Flash Friday


A long weekend calls for an extra short story! This week’s comes from David Jauss. Take a moment to appreciate the people you love this weekend. We’ll see you again in September.

What They Didn’t Notice

When Frank stepped out of the doctor’s office, he didn’t notice the sky. If he had been sixty years younger, perhaps he would have noticed that one of the clouds scudding up from the southwest looked like an enormous white horse. Its long neck was outstretched, as if straining toward a finish line, but it had no legs. Still, its mane and tail were flying.
Nor did he notice the ground. The soil in the flowerbeds that flanked the sidewalk was unnaturally black for this part of the country—imported, no doubt, from some northern state. Had he noticed the dirt, he might have thought about the clay that lay beneath it, damp and tinged with red, as if so many animals had died here for so many centuries that their blood could not be completely rained away.

In a nearby tulip poplar, a gray-green bird with a yellow breast sang over and over a deep-throated song, fracturing its melody each time with four or five abrupt, awkward pauses, but Frank did not see or hear it. If it had been another day, or another place, he probably would have noticed the mask around its eyes—like a raccoon’s, only yellow—and recognized the bird as a yellow-throated vireo. Though he’d been an ardent birdwatcher since the year before he retired, it was a species he had never seen before, one he could have added to his Life List. But he did not see it, so it would have to remain on that larger list of things that were part of the world’s life but not his own.

And when he reached the parking lot, he didn’t notice how long he stood there beside his car, holding the key in his hand. He did not notice his hand either, how it looked like his father’s—liver-spotted, the knuckles gnarled with arthritis. It had been thirty years since he’d seen his father’s hands, crossed upon the black lapels of his last suit. If he had noticed, perhaps his hand would have started to tremble. But it didn’t. It was still, like a small animal that freezes where it stands, hoping it hasn’t been seen.

He stood there for nearly two minutes, a full minute longer than it took for the doctor to change his life.

When Frank left the house that morning, Ellie didn’t notice how his voice quavered when he told her he was going to meet a couple of his friends for coffee.

And when he came home, she did not notice how quietly he closed the door, as if he didn’t want to wake someone who was sleeping.

The Doctor
The doctor did not notice:
(1) The way the carotid artery in Frank’s throat pulsed while
he listened to the biopsy results.
(2) The squeak of his nurse’s shoes as she walked past the
closed door.
(3) The way he kept clearing his throat, as if hinting that Frank
should say something now, anything, whatever he was
thinking or feeling.
(4) The fact that he nodded as he spoke, as if he were secretly
agreeing with Frank’s silence.
(5) The fact that he kept repeating the word options.
(6) A bird’s song outside the window.
(7) The telephone ringing at the nurse’s station and Loretta’s
bored voice saying, “I’m sorry, he’s with a patient right now.”
(8) His hand lightly shaking Frank’s shoulder, as if to wake him.
(9) The coppery taste of fear on the back of his tongue.

The Vireo
The vireo did not notice the man passing below him on the sidewalk. It was also unaware of the obsessive repetition of its song, or even of the fact that it was singing. Least of all was it aware that this day could be unlike any other, or even that there were such things as days, as time, as death.

That night, after they made love for the first time in weeks, Ellie did not notice Frank sobbing silently. And when, finally, his voice shaking, he told her what the doctor had said, she was not aware that the fingers of her left hand curled up slowly, like an animal dying, while her right hand stroked the back of his neck, the stubble left there by the barber.

After he told her, Frank looked at his wife’s face in the dim light the moon cast through their window, but he did not see it, not really. He was seeing her face as it was forty-five years before, when they first met, and he was wondering where that young girl had gone, and where he had gone, the young man he was then, tall and thin and so strong from lifting hay bales that she couldn’t stop touching his arms, his shoulders. Because he was thinking these thoughts, he did not notice the anger that tinged her voice when she asked him why he hadn’t told her about his symptoms or his trips to the doctor. Nor did he dare notice that he was angry too, offended even, that she would go on living without him.

The Vireo
By the time first Frank and then Ellie finally fell asleep, the vireo had been sleeping for hours, its feathers fluffed against the cold and its head tucked under its wing. Torn clouds were streaking overhead, scarring the moon, and a wind was stirring the leaves that surrounded its nest, but the bird was oblivious. It noticed nothing, nothing at all. And in the morning, when it would wake, it would begin to live once again the one day of its life, singing its beautiful, broken song.

short stories short fiction prose



Do you need more Dylan Marron in your life? Have you been wondering how to get more of him in your consciousness? Have you been constantly excited about getting much voice yet sad about getting little face? Have you seen Whatever This Is? If not, it is highly recommended, not JUST because of all the Dylan you get, but also because the story is sweet, and really well written. The show follows the lives of three young roommates living in NYC who are always broke, at times desperate, and usually searching for some kind of connection. I am constantly impressed and excited by the caliber of non-network scripted “television” that people are creating, and I hope this trend of creating the shows and characters we want to see (as opposed to the kind that network execs THINK we want to see) continues. If you have already watched this show, keep watching! And if you haven’t, do give it a chance- it’s a show with a queer man of color as one of the leads(!!!), and he is played with such humor and nuance by my lovely friend Dylan that you will fall in love with him immediately (if you have yet to do so). I am so proud of Dylan and eager to see more work from Adam Goldman!

Hooray for independently-produced shows!

dylan marron adam goldman whatever this is



They arrived today.

I didn’t realize that each book comes with a bookmark attached to the dust jacket. They’re beautiful, but I don’t know if I have the guts to detach them!

Epic photoset. Sometimes an artist just gets it right. Coralie Bickford-Smith just got it right on these. Beautiful books.

Classics Photo of the Week | Tumblr is full of amazing images of Penguin Classics. so each week we select one of our favorites. Tag your photos as “Penguin Classics” so we don’t miss any!

beautiful books typography fitzgerald

"One thing you notice very early on is that conversation is how we become human. The word “infant” literally means “without the possibility of phatic expression.” We begin our lives by being spoken to and then slowly by responding. It’s what makes us come together as a kindred species. Without this dialogue, without this possibility of exchange, part of our humanity — that which makes us truly human — is lost. So for me conversation is a way of going back to that initial moment. Conversation is a giving and a taking, back and forth."

Paul Holdengräber, The New York Public Library’s interviewer extraordinaire, on the secrets of great conversation.

Couple with this timeless 1866 guide to the art of conversation

(via explore-blog)

so when conversation has been replaced by the like button or with nothing at all what does that make us?

"The reality is that fat people are often supported in hating their bodies, in starving themselves, in engaging in unsafe exercise, and in seeking out weight loss by any means necessary. A thin person who does these things is considered mentally ill. A fat person who does these things is redeemed by them. This is why our culture has no concept of a fat person who also has an eating disorder. If you’re fat, it’s not an eating disorder — it’s a lifestyle change."
- Lesley Kinzel (via mustangblood)

(Source: rawwomen, via sugarbooty)

The point of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

the point of pouring a shit ton of ice water over yourself is because when one suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) one of the effects the disease has is a numbness throughout the body, as well as struggling to breathe, and both these are meant to temporarily happen when doused in freezing water. It’s to raise awareness of what ALS feels like and encourage donations towards research and cures.

Just a few weeks ago I went to the funeral of a woman who died from ALS complications.

If the ALS Ice Bucket becomes the new HIV/AIDS ribbon or the Breast Cancer Pink Everything, if this ridiculous challenge makes ALS every bit as trendy and ubiquitous and visible as other equally deadly conditions and puts it right at the forefront of cultural consciousness, then I’m 100% for it.

(Source: aristoxxcracy, via sugarbooty)