Far Out

Art by Guillermo Hernandez via Mixkit.co

“Jenna, get up here and get these toys off this floor right now!”

The pulsating voice of my mother thundered from blocks away. She was a Navy officer, an OF-2, Lieutenant well before I was born and hadn’t shaken the orderly and methodical ways of doing things from her life. She’d wake me up at the peak of dawn’s light, order me to “rise and shine,” promptly shower, put on my clothes, and meet her downstairs in our kitchen for breakfast. All of this, she expected in twenty minutes.

She said before I came along life was punctual and fully functioning, with no possibility of error. I often wondered about that — living such a life with no risks or deviations seemed strange to me. It still does.

The morning my mother yelled at the top of her lungs for me to clear my room of disorganized toys, I was eight years old. I lived freely in my imagination. It was the safest place to be. I played alone. I walked to school alone. At recess, I made up games on my own and did not invite others to accompany me. In solitude is where I wanted to be.

During that time, Randi Rocketeer was my favorite t. v. show. Randi Haltman, the show’s protagonist, was a trans woman with dark pink hair, rosy cheeks, and eyes of two different colors. She had the most amazing spacesuit! It came fully equipped with a water compartment, visors for protecting the eyes from direct sunlight, and custom-designed gloves monikered with Randi’s initials. Strapped to her waist, Randi had a can of compressed air, for what, I never knew.

Not only was the suit prepared for the dangers of space, but it was also tie-dyed the following colors; purple, pink, blue, and yellow.

I found myself mystified by Randi Rocketeer. Every day, promptly after doing my homework and eating dinner, I plopped my bony hind-end on my mother’s shiny, hardwood floors and switched on the television. For forty-five minutes, that’s where I’d be — taking in Randi Rocketeer. My mother would howl from the kitchen as soon as the credits began for me to wash the dishes and clean up before I went to bed.

Clockwork. Everything was clockwork.

“Jenna, right now!”

I thought about Randi Haltman. Did she have chores? Was her mother ever in the military? How was she a man before and a woman now? I asked my mother the last question one Friday after our school’s PTA meeting and the only response I received was, “Do I look like Randi Haltman?” I didn’t know what to say to that. I shrunk in the backseat of my mother’s Cadillac Seville, littler than I was before we left the house. I didn’t say another word for the rest of the night.

Randi Rocketeer’s motto was “Shoot for the sky and land on the moon.” They tasked her with the job of fighting crime in outer space and she did so with courage and a high success rate of capturing perpetrators and criminals. I begged my mother to buy me a spacesuit like Randi Haltman’s. Every Halloween, that was my request. By the time I was thirteen years old, I stopped asking for one. I thought — didn’t get one last year or the year before or the year before that, so I probably won’t get one this year, either. I was right.

I believed having a spacesuit like Randi Haltman’s would make me courageous — would help me be less me. Instead, I continued to feel as useless as the compressed air strapped to her waist.

“Don’t make me come down there, Jenna! These toys have a place to be. Put them there!”

I sat with my legs folded one over the other right in front of the t. v., mesmerized by Randi Rocketeer. I heard my mother. I tuned her out. Her voice was a nagging pang one couldn’t rid oneself of if the prescription was an equal dose of morphine and oxycodone.

My dad left when I was five. He took his four work uniforms, church shoes, a box of 1970s Playboy magazines, and a pack of cigarettes. Nothing else. I glued myself to his legs as he walked toward our door and begged him to take me with him.

“Your mother said I can’t, kiddo.”

And just like that, he vanished. No phone calls. No letters. No visits. The only thing I remember about my dad is the look on his face when he uttered, “Your mother said . . .” It was like he was being commanded — as if he had enlisted in my mother’s own form of a naval academy and was dishonorably discharged for lewd and lascivious behavior. My mother told me later on, “I don’t need anyone who weighs me down. I can do bad by myself.” I get it now, I didn’t then.

Self-Sufficiency, learn it.

Mother taught me how to cook, clean house, make up a bed “the Navy way,” change the oil in her car, and harvest our garden’s vegetables. By the time I was eleven, I was mowing our front and back yards. We hardly ever left the house unless it was to go to the grocery store or the gas station. Mother made all of my clothes, even my jeans. She bought fabric from Tina’s Fabric Shoppe on Fairview Avenue.

I had a favorite baseball cap I wore everywhere. One day, I misplaced it. I looked all over our house for it, even in my mother’s Cadillac. No luck. I ran to my mother, plump tears filling my eyes, and moaned, “I can’t find my ball cap anywhere, Mom.”

“That sounds like a personal problem. I can’t keep up with your things. You’re old enough to do that on your own.”

And that night . . . I left the toys out on my bedroom floor. I ignored her as she called me to tidy up my room. I turned the volume to our t. v. up louder, letting Randi Rocketeer drown out the droning of my mother’s voice. I sat there — simply sat there and dreamt of being far away from her. Far out and away from her.

I wanted to live in the sky. And so I did.


In 1996, Jenna Knight fulfilled her dream of becoming an astronaut and lives and works in Washington, D.C. She is married to her loving husband Jacob and has two children. In her spare time, she watches reruns of Randi Rocketeer and no longer feels as useless as the compressed air strapped to her favorite television superhero’s waist.


*Originally published in The Weekly Knob via Medium. *Special thanks to Terrye Turpin for helping me finesse this story a bit more.

The Universe, Baby

Alicia Espinoza via Mixkit.co

Musical Selection: Art of Noise|Moments in Love

The Universe, Baby

Flash Fiction

She tells her, “You are the Universe, baby. The perfect galaxy. The reason I love the way love feels on me.” She watches. She stares. She loves the way love feels on her too but not everyone is eager to see them flaunting their version of love outside the closet.

“Alice and the rabbit hole, baby. A neverending journey. A hunt for sustenance. Blazing moonlight over cherry trees. I’d never chop you down.” She’s still professing her undying love for her. The charm that lifts itself from her skin and lands on her lips is a ten. A twenty if anyone’s counting. She’s tipping the scales tonight.

“Blue envy. Gray passion. Red all over and yellow inside. I bleed you.” She smiles. She fidgets with her jean jacket, twirls her bossy curls around her index finger, and sets a giggle free. “I would tip a mountain over, my love, if you were on the other side of it.”

Her eyes widen. She steadies her ears on every word leaving her lover’s lips and finally speaks . . .

“If I am all of this you claim, why are we still hiding? Does your mother know my name? Are your sisters aware that roommates is a loose term for what we really are? Did you tell your brother what we do when you’re “on a business trip?”

Silence is thick in the room. She slices it with her words. “The Universe never hides, baby. The Universe doesn’t have to.” She walks away.

Her lover follows her to the kitchen. She watches her hips as they sway. She’s in a trance. Her eyes log her every step. She pulls a thought from the air and shares it with her . . .

“But the Universe knows that living in harmony with everyone takes many sacrifices. It understands that offering itself up on a platter is not how one gets full. Please, let me take small bites until I am ready for more.”

A few pots clang in the kitchen. She’s rummaging through old utensils, searching for a spatula. Her lover’s voice lingers in her ears — on her lips. She stands back on bowed legs and reminds herself . . . reminds her lover . . .

“I am the Universe, baby.”


Originally published in A Cornered Gurlvia Medium.

Scream-catcher

Flash Fiction

Wallpaper Stream

Wendy agreed to join Ryan and a few of his jockey friends for a night of gallivanting through the “Haunted Forest.” Halloween was right around the corner — the last thing she wanted to hear was her boyfriend’s whiny voice if she chose not to meet them in the forest with three of her buddies from the dance squad.

“Whose brilliant idea was this anyway?” She found herself talking to the reflection in the mirror as she propped and defiled her cheery face with black makeup, red lipstick, and white eye-shadow. She gently placed the novelty fangs in her mouth and practiced a pronounced lisp while donning a witch’s wig atop her brunette waves.

The plan was to meet up at the forest, pay the $10.00 fee, and enjoy the haunting put on by a few of their classmates. Wendy was sure many of the props used were older than her parents, including Dracula who was appropriately placed in his coffin on the creaky porch of the haunted house.

Moss hung from the old oak trees, fog hovered over the grass for half-a-mile into the forest, and a rank odor filled her nostrils as she worked her way to their meet-up spot. Streaks of bloody handprints lined the outside of each shed. “They’re really playing it up this year. I bet Ryan and the boys are enjoying this.”

She reached the spot where they were to meet. Her shoes were damp from the sudden wetness of the ground beneath her. The incessant echo of a drip, drip, drip filled the forest. She felt those drips land on her shoulder. She touched the cape of her costume and rubbed her index finger and thumb together. “Raspberry sauce or ketchup.” She placed her fingers to her nose and sniffed. The smell of copper and dead skin was strong on them.


She looked up . . . Ryan, David, Josh, Sonja, Hallie, and Beth were hanging above her in the trees. Pieces of them were cut off and tied to the person to their left. Wendy felt her throat lock up. The slow roar of a scream escaped. As soon as she heard it, she covered her mouth. But that one scream was all it took. The shadow of her late boyfriend appeared before her. Its hand waving a bloody knife.

Wendy tried to run but her body began to sink into the ground. Ryan’s shadow cut off her left arm and right ear. Wendy howled before a lustful moon. One more flick of the knife to take her lower lip and she screamed with a might that could wake the dead.

Her once pretty frame had been dismembered. Her beautiful hair laid limp on her head. Her incomparable scream echoed throughout the forest. To her left was Beth, still flinching — her eyes stuck in an astonished look. Wendy screamed once more and Ryan’s shadow was there to catch it.


Jarred Screams

Dracula studied the menu for tonight’s dinner. He looked at Ryan’s Shadow and placed his order: “I’ll have your best scream of the night.” Ryan’s Shadow disappeared then reappeared with Wendy’s severed head. Her face was permanently distorted — her eyes popped out of their sockets. They opened the jar and the sound of her scream pierced their eardrums.

Dracula was satisfied. “Yes . . . Yes! I’ll take two.”


Originally published in The Weekly Knob for the Halloween Trope Challenge via Medium. The friend link is shared as this is a piece behind Medium’s paywall.

TV Trope used: Screaming woman

Death by Preparation H

Flash Fiction

John and Lenny stand outside the church drawing in on the butts of their cigarettes lamenting and gossiping about their friend Parker’s death. How does a fifty-five-year-old man manage to make his wife poison him? The two of them shoot the shit, unfazed by the crowd thickening in the pews for the viewing. The church bells ring and the small choir begins their rendition of ‘Nearer My God to Thee.’ They ignore the cues to be seated.

“You heard what happened to him, right?”

“No, I haven’t, just that he was in the hospital for three days before he died. You know what happened?”

“She’d been poisoning him . . . Preparation H in the cake icing every weekend for two years.”

“He did love cake.”

“He did . . . That’s a bad way to go, though. A hemorrhoid cream death. How do you explain that to your kids?”

“You think they’re gonna tell’em? The family?”

“I sure as hell hope not. I wouldn’t want my kids knowing I died a hemorrhoid cream death. Jesus! I ain’t going to the funeral. It’s sure to be a nesting ground for the media. Half the neighborhood’s here and it’s just the viewing.”

“Are you gonna send flowers to his family?”

“Think I’ll send them an edible arrangement and have Edith bake them a pie.”

“Good. I thought you were gonna say ‘cake’. So glad you didn’t.”

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure they don’t want any cake any time soon. Damn. Just, damn. Word on the street is that Janie caught him cheating with Elaine. Elaine of all people, Lenny! Can you believe that?”

“Well, Elaine could bake a mean cake. Wait a minute . . . Do we really know if it was Janie and not Elaine who’d been poisoning him?”

“Aw hell, man. Let’s go inside before folks get to questioning what we’re doing.”

“God. That’s still such a bad way to go.”

The two friends stroll inside the building, each of them finding their own wives, and seating themselves quietly. Neither of them mentions the words ‘cake’ or ‘Preparation H’ ever again.


Here lies Parker T. Overton. Loyal Husband. Loving Father. Faithful Servant of the Lord. June 12, 1964 — July 12, 2019. Death by Preparation H.


Originally published via The Weekly Knob on Medium.

Damaged

Flash Fiction

In the waking hours of a gloomy morning, Daniel finds himself searching for the hands of a wife who — just the night before, told him that she was leaving him for his older brother. It was during dinner at Giovanni’s, their favorite restaurant. The reason for such a celebration? Their 10th wedding anniversary.

He lies in bed, caressing the space next to him designated for his wife, his fingers running over the hollowed area of her body’s curves buried into the mattress. His brother Robert coyly mentioned the keys to keeping a woman satisfied to him millions of times before but Daniel found the sound of his older brother’s voice repugnant.

The moment a word flew from his mouth, Daniel would process every other word into the function of selective hearing then slowly tune his brother out. This was a practice he perfected years ago when they were just teenagers.

“Robert, though?! Any other man in my family the bitch could’ve had and I’d be okay. I’m sure, I would. But this numbnuts, Godforsaken, know-it-all, doted on, Teacher’s Pet of an asshole, Robert?! Why!?”

Funny that Daniel would mention, numbnuts as a description of his brother, for he was surely the one with numb nuts. Recently diagnosed with erectile dysfunction, Daniel has been battling the changes to his manhood and trying to relearn how to release pressure and relax when you’re married to a part-time nymphomaniac is an impossible feat, but he would do anything for Sarah.

He turns away from glancing at her side of the bed, rubs his chest lightly, and rolls out of the comfort he has known for the last hour and shuffles his way to the record player. Hall & Oates, the vinyl medicine of choice rests on the turntable. He gently picks up the needle, sets it down on the vinyl, and the crooning guitar riff of the opening melody for “Sarah Smile” fills the room. This, his morning ritual for the last two weeks.

“When this shit gets out, I’m gonna be the laughing stock of Seaside Drive. Robert?! I mean, Robert?!”

Daniel opens the blinds, yawns, places his right hand down his pajama bottoms and over his penis, and calmly says, “It’s just you and me, buddy.” The music coats every corner of the bedroom, drips from the ceiling fan, down to the floor, and bounces off the walls.

Baby hair, with a woman’s eyes. I can feel you watching in the night.


Erectile Dysfunction occurs when a man can’t get or keep an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse.” As a woman who had a brief stint with a past lover who could not perform sexually, I witnessed someone all but shut down because he — we could not understand what was happening. A shift in his job that created more work, more responsibility, longer hours, and the same pay was just one of the many stressors weighing on him.

At the time, I was not as supportive as I should have, could have been. But, I learned to be. I had to. He needed that even if he did not vocalize it. Thank you for reading.


Originally published in The Junction via Medium.