Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Oktober the Fifth: Required Reading

Autumn-y weather like we're having today in Buffland makes me think about college, about UB and Butler U, which must be why this story came out. Flash fiction, at under 650 words. Luckily, too. I keep waking up with ideas for stories that are novella length, at minimum, to carry out the concept. Not complaining, but plot bunnies do want so much attention, hopping around when I'm trying to finish the laundry. And this project is for short fiction. Short-- get that, brain??

 Think back to your student days, and we'll see if this works.

*NOTE-- This Butler U bears a passing resemblance to the real thing, as do the characters. But it's not a totally accurate description. It is fiction.

Peace, Mari


Required Reading

By Mari Kozlowski

A flip of its skinny tail and the rodent was gone, off to find more edible trash. A long stone path in the center of the campus saw frequent student droppings— bits of breadstick, cardboard coffee cups, plastic Coke bottles that had blown out of the overfilled recycle bins, candy bar wrappers with a lick of caramel or chocolate left on them. The squirrels, birds and occasional raccoon that lived at Butler U. ate heartily, if a little on the sweet and junky side. Better than the freshman, who barely had time between 50 minute classes on opposite sides of campus to get in potty breaks, sex breaks and, less essential, food and readings for the comp course they couldn’t test out of. They grabbed what they could munch on the run and tossed the remains anywhere. The pristine landscaping would be cleaned afterwards. And again the next day. Who cared how?

Madeleine watched the squirrel until it took off, waiting for the guy she’d woken up beneath this morning to walk by on his way to Starbucks. She’d snuck back to her own dorm before 7, but now she wanted to set things straight, get rid of the weirdness fast. The weirdness guys always put on you: like a single night with them meant you expected a wedding. Even if she wanted more than one night, she wasn’t going to let him know. They had two classes together and she needed great grades in both of them. Next semester’s schedule depended on it.

She knew he’d be coming this way; they always bumped into each other here before second class on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

And there he was, slouching under a giant backpack, hair blown in his face, looking down. Shy-ish guys were the worst.

“Hey, Brian.”

He looked up and saw her, stopped, fidgeted with his jacket collar. Weirdness begun.

“Hey, um, how are you?”

His eyes were so huge, she hated looking into them. Huge golden brown.

“I’m fine. I just wanted to make sure we’re still cool.”

He raised his eyebrows, looking very cute. Just like yesterday in the library.

“Why? Was everything okay last night? I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

“No. It’s fine. It was nice…”

 She had to stop looking at him. He wasn’t trying to get away, and he even seemed concerned. What the fuck were you supposed to do with that? He looked so smart and cute, still. Dammit.

 “I just wanted to make sure we’re still… friends. You know, on good terms.”

 And then he looked pissed.

 “It’s not international politics, Madeleine.”

He jerked his backpack up a little on his shoulders and stared at her. 

“If you want to be friends, why did you leave without waking me up or anything?”

“I don’t know… most guys don’t want to be woken up.”

He put his head down again, eyes aimed at the pavement. A cold breeze blew rusty leaves between them.

“Thanks for treating me like Most Guys,” he said, “I appreciate that. I’ll try and remember that’s how you think of me, okay?”

He started walking towards Starbucks again through a sudden stream of kids hurrying the other way, off to Jordan hall, with their notebooks and Cokes and bags of chips.

This was not in the handbook. It was inconvenient and unexpected and probably bad for her GPA. She rushed to catch him.

“Brian! Wait a minute.”

He did. She caught up and he looked at her with interest, huge brown gorgeous eyes not hiding it, not even trying.

“Can I buy you coffee and a muffin?” she asked him.

The carillon began tolling the hour. Time for their next class.

“Do you do that for most guys?” he said.

She shook her head and grabbed his hand, pulling him towards the café.



JohnPainter said...

These two brilliant characterizations convey so much while saying so little due to a very clever and effective economy of literary means. The only thing that threw me off was the repeated observation of "his brown eyes" but I'm assuming you will unpack that a bit with the edits to follow. I want to read this again when it's finished!

heavy hedonist said...

I'm thinking of adding a new story with this couple before I go back to fix it; they;ve been talking in my head, mornings.