Welcome to micro prose issue 117. Instead of the usual longer stories, we bring you shorts that pack a big punch. Showing a life in the flash of an eye is an art and these authors are artists. Take a short break and let Leslie McIntyre, Joseph Gant, Jeannette Cheezum, and Josh Olsen take you somewhere special. Be sure to zip back around for a second dose of “Good People”, this issue’s editor’s pick for “must read twice.”
At the gates of Heaven, Saint Peter tallies all my inadequacies, every lie I’ve told, every sin of the flesh. I stand on my tip-toes to get a glimpse of his clipboard:
- Pens I’ve stolen from various establishments: 184
- Instances of extramarital sex: 493
- Faked orgasms: 1,312.
I feel a small pang of guilt when I see these things stated so plainly. Did I know I was wrong when I walked out of that coffee shop, still holding the pen I’d used to sign my receipt? I think I did. And when I faked that orgasm with Terry for the thirteenth time, did I know I was really doing him a disservice? Most likely yes.
But then I see things I’d never even begun to consider:
- Number of haircuts: 872
- Number of times menstruated in the presence of a man: 756
I see things I was supposed to do but didn’t, like the number of times I’ve prayed facing Mecca (5 ½) or properly observed the Sabbath (-3,544).
And I say to Saint Peter, “Where? Where does it say these things?”
He waves dismissively to the row of leather-bound books behind him, the Torah, the New Testament, the Koran, all the way to the Book of Mormon, titles like Leviticus and Revelations printed in bold letters on their spines, and I want to scream at him, Which fucking God is it? Is it Abraham’s or Joseph Smith’s or Muhammad’s or what? But I know if I do, another hash mark will appear in the column labeled Verbal Obscenities.
So I say to Saint Peter as politely as I can, “Excuse me, sir, but I’ve never really bought into the idea of a God who keeps such petty scores. After all, aren’t we all just animals of His divine creation, ruled by the instincts that He gave us?”
I think about all the times I’ve tried, genuinely tried, to avoid doing harm; all the earwigs I’ve brushed into paper cups and set outside instead of crushing them beneath my heel, all the lights I’ve switched off to conserve energy and keep our planet Green, all the times I’ve said “I Love You” and meant it, or thought I did. But these things don’t appear anywhere on the list.
Saint Peter shakes his head without ever raising his eyes from his clipboard, and I let my eyes scroll past some of the most damning records (Number of times baptized: 0; Confessions: 0; Last Rites: 0) to see a new hash mark appear next to the column labeled Stubborn Disbeliefs.
I leave Saint Peter where he stands, looking officious and bureaucratic in his bifocals, and start my descent. As I pass by the millions of souls waiting to get through those gates, I comfort myself with the knowledge that when I get to where I’m going at least I’ll be in good company.
Leslie writes from Massachusetts, where she plays the bagpipes and is a volunteer farmer in her spare time.
Behind my eyes it’s raining.
The flood is beginning to push its way through. The forecast didn’t call for this; uncalled for altogether. The weatherman awaits the gallows.
Joseph writes from outside Philadelphia, where he edits poetry for an edgy magazine here.
A student in the front row removed the wool scarf from her head, releasing a torrent of black, coco-butter scented hair that flowed down over her shoulders.
It reminded me of my own daughter’s hair – thick, plentiful, and currently infested with lice.
What would my students think of me if I were to confess that every day for the past week my free time consisted of sifting, strand by strand, through my daughter’s head, combing for eggs?
On each box of RID or Quit Nit purchased from CVS, it clearly stated that lice had absolutely nothing to do with cleanliness, but my daughter’s condition made me feel dirty and a failure as a parent – one ancestral trait I was doomed to repeat.
Josh writes from southeast Michigan, where he teaches and has two books being published this year.
Part Time Job
The airport filled with the average number of tourists and computers. She always liked the ones that flaunted their jewelry, fancy designer hand bags and shoes. They never protected what they had, often leaving their bags unattended.
Luggage left outside the bathroom stalls was unlocked most of the time. Easy pickings. How many wallets had she seen sticking out ready for her to grab and run? Others had jewelry bags in their carry-on to protect them from baggage handlers and people like her. She’d quickly run her hand through them, fill the pockets sewn inside her jacket, and pitch the soft bag within seconds.
Tonight her husband was on duty so she had time to swap her stash for cash and be home in bed when his patrol car drove into the driveway.
Jeanette writes from Virginia Beach, where she reads Sheldon on the Chesapeake and works furiously to polish off her novel.