Story #16 by Matthew Sharpe

photo: Matt Gunther

photo: Matt Gunther

Sarah was stunned when she sat down across from Todd on the patio of the Mexican restaurant. He had seemed so kind, articulate, introspective, and handsome on his internet dating profile. She tried not to judge, but she wanted to go out with someone who knew to wash his hair, hands, and t-shirt before a date, and someone who, as he was reaching out to shake her hand, would not say “Oh fuck” when his phone started to ring, answer it, and proceed to get into a screaming fight with his ex-wife that everyone on the patio could hear. The busboy poured water in their glasses and Todd yelled into his phone, “So you’re telling me that Gina and the dog are at my house right now and you just left them there so you and that idiot can go to a movie?” He slammed the phone down on the table. “Unbelievable,” he said to Sarah. “Unbelievable indeed,” she wanted to say, and get up and walk away from this maniac, but the waiter came and asked for their appetizer orders. “The shrimp diablo,” Todd said, and Sarah said, “I’ll have the same.” “You realize,” Todd said, “I’ll have to leave in ten minutes and go sit at home with my daughter, Gina, and the dumb dog my ex-wife got her. Shit!” Todd looked off away from Sarah and frowned. She couldn’t move. They sat like that till the shrimp arrived. Todd ate his with his grubby fingers. Sarah didn’t touch hers because she was a vegetarian. The last spicy shrimp in his mouth, he said, “I forgot to bring money so I’ll need you to pay for this. I have to get out of here now, I can’t wait for the check.” Sarah put cash on the table—there wasn’t even, as on other occasions, another Sarah looking on in horror going “What are you doing?” Todd was walking away. He turned around. “Are you coming or what?” Sarah got up and they walked the ten blocks to Todd’s house. Todd opened the front door and went right to the back of the house. Sarah went to the living room and sat on an ochre Swedish couch. The house was a recently renovated mid-century modern, sparely but comfortably furnished, a child’s colorful drawings on the walls and the fridge, and everywhere photos of Todd and a beautiful, happy girl, frolicking in the countryside or at the beach, smiling, laughing. He emerged half an hour later in a clean dress shirt and slacks, hair just washed. “My daughter’s asleep, and I’ve behaved abominably. I hope you’ll allow me to make it up to you. There’s a great French bistro around the corner, I can order and the food’ll be here in fifteen minutes. In the meanwhile I’ve got a first-rate pinot noir and a lot of apologizing to do.” Sarah nodded her head. “I just have to check on the damn dog in the back,” Todd said. He walked out of the room. Another half an hour went by. In came the dog, an Irish Wolfhound twice Sarah’s size. His name was Dolf. He nuzzled her face with his whiskers, and rested his shaggy, powerful jaw on her shoulder as she scratched his ears and neck. Todd staggered in, the bottle of pinot noir in his fist, three-quarters of it gone, and said, “I’m ready to start apologizing now, though I haven’t ordered dinner yet. Let me just order dinner.” Dolf leapt on the couch and pushed Sarah toward Todd by wedging his enormous body between her and the cushion she’d been leaning on. She stood up. “All right, Todd, I’m going, and I’m taking Dolf with me.” “But my daughter needs that dog!” “No she doesn’t, having a dog is too much for her now, it’s too much for all of you. Thank you, Todd, for an important evening. I really mean it, I’ve learned a lot.” He sat down heavily on his couch and put his head in his hands. Sarah waited by the front door while Dolf pressed his paws into Todd’s knees and licked his face. Then the dog turned his head and gave Sarah a meaningful look. “Oh, all right, Dolf, you go out back and sleep one more night in your little house, and I’ll sleep in here with daddy,” she said, beginning to undress.

Very short stories r us: http://sharpestories.blogspot.it/

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Story #15 by Matthew Sharpe

photo: Matt Gunther

photo: Matt Gunther

Phil was lonely so he decided to take a tour of the giant bombed-out crater. Early one morning he got on the tour bus and rode for a long time. Some of the passengers chatted and others, like Phil, did not speak and were not spoken to. He wanted to talk to the woman in the seat next to him, who was slightly older than he was, and looked nervous and tired, but he couldn’t do it. When you’ve been alone a long time, as Phil had, a membrane of silence grows around you and you can’t get through it on your own. No help was coming from this woman, who had her own membrane. They arrived late that morning in the middle of what was now the desert, and climbed down to the bottom of the crater on rope ladders. When the last person was down the guide said Okay, and that was it. There was no tour as such, there were no real parts to the crater and they all knew how it got there. So Phil just wandered around, lonelier than ever. At one point he crossed paths with his seatmate and tried unobtrusively to catch her eye, and then to follow her. There was a name for this—the crater romance. He didn’t want to be a creep so he stopped following her. Now he was just out there walking. Beware, he had read in a guidebook, of becoming sleepy in the crater, which has measurable soporific power. Well aren’t I just a walking crater cliché, Phil thought. First I fall for someone and then I get tired. He lay down on a jagged rock and fell asleep. He woke in darkness. He stood up and called out. No answer. He made his way back to the place where he thought the rope ladders had been. They were not there. He walked around calling out. He thought, Wouldn’t it be great if she got left behind too? Then we’d have to talk to each other, and we’d have to have sex, strictly for warmth in the cold night desert air, but it would turn into more. He masturbated, and this brought out the dead. He couldn’t see them but he could hear them. They weren’t screaming, they were going about the lives the bomb had ended. They were making business phonecalls, washing the dishes, reading bedtime stories, telling a drunken joke in a bar. This was the least lonely masturbation Phil had ever had. It wasn’t even masturbation, it was love.

Very Short Stories r us: http://sharpestories.blogspot.it/

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Story 14 # by Matthew Sharpe

photo: Matt Gunther

photo: Matt Gunther

I don’t have anywhere to go. My mom and dad are fighting and my older brother who used to have an apartment across town and would let me sleep there is in Afghanistan and the two real friends I have are away on summer vacation so I’m just out here walking around at night in my t-shirt in the 102 degree heat. It’s cool inside with the a.c. but I don’t have a bedroom anymore since my dad lost his job and we had to move so I have to sit on the toilet in the tiny bathroom or be in the living room and hear my parents call each other vile names. I know I sound like a pussy, it’s not really so bad out here, but I forgot to bring water and I have celiac disease and I think my mom accidentally ordered regular pizza instead of the gluten-free kind so my dinner is making it hard for me to breathe. I’m in this huge parking lot in the dark, I don’t even know what it’s a parking lot of, and there are no cars. A black round thing is coming toward me in the air, gliding toward me. It’s a frisbee. I catch it. “Hello?” No one answers. I throw it back to where it came from. I do not hear it hit the concrete. It comes back to me and I throw it again. “Who’s out there?” Nothing. I walk toward where it keeps arriving from. I almost stumble over something furry and waist-high. It has glowing green eyes. “Did you throw that?” It doesn’t answer and neither does anyone else. It is sniffing my hand, I don’t interact with that many animals. It just bit my hand, hard, and now it’s trotting away with the disc in its mouth. My hand is bleeding. Bobby would know what to do but he’s far away killing al Qaeda. I have to go home, no, I have to lie down. I’m awake again, how long have I been out? I’m lying on the sidewalk. It’s snowing. My hand doesn’t hurt, did that even happen? I’m cold though I have a winter coat on. I better go home. Hey the house is white and it used to be brown. A beautiful young woman answers the door saying, “Hello, may I help you?” “I’m looking for my mom and dad, uh, Phillip and Lisa Braithwaite?” She looks confused. “I’m hungry and tired and cold.” “Hold on,” she says, and walks back into a room I can’t see. She returns with a piece of corn bread. “Here, eat this.” I stand on her porch, which used to be my porch, eating the corn bread. It tastes so good. “What’s your name?” she asks. “Dev Braithwaite.” “Do you know who I am?” “No.” “I’m Sally Braithwaite,” she says like I’m supposed to know who that is. “Are you my cousin or something?” “No,” she says, “I was Bobby’s wife.” “He’s never been married.” “Yes, before he died in the car accident. We tried to contact you for the wedding and then the funeral.” “No!” I say, “he’s in Afghanistan.” I’m scared, and she stares at me, looking scared too. “Come in, Dev.” She sits on the couch which is a different couch than before and she signals me to sit next to her. “My God,” she says, “you look just like him.” She throws her arms around my neck and sobs. Then we’re kissing. I haven’t ever kissed anyone so I don’t know if it usually feels so sad and good at the same time.

Very Short Stories r us: http://sharpestories.blogspot.it/

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Speciale Corso Salani: ‘Gli occhi stanchi’ (1996)

occhistanchi03Una ragazza polacca decide di tornare a casa, dopo aver trascorso otto anni in giro per l’Europa. Il suo viaggio si consuma a bordo di un furgoncino e in compagnia di una troupe cinematografica che, durante il lungo percorso da Roma al Mar Baltico, girerà un documentario su di lei e sulla sua storia.

“Gli occhi stanchi” è probabilmente il vero e proprio esordio di Corso Salani come regista, dopo le prove generali con “Voci d’Europa” e “Gli ultimi giorni”. Un film in cui si gettano le basi per tutto il suo cinema a venire, che continuerà ad essere costruito intorno a personaggi femminili.
Delicato e commovente. Sicuramente uno dei risultati più alti del cinema di Salani.

regia: Corso Salani
cast: Agnieszka Czekanska, Corso Salani, Alessandro Piva, Marco Chiariotti
sceneggiatura: Corso Salani, Monica Rametta
fotografia: Riccardo Gambacciani
montaggio: Alessandro Piva
suono: Marco Chiariotti
produzione: Corso Salani per Balaton Film
anno: 1996
formato: Betacam, colore
durata: ’95
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Story #13 by Matthew Sharpe

photo: Matt Gunther

photo: Matt Gunther

Love was a challenge for Leon. He had a steel rod going straight up the middle of his body and whenever someone hugged him too vigorously his internal organs pressed against the steel and caused him enough pain that he had to lie still for an hour alone in his room in the dark. When he came out of his room into the light to talk to whoever had hugged him, that person usually was no longer in his house. One day at a healing and self-actualization seminar he was paired with Pink Cat for a reciprocal massage exercise. Pink Cat had multiple piercings in her nose, ears, eyebrows, lips, tongue, and elsewhere. “I’ve got metal in me too,” he told her, “straight up the middle.” Instead of looking confused and asking him a lot of questions, as most people did, she smiled and said, “Want to massage me first?” Having had so much experience being touched in painful ways by people who, through no fault of their own, didn’t know how to navigate the metal in him, Leon knew how to touch someone so full of metal herself. Pink Cat had been to half a dozen of these types of seminars before, and she usually left before the massage part started, and the few times she stayed, the touch of the people who came to these things didn’t feel right to her so she bolted up and ran out, vowing never to come to another one. But this guy was different. His touch was quite strong—hard even—but in a way that said “I’m taking care of you” and not the usual “I’m intimidated by you” or “I want to sex you up, you wild, pierced woman.” She giggled when it was her turn to massage Leon and he thought, “Uh oh, giggling equals carelessness,” and so he tensed up, which of course usually made even the lightest touch hurt deep inside him. But her first touch was so self-assured that he calmed right down and she had this way of massaging him that went deep into his body and touched everything but the metal rod. And then she touched the metal rod. She massaged it. It, too, he had never known, needed a healing touch. When the seminar was over that night, Leon said to Pink Cat, “I have a beautiful station wagon.” “Where are you going to take me in it?” “To the beach.” They got in and drove to the beach, both thinking, “Hope we don’t rust.”

Very Short stories r us: http://sharpestories.blogspot.it/

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Story #12 by Matthew Sharpe

photo: Matt Gunther

photo: Matt Gunther

Earl, an insurance claims adjuster, was on his way to look into a homeowner’s water damage claim. The homeowner, Hank, lived in a notorious polluted wetlands area and the GPS that Earl’s employer had installed in his car failed to help him precisely locate Hank’s home, so Earl found himself walking on a muddy overgrown trail between two swamps that smelled of gasoline and rotten eggs. Earl’s wife, Latitia, was getting her nursing degree at a private college and his five-year-old son, Smedley, had just been diagnosed with severe autism. The late afternoon sun shone in his eyes. To avoid being blinded, he looked down at the trail, where he saw half of a hundred-dollar bill protruding from under a large rock. He lifted up the rock and saw many one-hundred-dollar bills inside several clear plastic bags. He counted them. There were eight hundred bills, eighty thousand dollars. He put as much of it as he could—thirty thousand—into his briefcase and committed the spot on the trail to memory so that he could come here on the way back and pick up the rest. Hank answered his door and led Earl to his living room. Pointing to the darkened, slightly warped spot on his floor, he said, “Look, I know it’s not much, but I have to get a new floor in here, my future in-laws are coming and I don’t want them to feel like their daughter is making a mistake.” Earl looked around at the swamp-smelling fishing tackle hung from the living room walls on rusty nails, the old worn and stained furniture, the pile of dirt-caked dishes on the upturned crate Hank used as a coffee table. He made notes in his book and told Hank he’d be in touch with him. Seeing Earl out the door, Hank looked at his muddy driveway and said, “Where’s your car?” Earl explained. “I’ll give you a lift.” “That won’t be necessary.” The sun was down now, Earl could not see where the puddles were on the trail, and his shoes quickly filled with polluted water. He spotted his rock though, lifted it again, and crammed hundred-dollar bills into every pocket. The rest he just carried in his arms inside their plastic bags, along with his briefcase. He got about five paces when he found Hank, a tall, wide, bearded man, blocking his way. “Well isn’t that something. I walk this trail every day and I never saw it. Your company is not going to give me any money for my floor so I’ll need what you’ve got there in your arms and your pockets and probably that briefcase.” “I have a son who was just diagnosed with severe autism.” “And I’ve got a very demanding fiancée. Her father is a general in the U.S. Marine Corps.” “Hank, I don’t think you have a fiancée.” “And I don’t think you have a son.” “I do, I’ll show you a picture on my phone.” Earl put down the briefcase and the money and removed his phone from his pocket. Hank took the phone from Earl and the money and the briefcase, and knocked Earl on his ass with a punch to the jaw. Earl walked back to his car and drove home. Latitia greeted him at the door half-asleep in her bathrobe and saw the red welt on his jaw. “Rough day for the claims adjuster?” “How was Smedley today?” “The same.” He removed from his underwear the two thousand dollars he’d managed to hide from Hank, and gave it to Latitia. “Nice work,” she said, and tucked it into the pocket of her bathrobe.

Very short stories r us:  http://sharpestories.blogspot.it/

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Story #11 by Matthew Sharpe

photo: Matt Gunther

photo: Matt Gunther

Evelyn had never done this before and she knew it was stupid. She was on her way to her boring, underpaying, shitty job when someone in a nice suit said he wanted to take pictures of her and of course she kept walking. Then he said some interesting things to her about the type of photo shoot it was and the money involved. Life had been pretty grim for her lately, meaning a few years. The guy was wearing a very expensive suit, that helped persuade her. And then he put cash in her hand, enough for several vacations in Mexico without using coupons or frequent flyer miles. So Evelyn got into a limo with the man and rode to the location, a large warehouse. In it, people were dying—of all kinds of things: diseases, old age, bleeding wounds. All she had to do was have her picture taken next to them, one at a time, for eight hours, to be used in a national ad campaign for mid-to-high-priced clothes. The first one was named Nicholas. He had a fractured skull. “Are you going to die?” she asked him, making small talk while the photographer and the lighting people set up the shot and the makeup people worked on them. “Yes.” “How soon?” He shrugged. She said, “Are you married?” She had no idea what she was saying anymore. He shook his head, which caused him to fall off his chair. Evelyn and the two makeup artists rushed to pick him up and put him back in it. “What are you doing after the shoot?” Nicholas asked Evelyn. When the shoot was over, at six o’clock, Evelyn and Nicholas strolled down by the river. That is, she pushed him down to the river in his wheelchair. “Push me over the embankment into the water,” he said. “Absolutely not!” “Relax,” he said, “I was just kidding.” “No you weren’t.” “Well then can I come over?” “And then what?” “Lie in your bed naked with you.” “And have sex?” “Probably not.” “What for then?” “The usual reason.” “Which is?” “I’m dying, you’re dying…” “I’m not dying, I’m the one in the photo shoot who’s not dying.” “Okay, whatever,” Nicholas said. So now Evelyn is carrying on her back up the three flights of stairs to her apartment this guy who weighs around 170 pounds as compared to her 120 and who will die in her bed. Her knees are buckling. He’s cracking jokes and she’s laughing so hard she can’t breathe.

Very short stories r us: http://sharpestories.blogspot.it

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