Friday, September 15, 2017

Stories


This week, two items of business: 

First, a reminder that Daniel Olivas launches his latest collection of short fiction tomorrow.  The flyer, below, has all the details.  I am reading these tales, savoring each one, taking my time, re-reading parts that have amazed, amused, surprised.  Daniel is a master story-teller and The King of Lighting Fixtures is loaded with fine examples of a master at work.  The stories, many in the flash-fiction mode, are relentless in the impact they produce in a reader.  Three adjectives quickly came to me as I read this collection. Quirky, magical, intimate. A good short story offers nothing less than a passionate glimpse into the human heart.  The King of Lighting Fixtures  offers that passion and then doubles down.  Highly recommended.

Second, taking inspiration from Daniel, I present a short story I recently committed to the printed page. Hope you like it
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THE NAIL

Manuel Ramos


©2017


The Parkinson’s could be fought with exercise. Sergio believed that. He walked at least thirty minutes each day and he often ended up at the Senior Center where he used a squeaky treadmill and an outdated cycling machine. The symptoms worsened with each week but it was a gradual decline. He still had his mind. The exercise always made him feel better.

His walks took him through the rapidly changing neighborhood. He had trouble recognizing some of the buildings because so much had been torn down and replaced with sterile boxes and ugly towers. He never saw anyone he knew. Young people crowded him as he walked. The sidewalks were a mad mix of dogs and baby carriages and cell phones. But they could not be avoided. He’d come to the conclusion that he hated what was happening to his hometown. There was nothing he could do about it.

One morning on his way home he walked in front of yet another construction project. The brick house where the Sandovals lived for more than fifty years had been smashed into oblivion. He stood at the orange plastic fence surrounding the project and imagined what the new building would look like when it was finished. Ugly. Not welcoming. An intrusion into the peace that his walks once had produced.

On the dirt near the fence he saw a large steel nail, at least four inches long. From his past life as a proud member of the International Laborers’ and Hod Carriers’ Union he knew the nail was used in concrete.

He picked up the nail and stuck it in the pocket of his baggy sweatpants. Sergio told himself that he would throw it in a dumpster to ensure that no one suffered a flat tire. He reasoned that he drove on this street several times each week so he was actually helping himself. Maybe not several times each week. But at least a few times each month. Sergio drove less and less.

The nail rubbed against his leg as he walked. After five minutes he realized that his thigh hurt.

“I’m such a weakling these days,” he thought.

A young man with a long beard and two large mean-looking dogs on leashes emerged from the garage of a recently completed and quickly sold condo. The man cursed the dogs and pulled on the leashes with such force that the animals whimpered. All three rushed down the driveway onto the sidewalk. They didn’t see Sergio or they didn’t care that he stood in their path. The dogs bumped into his legs and pushed him aside with growls and snapping jaws.

Sergio lost his footing and fell on his ass. The bearded man looked back at him and said, “Sorry.” The man and his dogs trudged on.

Sergio pulled the nail from his pocket. He’d felt the prick of the point when he stumbled. No blood on his pants so the skin had not been broken. He walked to the curb and carefully placed the nail precisely where any car leaving the garage would have to cross. He enjoyed the rest of his walk.

He experienced another sleepless night. Sergio tried various tricks for dozing off but his mind wouldn’t catch the sleep signal. His thoughts returned, again and again, to the nail he’d left in the street. He realized he was being silly, obsessive even, but the harder he closed his eyes, the more it bothered him. 


He put on a jacket over his pajamas, squeezed his feet into his walking shoes and grabbed one of his many small flashlights. 

The tremor in his left leg interfered with his thinking. Sergio was off-balance, more than usual. His weak eyes wouldn’t focus on anything specific.

He did not dwell on how he must look to anyone else, yet he worried that all the newcomers would still be awake, partying or walking dogs or feeding their babies or whatever they did at three in the morning. He imagined the bearded man and his dogs waited for him in the garage, sitting in the expensive car that must surely occupy the garage – the car with expensive tires, expensive wheel locks and expensive repair bills.

Sergio shuffled to the curb where he’d left the nail. His light exposed the stretch of street where the nail should have waited. Nothing. He moved the beam up and down the curb. Nothing. Maybe the nail had already done its work. Maybe the car had a flat?

He walked up the driveway. The door had a row of decorative windows near the top. Sergio was too short to see into the garage. He looked around the small but neat front yard. A large rock sat near the fence gate.
A small boulder, really.

Sergio strained against the rock.  If he could move it he might be able to stand on it and look into the garage. He got on his hands and knees and pushed and shoved. He grunted. The flashlight rolled out of his jacket pocket and clanged against the fence.
 

Light flooded Sergio.  The front door of the condo slammed open. He heard the bearded man cuss and the dogs bark. He saw the first dog leap through the open doorway and turn towards him.


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Later.


Manuel Ramos is the author of several novels, short stories, poems, and non-fiction books and articles. His collection of short stories, The Skull of Pancho Villa and Other Stories, was a finalist for the 2016 Colorado Book Award. My Bad: A Mile High Noir was published by Arte Público Press in 2016 and is a finalist for the Shamus Award in the Original Paperback category sponsored by the Private Eye Writers of America.

5 comments:

Daniel Olivas said...

Mil gracias, Manuel. Your kind words mean a lot to me.

Manuel Ramos said...

Congrats, Daniel, on the launch of your new book. It's a winner. Looking forward to your poetry collection.

Daniel Cano said...

Thanks for the post, Manuel. I enjoyed your story. We are getting older, aren't we? So our characters are reflecting a different age in time, still, revenge is sweet, no matter what age. Also, I am looking forward to reading Daniel's book. Your words about it are enticing.

Manuel Ramos said...

Daniel (Cano) -- I am fairly sure that you will enjoy Daniel's (Olivas) stories. The imagination is an awesome weapon in the right hands. As for my story -- yes revenge is sweet, but guilt has consequences.

Herlinda said...

Good story....ending obvious..........yet, I wanted something different....happier. Reward for doing the right thing. Oh well, this is your story not mine!!!