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Stories of 55 words or less by Sacha Chua. Also on the ShortStories page along with slightly-longer stories.
GLUTTONY (55 words)
Flash fiction by Sacha Chua
"Gluttony is indecent and a catalyst for sin," said his devoted mother, measuring rice grains for the famished boy.
"Forgiving it would be like sending you to hell. No." She controlled everything he ate and did.
Eventually she died, still dogmatic and unrepentant. Traumatized, he satiated himself on junk food. He died obese.
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コンピュータの操作の仕方を知ってますか。 Do you know how to operate a computer.
The cellphone rang, a welcome interruption to my dreams of him. I woke up smiling and reached for the phone in the dark.
It lay still. No missed calls.
Suffocated by silence, I curled my fingers around the phone--around his hand, 3000 miles away--and tried to sleep for the third time that night.
コンピュータがこの会社に導入されつつあります。 Computers are being introduced into this company.
The mayor raised his hands triumphantly. "According to a survey by the Asian Development Bank, the Philippines is less corrupt than Bangladesh!"
Someone in the crowd shouted back, "How much did we pay them to make us number two?"
従業員に対する新コンピューター・システム研修があなたの仕事になります。 Your task will be to train the employees on the new computer system.
The valedictorian choked back tears several times during her speech. The keynote speaker drawled on with great seriousness. My co-teachers grudgingly paid me for correctly predicting both trite templates--"graduation is not the end, but the beginning" and "hard work pays", respectively. As students fidgeted, waiting for their turn, I yawned and opened my book.
"Out to in," she said earlier; my silent mantra as I contemplated the bewildering array before me. Chose the outermost.
Her parents were quiet for the rest of dinner.
Waiting for a cab, I flipped through the etiquette book she lent me. Damn. They skipped a course on purpose. Wrong fork.
Tough, dating a WASP.
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The boy winked before dropping a black beetle on a girl, who screamed and whirled around to smack him. He dodged and dashed off, glancing backward, slowing occasionally. She was furious. His grin stretched ear to ear.
I turned to my wife. "Did I ever..."
"Worse." She laughed. "Boys are crazy when they're in love."
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Burnt the toast. Charred black, three days in a row. He didn't yell, didn't leave; just laughed and told me he'd cook for me. Breakfast in bed, everything.
That's when I knew he loved me with his heart, not just his stomach. Definitely a keeper. Guess I'll put my Cordon Bleu diploma back on display.
"Your cat's vicious."
"Neko?" I stroked the cat sleeping on my lap. She yawned, stretched, and curled up around my hand.
"Absolutely antisocial." He shivered. "Psycho. Pure evil."
"Nonsense. She's a darling." I leaned in and whispered, "Just let her think she's boss."
A hiss and a deep scratch told me I wasn't quiet enough.
We feasted on chicken marsala risotto. The creamy arborio rice tickled our tongues; the chicken hinted of the best wine. We savored every dreamy bite.
Afterwards, I put away the full-color cookbooks that fed our imaginations and helped my mother scrape the last grains of coarse rice and salt into a bowl for tomorrow's dinner.
"Searching..." Step back. Wave it. Turn it off. On. Damn. Three days in a row? This time for real, but she'll never believe me. Long-stemmed roses? Might work.
The words are thick and foreign in your mouth. Stumble. Try again. Some nod. Most seem indifferent. Bell rings. As they shuffle out, smile courage and despair.
"No new mail."
"No new mail."
"1 new message(s)!" Heart jumps! Hands shake. Click, click.
Face falls. "MAKE MONEY FA$T!!!"
Highways intertwine, a concrete canopy lit by the unsleeping city. Stargazing, we find constellations not in the light-choked sky, but in twinkling offices.
The drenched pair eyed the unrelenting storm.
Resigned, he asked, "Coffee?"
A smile. "Don't you just hate rain?"
The puddles were long dry when they left.
Webpages flash through my optic nerves. I flirt with the system. Guatemala, average rainfall. Pi, 500 digits. Uzbekhistan, capital. Girl, second row, great legs. Whoops, still connected to the projectors. Press conference finished, long day over. Gulp sleeping pills. Hyperlinked terrors drown my eyes. Must escape. Bloodied, clawed-out eye sockets--but nightmares flood back in.
"Easy does it. Remember that Lamaze class we took? Breathe in, breathe out. Don't think of it as a big deal."
"I'm going to kill you! ARRRGH!"
"Owww! Honey, my hand..."
"At least it's just your hand. I can think of something else--ARRRGH--I'd rather crush."
He winced. "Okay, it _is_ a big deal."
"Mother? Am I adopted?"
A tiny hand slipped into mine. The moment of truth? Raised her as our own flesh and blood, but mirrors always told her she was different.
"Kids at school say I'm a freak."
"No, dear, don't mind them." I embraced her, warm skin over cold metal. Not adopted--assembled from love.
"All right, kiddo, cough it up."
She shook her head, mouth clamped shut.
Exasperated, he pinched her nose.
When she gasped for breath, he grabbed the saliva-coated cigarette. "This is bad for you." He was about to chuck it into the trashcan when nicotine pangs hit. Wiping it on his sleeve, he lit it up.
Hotshot programmer fresh from college thinks he can do everything, eh? I keep particularly nasty COBOL code for these special occasions. Just because it's on a computer doesn't mean it's legible. Looks like English, but it's worse than the Gordian knot. That'll show him his place--then maybe he'll be willing to learn something.
Company bonding, so we're out for billiards this afternoon. I spot an easy shot, although long--ricochet off the cushions and pocket the last two balls. My gal claps when she sees how I've lined it up. The boss watches me intently, twisting his cue stick. I think of the rent, and carefully miss.