I have had the pleasure and honor to write two flash fiction stories for Bay Area artist, Kenney Mencher and have included them below, along with Kenney’s art work, which inspired the stories.
Kenney Mencher is an American artist and is currently Associate Professor of Art and Art History and the director and curator of the Louie-Meager Art Gallery at Ohlone College in Fremont, CA. He is also the author of Liaisons: Readings in Art, Literature and Philosophy.
His work is eclectic and inspiring and often spurs the imagination. He frequently holds Flash Fiction contests, asking the viewer to create a story around his works. Please visit his website for contest details, current exhibitions and updates on upcoming and current works!
The Welcome Home by Margaret Millmore
I drove slowly through the old neighborhood admiring the well tended bungalows and cottages that make up Elysium Park. It was the first day of summer; the skeletal tree branches of winter were now a luscious canopy of green. A gentle breeze whispered through the leaves allowing sunshine through in fits and starts. Flowers filled every yard and in many cases overflowed from window boxes. I pulled the car over, deciding to stroll awhile, inhaling the aromas of a successful spring growth. The comforting fragrances reminded me of years past, why did I ever leave I wondered.
The sound of music, laughter, and people talking floated through the air and I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame. I turned the corner and stopped abruptly, I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was a sight so wonderful I could only gape. The sidewalks were lined with tables covered with checkered cloths and loaded to the point of collapse with cakes, cookies, punch bowls and all sorts of other delightful treats. Lawn chairs and beach chairs were scattered throughout front yards and along the street, my neighbors all preparing for the stick ball game, kids against adults, the kids always won. Dogs sniffed at the BBQs laden with hamburgers, hotdogs and tinfoil wrapped corn on the cob. The annual neighborhood block party was in full swing and all my old friends and neighbors were there. As I inhaled deeply the most delicious memories and smells filled my head and my eyes filled with tears, oh how I missed them all so much.
A boy was quickly approaching, a baseball glove in one hand, the other hand waving spastically. He was smiling and calling my name and I recognized him immediately. It was little Edgar, his chestnut hair was still cut a little thick on top, but today it was neatly parted on the left and pasted down with gel. His Alfred E. Neuman smile and too large ears were the same as always and I could swear the boy hadn’t changed a bit. He stopped in front of me, a little breathless and said “why Mr. Jones, I can’t believe it’s you, thought we’d never see you again, come on” he smiled as he grabbed my hand and dragged me towards the party.
As Edgar pulled me through the crowd I smiled and waved at people I knew, there was Owen D. Bank standing next to Tara Tory and I wondered if they’d gotten together, or was Owen still too shy to ask her out?
Melba and Burt Toast were ladling out glasses of homemade lemonade and Pat O. Butter was puckering her lips as she sipped the deliciously tart juice. Edgar didn’t let me linger though and I soon saw why, standing at a BBQ wearing a ‘kiss the chef’ apron was my closest friend when I lived in Elysium Park.
Bob Frapples stood motionless, the spatula suspended in his hand as he stared at me, a slow gentle smile filling his face. He laid the utensil down and came towards me, arms open to embrace me. We were like long lost brothers and more tears of joy fill my eyes as I returned the brotherly embrace. When we separated he said “well now Jonesy, it’s certainly a pleasure to see you again.” I had no response, how long had it been, I didn’t know, but one thing I did know, Bob hadn’t changed a bit either. He still had that youthful tan, his face free of wrinkles or worry lines, and not a speck of gray touched his perfectly coiffed brown hair.
After catching up with Bob, I headed over to the sidewalk to say hello to my old friends Hans Zoff and Bea Ware. They were seated snuggly on an iron garden bench, Hans wearing his signature brown velvet fedora, Bea with her head resting lightly on Hans’ shoulder.
Hans smiled as I approached, his was a smile that started at his lips and crept up his face until it radiated from his eyes, it was infectious and I happily reciprocated. Bea smiled too, the glow of a woman still deeply in love lighting up her face. We talked, reminisced and after a bit I moved on to say hello to others.
I ran into Lucy N. DeSky, who was chatting with Hope Feterbest and May Bea Later.
Then there was Betty Million who was complaining about something to Hammond Cheese and so many others whose names escape me but I smiled and said hello and was glad to see them all.
I left as the sun was beginning its slow decent, feeling happy and fulfilled for the first time in a long time. The goodbyes were sad but sweet and we all promised we’d see each other again soon. It was a long drive back to the city where I lived, but the sweet memories of the afternoon and smiling faces made the time fly by.
When I woke the next morning, I could still feel the warmth and happiness of the previous day, and I didn’t want it to end. I dug through my closet until I found an old photo album, the one from my days living in Elysium Park. Once I had it I sat on the bed and slowly turned the pages, smiling at each new picture, they all looked the same, no one had changed a bit.
On the last page I found a yellowed newspaper clipping from the Elysium Park Gazette, it was dated June 21, 1966. Small individual pictures of my friends and neighbors covered the first few rows, and the headline read ‘All but one perishes in neighborhood fire’. I looked down at my wasted, cancer ridden body, was it a dream or were they welcoming me home? I closed my eyes and took my last shallow breath; happily embracing what I knew would come next.
Untitled – Luke N. Goode by Margaret Millmore
Luke stared at the face in the mirror, the chiseled cheek bones and strong chin, the straight perfect nose; he could never get enough of it. And the eyes, depending on his mood he could make them appear serious and brooding, or sympathetic and caring or sparkling and mischievous. He thought tonight he’d be the latter, he smoothed his perfectly cut hair and placed his fedora on his head. He straightened the blood red carnation on his jacket lapel. He started to straighten his tie, no he thought, let it be crooked, it gave him a look of nonchalance, it would disarm his prey.
His suit was new, he’d recently had several custom tailored, but this was his favorite, a rich charcoal grey with lighter stripes, cut in the vintage style he was most fond of, the style of his time. When he was satisfied with his appearance he smiled, he was a handsome devil, he’d knock them dead, literally he thought as he let out a sharp, sinister laugh. After all he was Luke N. Goode, he should live up to his name.
Tonight he was in the mood for the company of a beautiful woman, someone who would smile at him while sitting closely, gently caressing his knee with promises of more intimate caresses later. Of course later would be equally as intimate and surprising for her, he smiled again, he loved his life. It hadn’t always been so good; in fact it had been horrible.
He’d married a beautiful woman and they lived in a lovely bungalow in a good neighborhood. They had one daughter, Elizabeth. But as the years passed, his wife Edith wanted more, a bigger house, more clothes, more trips to the salon and as Elizabeth grew into a teenager, she too wanted those things. They berated him endlessly, he didn’t make enough money, he had no social ambition, he was useless, a nothing. He tried to reason with them, but Edith said if they didn’t elevate their social status, look the part, Elizabeth would never land the perfect rich husband. He was a salesman then, door to door, he was good at it, peddling his company’s amazing household wares, convincing his clients that no man or woman could do without them. He’d made a good living, but it wasn’t enough for Edith and Elizabeth, no never enough.
It had been late afternoon in the dead of winter, his last sale for the day, darkness was descending on the city and Luke was tired. He was in a very well to do neighborhood, one last call he thought. The man who answered the door was older, mildly frail, but tall and handsome, with strong aquiline features that reminded him of a bird of prey, which is really what he was, wasn’t he.
He invited Luke in to the richly furnished Victorian, he offered him a drink, they sat and talked for some time. Luke wasn’t in the habit of telling his clients about his personal life, but this man seemed to draw it out of him, like a moth to the flame. After Luke had said much more than he intended, he gave the man his best sales pitch, after all that was why he was there. The man smiled, his lips were so red, his teeth so white, so large, so hungry, the smile frightened Luke and suddenly he wanted out of this man’s house as quickly as possible.
As if reading his thoughts, the man said “you have no need to be afraid; I have a proposition for you”. Luke didn’t like the sound of that, it made him nervous, it seemed that with the coming of night and full darkness, this man had become stronger, more powerful. The man smiled again and said “would you like to be free of them, would you like to have everything you want and deserve?” The words were so tempting, almost hypnotic, of course in the end Luke had said he would like to be free and so this man made it possible.
Now he was approaching the jazz club, its décor was a portal in time, dark mahogany bar, richly colored velvet curtains lining the walls, soft lighting that barely illuminated the patrons. Tonight’s music was rhythmic and gentle, the perfect atmosphere.
He took a seat at a small table and waited for the perfect woman. He saw her standing at the bar just as she saw him. She was tall; her brunette hair was pulled into a perfect chignon that accentuated her face. Her black strapless dress showed off her neck and shoulders, her skin was a sea of creamy perfection. She approached and he asked her to join him, they talked, drank champagne and listened to the music. Finally it was time, he would walk her home he said, he whispered romantic sweet nothings as they walked the few blocks to her apartment, she invited him in for a nightcap, he knew she would.
While she prepared the drinks at the small portable bar he admired her slender back, the curve of her hips and her shapely legs, but it was her neck and shoulders that called out to him. He silently approached her, wrapping his arms around her tiny waste, catching a whiff of her perfume as he sunk his teeth into the base of her delicious neck, drinking her life away, shuddering at the pure ecstasy of it.
When he was done he laid her bloodless body gently on the sofa, there was no need to be barbaric, not like he had been with Edith and Elizabeth. When his creator had bestowed this magnificent immortal gift upon him, he told Luke to go to them, to drain them of their lives, just as they’d been draining him of his. When he’d finished with them he tossed them aside and left, never turning back, the sweet memory, now seventy years in the past made him smile.
Copyright 2011 margaretmillmore. All rights reserved.