funny thing is I rarely remember my dreams…
Oh.my.gosh. Miss A, I could feel every single syllable, outstanding work!
That you could feel every single syllable is a delightful compliment! Thank you so much, Deanna (I hope Roslyn doesn’t mind me calling you that!).
I found myself being drawn inexorably heels dug in backpedalling holding back trying to stave off the inevitable plunge…
Definitely a no-way-out situation. Now if the narrator could have refrained from making eye contact then the danger rating would’ve decreased to intractable! Thanks so much for coming by, EllaDee : )
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And the winner for Most Intense Use of Cartesian Geometry goes to…
As a reader, the worst part, for me, was that judging from the first paragrph, I’ve been in that washroom.
This is a perfect example of how a low word count can still be a very effective, immersive read.
I love your first line here, especially. I’d love to take that award home and stick it on my wall! And thank you so much for the tweet re: your last line : )
surreal and dramatic at the same time.
Indeed, it turned out that way : )
Simply a brilliant piece, very strong surrealism and masterful use of words that hit like hammers.
Oh Yum! Not only is this helpful feedback, if it were a blurb for a novel, it would be in a prominent location on the front cover. Thanks millions, Cindy : )
This has a great feeling of time dropping into slow motion and then without warning jumping straight back into real time.
I have been in the men’s version of this restroom. It is just as surreal and just as freaky to behold.
Exactly, Jon…time dropping into slow motion until no amount of backpedaling’s gonna save the day… At least when you open the door to a really nasty restroom, you have choices!
Creepy – and a high impact ending! Yet one more reason for me to avoid public restrooms at all costs.
Good to see you Lisa. As you know, I sure do like your Harperesque Greetings From Toadsuck work! Thanks for coming by : )
The visuals here are outstanding. Great little piece.
Lovely compliment, Jason, thanks a mill for that and for having a look over here : )
This scene was set so perfectly from the onset. The bathroom squalor, the state of the woman, the descriptive brilliance. I was there…coming down off acid but not quite…. she was a demon from the real grunge of our worst imaginings and most vilest and lowest of our human failings. Drowning in a born again mess from hell?
Jules! I’m so glad you liked this and I loved your take on it, as I do all the takes that come from your ingenious self : )
And I’ll drop you a line first part of next week it looks like.
Wow. This story grips my heart and then rips out like a dirty swatch of fabric. My internal voice hoped against the fear that the woman wasn’t about to give birth. You didn’t make us watch that (thankfully), but seeing the afterbirth in the toilet was still as hard. This is a sad portrait of humanity, but I’m afraid it’s also a very realistic one in many cities with a large drug culture. It’s another reminder of how low humanity can sink.
Excellent comment, Mr. Book! That they asked for a piece under 500 words saved you from the birth scene… KIDDING! I wouldn’t’ve, couldn’t’ve… Truly, quite enough wretchedness had been served up already : )
Thank you, all of you, for joining me in reliving the glory days to do with this piece.
If you’re interested in it’s origin, it’s from my Florida partying days at a small bar on Gulf-to-Bay, opening the door to the restroom and there she was, hadn’t locked the door, and she looked as described here, and actually did say “I just gave birth,” not in the toilet of course…
The meaning I gave this piece can be found in the discussion Paschal started here.