George T. Mormann

Tag: fiction

barfly


Being a trucker, you take a small piece of someplace whenever you leave. In Detroit, a stray brick from the wall of a derelict factory where you used to deliver. In Sioux Falls, the plucked feather of a grouse that adorned your mesh cap and gave rise to your CB radio handle, Chief. In Reno, you caught the elusive barfly, whose life cycle had spanned the sweated rings of innumerable beer mugs, whose glazed eyes projected a million glints from the shade of stained glass windows, and who wandered into traffic, buzzed, to play chicken with you, the weary traveler.

The Fish Projects

Every week or so last year I would drive to a not-so-local Meijer in the early hours of the morning, where my preferred brand of cheap coffee is sold. Chock-Full-o-Nuts, in the big thirty-nine ounce canister. Anywhere between three to five o’clock in the morning is when I’d shop, and I’d be one of the only customers in the store. Oftentimes the only one as it would be, and a few employees stocking what is supposedly “fresh” produce. Before picking out a canister of Chock-Full-o-Nuts, I would walk to the pet department, and stare at the fish. I was never interested in buying any fish, even though I have two aquariums of my own. The conditions of the fish tanks in the store are far from good, and that alone discourages me from buying any. But there was a certain catharsis in the moment as a whole. Early in the morning when the day was at its coldest and darkest outside, and everyone was asleep, besides myself and the lettuce stockers, I’d go and watch the fish. The silence, being alone, and watching fish float around, both of us staring out and within, but in our own purposeful ways. The pastoral quality of this soothed me. I did it often, and still do, despite finding Chock-Full-o-Nuts at another, closer, 24 hour grocery store. But that store has no fish, and I need that brief moment of serenity.

—–

Are live-bearing fish from Central America
Best suited for “Community” aquariums
Minimum tank size: 10 gallons
Diet: fish flakes, vegetable matter
1.99 ea.
        Tucked in the corner of the super center was a petite wall of plastic cubes filled with water, and an annoying hum that resonated throughout the department of pets and pet supplies as soon as you entered it. It was the sound of the filters not cleaning the water, or so it would seem by the condition of the aquariums. Plastic enclosures, unlike the glass cases at the jewelry counter, the electronics displays, and the locked sliding door of the condom case.
        There was a thin layer of gravel laid out in each aquarium cube. Gravel wasn’t all that necessary, but it masked the accumulation of feces and waste that wasn’t sifted out from those loud filters. Instead of anyone taking notice of the monotonous buzzing of the filters, and in turn, acknowledging the dirtiness of the living conditions, it was ignored. Each a product of the other, unavoidable, and without a solution. Each aquarium had two or three colorful plastic plants, to further mask the grittiness.
        A dead fish had rested upon the gravel of one of the aquariums. A tiger barb, from Southern Asia. A pineapple swordtail, from the murky rivers of Central America, was butting heads with a baby cichlid, from the murky lakes of Central Africa, fighting over the tailfin of the dead fish. Its corpse was chewed away by its tankmates and a couple tiny snails that sucked away at any sign of life in each aquarium. It was a treat from the usual fish flakes that were irregularly handed into each aquarium, and the algae that grew in long strands up and down the housing walls, swooshing back and forth from the filters pushing water in and out, but not actually cleaning anything.
        Hundreds of fish stacked upon each other, crowded together with fish from different rivers, fighting for food, the delusion of territory that didn’t exist in such small quarters, and sparing over the floating corpses of dead tankmates. By far the most congested aquarium was that of the mollies. Cheap fish, plain fish, easily bred fish, and inbred to the point that their lives were shortened as soon as they were born. There had to be forty or fifty mollies, stuck in a mere seven gallons, exhausted from swimming into one another, merely floating in one dense cloud of themselves, floating above the dead and dying. Perpetually waiting for food, but picking away at algae in the meantime.
        A male molly courted a female molly to the bottom, above the filth and gravel. He wrapped his body around her and without resistance, they bred. They embraced, if only for a brief moment. Their only able claim to naturalness in this artificial environment. They were just fish, unable to consider what it meant to birth more into all this.
        Looking into the aquarium, a customer said to himself, “They shouldn’t be doing that,” and walked away without purchasing any fish.

Flyover Country

After my Aunt, Uncle, cousin, my cousin’s wife, my sister, and I had finished our dinner, home movies featuring my deceased Grandfather and other long dead relatives were played to loll us to sleep as we digested casserole and cornish hens. I’ve seen it before. They too have seen it before, and they still cry at the same parts. I got up and took a walk.

The sidewalks were smooth and un-cracked for everyone drove because nothing whatsoever was in strolling distance.

I smoked my last cigarette and flicked the butt into the street. It was the greatest crime that town had ever witnessed in history. But nobody was around to see it, and I fled the scene of the smoldering butt as I walked alongside a retention pond. Quack! A mallard duck said to me, startled as I disturbed him while he crapped onto grass beside the sidewalk. “I promise not to tell if you don’t,” I said. He scuttled off toward the mud shore that overlooked that sea of idle rain water, and proceeded to take flight. I remember seeing a gas station when I arrived yesterday, so I followed the glow of franchise lights above the trees of these cookie-cutter subdivisions.

There was a Red Lobster by the interstate exit. As I had thought, there was a gas station, but I did not know that it closed at eight o’clock on Sundays. A mallard duck was right; such a town is no better than to shit on, and leave.

“Sweet Disasters of our Prophetic Youth”

Sweet like innocence and harmless play. Sweet as in awesome and gratuitous destruction. This story began as one of my text poems that I had sent to someone. It was a cousin of mine from a family that has since broken apart and no longer remains in touch with one another. As children, my cousin and I used to take armymen and action figures down to the creek in his yard and play war games and what not.

Word Count: 21.

                                               “Sweet Disasters of our Prophetic Youth”

                                                                By George T. Mormann

                                           Published in Issue 46 of Short, Fast, and Deadly

Short, Fast, and Deadly is a journal that publishes very very short fiction that does not exceed 420 characters in length. Littles bits of prose that packs a punch. Not to forget really short poetry, too.

“Grief”

        “I’M NOT REALLY DEAD. Meet me at Marconi’s. At 6:30. Keep it between you and me.”

        Without a doubt, this was the most outrageous post-it note found attached to a front door, but Howard wasn’t phased by the incredulous nature of it, muttering to himself, “Dirty bastard’s gonna want his DVDs back.” Upon tossing the note onto the kitchen counter, it occurred to him, “Wait, Marconi’s is still in business?” Howard picked the note up again and reread it, confirming that the name was, in fact, Marconi’s. He turned his head, stared out the window and spoke to his eclipsed, half-clear relection, “Why the hell is Sammy not dead?”
        Howard was overcome, as if the weight of his body had dropped to his feet. Marconi’s had a mean pepperoni pie. They didn’t skimp on the extra ingredients, too. Too bad an “electrical fire” sent Marconi’s brick ovens to hell not four months ago. His hands trembled as he lit a cigarette and exhaled a plume of smoke toward the ground where, not moments ago, he believed his friend’s spirit had gone far below only days past.
        Recalling the day of the funeral, Howard did find it odd that it was a closed casket, when Sammy had died of carbon monoxide poisoning. A suicide: Sammy closed up the garage, sat in his car, and hit the switch. No one had seen it coming. He was such a fun, loving guy. What else would you expect someone to say about a guy who made like a goldfish and jumped out of the bowl? That got Howard thinking, if that’s really how he died, who found him? It certainly wasn’t his wife. Why Sammy’s wife, Joan, seemed pretty convinced that her husband was dead. She probably wouldn’t have slept with Howard in a state of drunken grief two nights ago had she known otherwise. And if Howard hadn’t been sure that Sammy was dead, he might have thought twice about doing it, even if it was a suppressed temptation all those years. All this thinking made Howard take a last drag of his cigarette and murmur aloud, “I sure hope Joan didn’t get a post-it too.”
        Howard was right. Marconi’s had closed down a long time ago. As he drove past the now burned up, boarded up pizzeria, a vaguely familiar face glanced his way. Howard’s eyes bulged at the sight of the woman standing in front of the decrepit building, and said to himself, “You gotta be fucking kidding me.” He looked into his rearview mirror and saw his ex-wife staring back at him as he drove away. She died mysteriously a year after their divorce (or so went that story), way back in the day when Marconi’s was still selling pizza by the slice.
        Well Howard had nothing to say to her, dead or alive. He didn’t attend her funeral, and only visited her grave once when terribly drunk and with a full bladder, wanting to finally fulfill that promise he always made to her during their nightly arguments. He took solace in knowing that he could keep late Sammy’s DVDs. Lighting a cigarette, Howard drove back home and forgot about the note and reminisced about how delicious that Marconi’s pizza used to be. “There’s Stone Oven’s Pizza up the road,” Howard whispered like somebody was eavesdropping, “I wonder what Joan is doing tonight…”