Delicacy (Second Draft) ©2017

Words and image by Marc Alexander Valle.

The boy looked down at the worm, squirming on the backwoods trail. A ray of light illuminated its dark-pink hue and a warm breeze hit his face.

“Eat it,” she said. “I’ll kiss you.”

“No,” he said.

“Then no,” she said.

But he had wanted to kiss her all summer, floating in the deep end of the pool, bumping her hand at the movie theater as he reached for his soda, lying on the grassy field with the late-morning sun warming him enough to feel a sense of bliss.

He looked back down to the trail. The worm kept squirming and picking up dirt.

“It tastes like nothing,” she said. “Go ‘head.”

He thought of candy, then reached down and picked it up. He could feel the worm’s life force as it wiggled and expanded on his palm. “Candy would be pointless,” he thought, “It’s too fleshy.” He imagined roast chicken instead.

I’ve done it,” she said, “You won’t get sick.”

He popped the worm in his mouth.

He could feel it slither and contract.

The dirt turned to grim.

He attempted to limit the bug’s movement by controlling it with his tongue, the texture feeling like raw salmon, the taste reminding him of runny eggs.

He swallowed it and closed his eye. It slide down his throat quickly. He could feel it move. And like everything else he ate, the feeling disappeared just before reaching his stomach.

He opened his eyes and looked to her.

“Yuck,” she said.

He stepped forward and closed his eyes again.

His lips touched hers. But he felt nothing in return.

He held the kiss and waited for her to reciprocate. But he felt nothing in return.

He stepped forward and moved his face closer to hers. But he felt nothing in return.

He could feel nothing but dead lips, hear nothing but the cicadas and crickets chirping. Just the dead lips and live bugs and the hope of something in return.

She pulled away and jabbed his stomach.

“Gross,” she said, “I’m not kissing bugs.”

As he held onto his gut, crunched over, he could see her walk away down the path and out of sight.

The pain spread across his abdomen and he wasn’t sure if he needed to go to the bathroom. He could hear the birds singing and an animal moving in the brush. Sweat began to break out from his forehead.

He had to go home now. If he was late for dinner one more time, he’d be grounded.

Rays of light disappeared as a cloud rolled in. A cooler breeze hit his face. He inhaled a deep breath then let it out. He stepped forward onto the path.

Then he wondered what boy he’d get to tell first.

Ice Cream Party: A Flash Fiction

“Well,” my dad said, “you can’t just say that you don’t want to sing in the Christmas concert, Marc.”

“Why not?” I said.

“They’re not gonna like that. You’re gonna have to tell them that you’re a Jehovah’s Witness.”

“What’s a Jehovah’s Witness?”

“Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate Christmas.”

I gave Mrs. Reed that excuse the next day.

 “I didn’t know you were Jehovah’s Witness,” she said. “But you pledge to the flag.”

“Yeah, my dad said that we’re not that kind of Jehovah’s Witness.”

“Alright, but there won’t be any ice cream party for you.”

Over the next few weeks, students taunted me:

“Ice cream parties are fun.”

“There’s gonna be music.”

“You don’t like ice cream?”

One week later, the entire class was treated to ice cream. Myself, the actual Jehovah’s Witnesses, and misbehaved students were sent to the cafeteria where we did school work.

“I wish we could be at the party,” Ralph said.

I looked up. “I don’t like ice cream.”

I continued working.

The Promise ©2016 by Marc Alexander Valle

Words and image by Marc Alexander Valle ©2016

They followed the jet as far as they could.

“You know time is slower up there?” Baskin said.

“Yeah?” Vinny said.

“And when he lands, we’re gonna be older than him.”

“Really?”

“That’s what my teacher said.”

 

The jet disappeared into the distance.

“Baskin, where’s it go?”

“A secret base. No one knows.”

“You wanna keep going?”

“No. Hangman’s on tonight.”

They turned home.

 

Neither said a word.

Vinny’s head pointed down.

Porchlights turned on. Fireflies danced. Streetlights flickered.

Neither said a word.

Vinny’s head pointed down.

“Tomorrow, Vinny.”

“What?”

“We’ll follow it tomorrow.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah, fartface. I promise.”

“Cool.”

They walked inside.

Stuck in the Middle: A Flash Memoir

“Tell her that she’s not my friend anymore,” Tina, who was sitting to my right, said.

I turned to Linda, who was sitting to my left, “Tina said that she’s not your friend.”

“Tell her I don’t care,” Linda said. “She’s not mine.”

I turned to Tina, “She said she doesn’t care.”

“Well, tell her I don’t care either and that she’s a liar.”

I turned to Linda, “That you lied that one time and she doesn’t care.”

“She doesn’t?”

“No,” I said.

Linda looked around me, to Tina.

“You don’t care that I lied?” Linda said.

“What?” Tina said.

Two minutes later.

“Yes, you were, Marc,” Tina said. “You were trying to get us to fight.”

“But you told me to tell her all that.” I said.

“You didn’t tell her everything I said.”

“I did.”

“You’re mean, Marc.”

“But I didn’t do nothing.”

Life Lesson #2: Drama loves company. Do as little favors as possible.

Bucket Ruckus: A Flash Memoir

“Wax on, wax off,” I said. Tanya laughed. I continued with more impersonations.

After the fourth minute, it was indisputable. The second grade board was clean. I would have to impress her another time.

“Alright,” she said. “Mrs. Reed makes us dump the water in the sink when we’re done.”

Tanya approached the sink. I followed.

“I got it,” I said, taking the bucket from her.

“Mrs. Reed told you how to dump it, right?”

“Yeah! Watch.”

I grabbed the handle with my left hand and lifted. It wobbled. I held the bottom with my other hand. All I needed was to get it above the sink. Way above. As high as I could get it without getting water on the counter.

Tanya stepped forward, “Mrs. Reed said–

I tilted the bucket.

“Just make sure you pour the water sl—

I dumped all of the water into the sink in one shot. Nearly all of it splashed back.

Tanya backed off a step.

I backed off a few.

But it was too late.

“Oh my God! You got water all over my dress.”

I looked at myself, “Yeah, I got it on me too.”

“Why’d you do that? You were supposed to pour it in.”

“I didn’t know.”

Students got out of their seats, looking over.

“Ooohhh, weeee,” they said.

I turned to Mrs. Reed’s desk.

She was walking towards us. I placed my hands in front of me to cover the water. It was useless.

The Accidental Atheist

“I am an atheist,” Mrs. Holis, my sixth grade teacher said. “I believe that when you die that’s it. There is no heaven. No hell. Nothing. You’re just a body and when you die you go back into the earth”

My eleven-year-old mind could neither conceive nor understand an end to consciousness. I took this to mean that when you die, you sit in a casket fully awake until the end of time. I carried this image all through middle school.

Two years later, walking home from the mall, she emerged from a porch with another lady. She saw me.

“How are you?!” she said.

“I’m fine. How are you?” I said.

“Great. Are you doing well in school?”

“I guess.”

“Well, that doesn’t sound too good.”

“I know.”

She took out a brochure. “Well, I just want you to know that God loves you…”

“Okay.”

She handed the brochure to me. I took it. “And Jesus is our lord and savior.”

“Okay.”

“Do you believe in the Lord, Marc?”

“Yeah.”

“And do you believe in Jesus?”

“I guess.”

“Well, do you believe that God sent down his only begotten son to save your soul?

“I don’t know.”

“Well, this literature will help you understand the sacrifice that Jesus made for you. Okay, hun?”

I took the pamphlet and looked at the pictures on the way home. I then tossed it over the bridge and into the Jordan creek.

I felt a sense of relief deep inside knowing that she was no longer an atheist.

She might have been wrong back then. I might have to sit in a casket until the Earth explodes. Thank God.

The Writer: A Flash Memoir

“Mr. XYZ?!” Mrs. Cart hollered in front of the seventh grade class, “You want to write about Mr. XYZ?! This is supposed to be a paper about heroes. Do you even know who Mr. XYZ is?!”

. . .

The plan was to write a term paper that made me look cool. I chose an unsavory character from history. One who I’ve referred to as Mr. XYZ. Mrs. Cart didn’t follow the plan.

Back home, I paged through the Encyclopedia Britannica, looking to please her.

George Washington. Boring.

Thomas Jefferson. Boring

Abraham Lincoln. Boring.

Axel Rose. Taken.

John F. Kennedy.

The theme music for the film JFK blared inside my twelve year-old head. Three months earlier, Oliver Stones’ film suggested my first non-fiction idol. I wanted to be him as much as Luke Skywalker. I now had details in my hands to support those feelings.

I wrote the paper on JFK.

I turned it in.

Mrs. Cart read it in front of the class, said something about my turning things around.

I had written every word to get back into her graces and it worked.

I had found an acceptable hero. One that I fantasized about being.

I crafted a narrative. I was adored for it.

. . .

I had sold out, compromised.

But remained true. At least to what I wanted to believe was true.

My journey as a writer began.

The Existential Futurist: A Flash Memoir

Age 35

2015. At home. On my cell phone with Adam.

“Alright,” I said. “So are robots going to take our place as artists?”

“No,” Adam said. “Humans will always have a need to produce art.”

“Yeah, but they might be better at it. Then my writing will look like a kid did it and not mean as much.”

“No, I don’t think so.”

Age 13

1993. Sleepover at Jake’s. The first person I knew to have the internet. We saw Jurassic Park, the summer’s highest grossing film, for third time earlier that day. We’d been in online chat-rooms since we’d gotten back.

“I’m just scared,” I said.

“About what?” Jake said.

“Cause when I’m a movie director. Cause everyone’s going to be on the internet and there won’t be movies anymore.”

“I don’t think so.”

“You don’t?”

“No, people are always gonna want to go to the movies.”

I looked to the computer screen. Five more people entered the chat-room.

“Yeah, maybe,” I said. “I don’t know.”

Age 35 continued

“Yeah,” I said. “but look at what androids do now. And look at how fast it got like that in twenty years.”

“But they won’t be human,” Adam said.

“Well, what’s human? Whatever it is they might be able to reproduce it. We’ll be obsolete.”

“No, it’ll be alright.”

I looked to my computer screen. The news app said that the fourth Jurassic Park film is the fastest grossing film for the summer.

“Yeah, maybe,” I said. “I don’t know.”

Bubblegum Complex: A Flash Memoir

Age 35

Third store I’ve been to and no sling bag. Now I gotta walk out this place empty handed, wondering if the clerk thinks I’m just here to steal.

“Can I help you find something,” the clerk said.

“What?” I said.

“Is there something you need?”

Age 7

I headed down the aisle that led directly to the counter, clasping the piece of stolen gum. The exit was to the left of it, and I would have to pass Chadi as he stocked a carton of Pall Mall. But he turned before I could leave the aisle, making eye contact.

“What do you have?!” Chadi demanded.

I stood still, body pointing towards the exit, “Nothing.”

“Open your hand!”

“I don’t have nothing.”

“You steal from me?!”

“No.”

“Show me what’s in your hand.”

I opened my hand.

“Why you steal from me?!”

“I was going to give it to you later.”

“If you would have asked me, I would have given one to you. Why didn’t you ask?”

“I don’t know.”

I couldn’t run for the exit. I lived right around the corner. He could tell my parents. For the next minute, or maybe more, or maybe less, I let him scold me. He made me put back the candy and told me to leave.

“Next time I tell your parents. Okay?”

I nodded.

“Go.”

Age 35 continued

“No,” I said to the clerk.

I grabbed a travel-size shampoo and showed it to her.

“Thanks.”

I paid for it at the counter.

Outside the store, I stared at it.

Color protecting shampoo. What heck am I gonna do with this?