Every once in a while, in order to break the creative blocks, I write. My favorite project is to ask friends and colleagues for the titles of their favorite songs, promising to use them as the titles for new flash fiction (very short stories, only a few hundred words in length) and post the results here. Part exercise in new artistic directions, part homage to Mr. Tambourine Man, mostly an effort to fill this space with things worth reading.
I’m often working on these little flash stories behind the scenes, so if you have a suggestion for a title, share it on Twitter @gregsimonmusic, or email me using the Contact page. Here’s the third volume of song title flash fiction, with due credit to their respective sources. If you’re curious to hear the songs behind the titles, just click the artist names.
Have You Met Miss Jones?
Recorded by many, including Frank Sinatra
Suggested by Dotan Yarden
You wake up the same way you wake up every morning — just as the sunlight through the window makes the room warm enough to sleep in it, you feel the glare turn your eyelids red. You rise from the cot and shake your head. Your eyes and head are screaming, just like always. Every day the details on the opposite wall seem fuzzier. You worry you’re going blind. You force yourself to ignore it. They’ll be by in a second to shuttle you to the next thing.
You’re in a cubicle — typing, just as always. The fluorescents bear down on you as the managers pace the corridor. Eventually the loudspeaker blares – someone’s getting called in. You hear the name — it’s not you. You focus on your work and the rest of the message is fuzzy noise, like a radio between stations. Nearby you hear someone rise from their chair and leave their cubicle. Three pairs of footsteps travel behind you and leave the room through a door on your left. You never look away from your screen.
You wake up the same way you wake up every morning. Soon you find yourself typing in a cubicle. The loudspeaker comes to life. You listen for your name, and when it doesn’t come you feel your focus drawn, as if by someone else’s hand, to the glowing screen in front of you. The rest of the message fades into the background. After the loudspeaker quits, you hear someone across the hall leave their cubicle and, accompanied by a few other pairs of footsteps, go through a door to your left.
You wake up the same way you wake up every morning. You’re typing in a cubicle. The loudspeaker pops, and a woman’s voice says your name. You still can’t understand the rest of the message, but you feel your eyes flood with hot tears. A smile you can’t control overtakes you, and you feel as if you finally understand everything. All of it. They help you to your feet as you walk, weeping and grinning, out of your cubicle and to the left. You can make out the door through the veneer of your own tears, and the details on the wall seem clearer than ever.
Suggested by Spencer Perkins
There’s a small, unassuming village somewhere in the middle of Indiana. It’s got about 350 citizens and a single school. Its name isn’t important. You’ve never heard of it anyway.
Most of the 350 citizens work at a single factory on the edge of the next town over. What the factory makes isn’t important. Some of them work for the village post office, or teach at the school, or own and operate one of the shops or markets on the main drag. But that’s not important either.
What’s important is that if you ask any one of the citizens about the town, all they’ll talk about is Chloe. How excited they were when Chloe was born, how the whole town celebrated. How she was the great white hope of the town, and how crushed they were when Chloe disappeared. They’ll say that the town’s never been the same since Chloe vanished, and how it’ll never be the same. Then they’ll look at the ground, shake their head solemnly, and go about their day. Ask them again, and they’ll again tell you the story of Chloe and how her disappearance broke the spirit of the village.
We’ve looked through school records, police reports, hospital registries. There was never a baby named Chloe born in this little town. There’s never been a mysterious disappearance reported to police. But about ten years ago, the town’s population cratered and there was a rash of crime and suicide. We don’t know why. No one seems to remember that, though — they only want to talk about Chloe.
Suggested by Jay Scott
SPRINGFIELD — The exhibition of works planned for this coming Saturday at the Springfield Art Collective was postponed this week when it was discovered that most of the artist’s catalogue had been destroyed in a fire outside the gallery. Arson is suspected, as the works were unceremoniously piled in the street outside the gallery’s storefront before being set ablaze.
The exhibition was to feature the work of Jerod Richmond, Springfield native and current resident of New York. Police would not comment on any possible leads, motives, or suspects. However, the artist sent directly to the Herald-Courier the following statement, which he requested be published in its entirety:
“hows this for breaking new ground you poser [expletive deleted]”
A new date for the exhibition has not yet been announced.
Nobody’s Fat In Aspen
Suggested by Naomi Zikmund-Fisher
The Abernathy family sits silently — nervously — in their living room, waiting. It’s been like this for the better part of an hour. James shifts uncomfortably in his seat, adjusting his starched collar and dabbing his brow to preemptively catch any sweat. Claire obsessively examines her skirt, and Barry and Taylor are left to watch their parents and occasionally glance at their own reflections in the full-length mirror, brought out to the living room yesterday.
A knock at the door around 8:25. Two men in unfriendly charcoal suits enter, followed by a woman in a crisp pantsuit that conveys pride masking poison. They look around wordlessly. They examine the artwork on the walls, meticulously made level by James at 2:30 in the morning. They walk around Claire and note on clipboards. One man in an unfriendly charcoal suit lingers his eyes on the hem of her knee-length checkered skirt, or perhaps on her manicured aubergine nails. James and Barry are next; the woman in the crisp pantsuit inspects, taking two fingers and delicately running them along James’s starched collar. Inwardly he feels a swell of pride.
Claire notices the gaze of one man has shifted and gasps in terror. Taylor was perfectly clean not ten minutes ago, but, as children will, she has somehow smudged the shoulder of her lily-white blouse. A black smear, like pencil or mud, stretches for a half an inch across her collar bone. The smear attracts the attention of the second man, and of the woman in the pantsuit. They examine it silently, then excuse themselves in conference. The air chills with dread as the Abernathys are left alone in their living room.
The pantsuited woman returns alone and, with gentle, matronly tenderness, helps Taylor to her feet. She takes her hand and leads her out the front door, where the two men are waiting silently. At the brisk pace of someone on a tight schedule, the trio spirits the child away. Behind the closed front door, they can hear anguished, desperate screams. Someone pounds the wall inside the house, and a painting falls to the floor.
Turn the Beat Around
Suggested by Robert Pore
and damn, just wait till they hear me sing — I’ma get into that room and look them in their eyes and they’ll see me and they’ll be like — and that’s even before I open my mouth — gotta work out what I’m gonna say in there — I should probably say something like hi, my name’s — no, I should talk about my hometown — they always talk about their hometowns — like, it’s always some little Tennessee village and so the three judges always go, awwwww, what a sweetheart to come out to the big city to sing for us — how long is this line? — so I’ll say my name and then my hometown, and then they’ll say okay, what are you singing — and I won’t even tell them, I’ll just take a deep breath and go for it — I wish I had some water — and remember not to take too long on the high notes, and don’t move your hands too much or start dancing in place like Sammy Davis Jr. — but you’ve gotta take that first breath early so when they say okay, what are you singing you can just go for it — if you take it early there’s no lingering pause — and remember to smile and to keep your eyes nice and open and — I feel like I’ve been in the same damn place in this line for three hours — but they’ll hear me sing, and they’ll be blown away — they’ll be fighting over me — maybe they’ll just give me a record deal on the spot — yeah, they’ll say holy shit you’re the best singer we’ve ever seen, and I’ll sign my deal and get back in the cab and call my mom and tell her and — I’m so excited I can’t breathe — how many more in front of me — I’ll go back home and tell everyone and they’ll be so proud — then I’ll move to LA and my record will be a hit, maybe go platinum — it’ll be all over the radio and in commercials — people will hear it at the club and the supermarket and on TV — I’ll get nominated for a Grammy and I’ll win for sure — and I’ll go on stage and look at the crowd — my mom’s there, of course — and so are all three of the judges — they’re looking at me and they’re saying we knew we made the right choice with you — and I’ll wipe a tear away and smile big and bright and say it all started right here in this audition line on a hot day — just remember to take that first breath early