Thursday, February 14, 2008

I Heart You

The day has arrived and below are the sites where our flash fiction stories appear. Mine is below the list. I hope you enjoy them all and have the happiest of Valentine's Days.

Patrick Bagley "Loving Rachel"

Sandra Seamans "Bye, Bye Love"

Aldo Calcagno "Love on the Rocks"

Patricia Abbott 'Tongues"

Graham Powell "The Last Time"

Bryon Quertermous "Stand Up on Blow Pops"

Clair Dickson "Cupid's Bullet"

Cormac Brown "Warmer"

Gerald So "Connect the Dots"

Steve Allan "The Many Forms of Love"

Christa Miller "Beautiful Trouble"

John McAuley "Since I've Been Loving You"

r2 "Doctor, Doctor"

Sophie Littlefield "Rival Passions"

Todd Mason "Afterward"

Wellesfan " Day Late"

By Patricia Abbott

The girl in the dorm room next to mine speaks in tongues. I hear her late at night when all the other girls are asleep. Most of what she says makes use of the more obscure letters of the alphabet—like z,x, and k’s. She sounds angry, like the voice of God in her ear isn’t joyful.

No one else on our floor ever mentions it.

Speaking in tongues is not as common as you’d think—even at the Southern New England Bible College. My parents sent me here, not realizing that all Christians don’t play bridge and drink martinis on Saturday night. The ones at SNEBC would never slip between their starched sheets without first pressing their knees to the floor in prayer

At Karin’s church, parishioners speak in tongues, give testimony and lay on hands. Karin likes to tell her personal salvation story. It happened in a Thunderbird on a country road as she was weighing the sin in letting her boyfriend unhook her bra.

Does everyone who speaks in tongues use the same language? Can they talk to each other? Were they born knowing “tongues” or did it come to them like a taste for artichokes came to my father months after he returned from Korea? I never find the right words to ask Karin this.

It’s spooky listening to her, knowing she’s pacing her cell-like room and talking gibberish for hours. The syllables seem to rush out of her mouth and bang up against the wallboard. If I put my palms on the wall, I can feel the vibrations.

In daylight, Karin seems normal, pretty in a wispy way. She baby-sits for a woman who once dated President Kennedy and works the dinner shift at the second cash register in the cafeteria. I can see her from behind the counter where I restock the applesauce and Jell-O. Her checkout line moves much faster than the other one.

In December, Karin invites me in to watch “Color Me Barbra” on her contraband TV. She teaches me stuff, telling me that my favorite song on my Lawrence Welk album is actually a movement from Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto # 1. She plays it for me on her record player.

One night Karin comes to my room, mumbling the words I usually hear through the wall, letting her tongue flutter near my ear like a trapped moth. I can smell her breath—it’s anise or licorice and sends shivers down my spine. In the cafeteria later, I stare at the picture of Moses on Mt. Sinai over the tray table while holding a flashlight. She empties both cash registers in seconds.

When the campus police arrest Javier, a work-study student, Karin seems surprised. She puts a dollar in the canister being passed around. His picture from the yearbook is glued to the front. He’s smiling and you can see the gap in his teeth. Someone says they’ll be sending him back to Haiti or Trinidad or wherever he came from.

On Valentine’s Day, Karin invites me to spend the weekend at Kennedy’s mistress’ house. We take the children duckpin bowling and feed them hamburgers. Later we look for things the Sprague’s won’t miss. Karin looks over my haul with a practiced eye, telling me that paste jewelry and ceramic birds are junk.

Karin lights candles in the living room and draws my trembling hands to the flame. She makes me kneel with pebbles under my knees on the tile floor, telling me I’m a bad influence and that she didn’t steal things before I was assigned to the room next to her. I look up and see the little girls huddled on the steps. Their bare legs look like pincers in the half-light.

Two men come for Karin the next morning and take her away in a Volkswagen bus. Mrs. Sprague removes stones from my knees with tweezers and bandages my hands, shaking her head and asking me why I didn’t tell anyone about Karin.

“You two are students at a Bible College,” she tells me “How did this happen?” I want to tell her that a love for Jesus isn’t the only kind of love.


Gerald So said...

Great conspiratorial voice. Your eye for detail is sharp as always.

Steve Allan said...

"Most of what she says makes use of the more obscure letters of the alphabet—like z,x, and k’s. " Loved that line.

Excellent as always.

Bryon Quertermous said...

The religious details of this are uncomfortably spot on. Great tone.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks, guys. And right back at you. I forgot Bryon came from the bible belt of Michigan.

Anonymous said...

What a sad and beautiful story. Loved it!


pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks, Sandra. Hopefully when I get back home your story and John's and Aldo's and r2's will be up. This is why worriers like me shouldn't do things like this.
Send it to me in case and I can post it tonight.

Clair D. said...

Nice job. Very dark. My kind of Valentine's story! =)

Sophie Littlefield said...

Yeah! *That's* how it's done!

pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks again and thank all of you for coming along for the ride.

Anonymous said...

Wish I knew how to paint because there are several images from this story I'd love to see on canvas.

Great work Patti!
[And many thanks for putting this shindig together!]

John McAuley

pattinase (abbott) said...

And thanks for your great story. I'm gonna break that creative writing class rule too and write a story with three POVs. It worked wonderfully.

Patricia said...

Unusual and adept detail and descriptions. Unpredictable. Wonderful read.

Did you have any idea how great this collection of stories would be? Fantastic idea and each author's work a real pleasure, each in a different way. Thanks for the valentine.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Patricia, thanks so much. I just looked at your blog and will keep up with you there.

r2 said...

I've never witnessed the "talking in tongues" phenomenon. It came alive for me in your story.

The details paint the mood and the mood is dark.

Great flash.

Anonymous said...

i like you

Gerald So said...

There's one more late entry as of 10:18 Eastern last night:

"A Day Late" by WellesFan

Anonymous said...

Just wanted you to know your blog was mentioned on the latest installment of "Carnival of the Criminal Minds," about V-Day love and murder:

The Valentine's short story project was a great idea!

BV Lawson

pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks B.V. I read that blog all the time.

pattinase (abbott) said...

(You did mean In Reference to Murder, right?)

Cormac Brown said...

I love a story like this that forces me to contemplate things far beyond the last sentence.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Cormac-Thanks so much. I was so happy with all the stories. Similarities and yet differences.

Anonymous said...

I stubled upon this story whilst doing a silly meme - googling "Karin likes to", as my name is Karin (though I am an atheist!)

Anyway, your story really captured me. Good work!

pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks so much. It's going to appear in Apollo's Lyre this month. I hope Karin is too by now.