Friday, October 16, 2009

Call of Duty

A disheveled young man came up to Valerie and shouted. “Hey. Wadda ya mean standing here lookin’ like that!  I wanna know why ya in my way?  I wanna take a picture here.” 

He was holding a radio with a missing battery cover. Valerie, not turning her head to him said, “You have no film in the camera.” 

He looked at his hands. “Well. Then, ya have any spare change?” 

The bus was ten minutes late and Valerie’s eyes kept scanning south, as if through directed strength of gaze, the bus would be pulled along, unable to stay Local and become an Express.

She had to get away from this crazy guy. A cab driver obeyed the come-rescue-me pull of Valerie’s finger and without waiting for the door to be fully closed took off.  He tried to make small talk with his passenger but she did not have the look of someone who wanted to hear his words.  He turned on the radio and did not say anything until he dropped her off at a house. 

“Have a good day.”

Valerie turned to him. “It’s seven o’clock in the evening. I had my day and it wasn’t good.”

The women at the house were already seated in the den and drinking. Mimi, the oldest, opened the door. “You’re very late but The Affirmation Society Meeting can now begin.”

The other four stood up and formed a circle with Valerie and Mimi. They began chanting as they did every week.

“I’m valid. You’re valid. We’re valid.”

Mimi motioned for everyone to sit. “Ladies, here is the plan for tonight. First, we will hear a very nice little story from Lucy about her neighbor’s mother who was in the shower when her uterus dropped.”

She sat down and nodded at the frail woman seated across from her who stood up and cleared her throat for a few seconds.

“For our Design and Conquer portion of the evening, we have underwear, fabric glue, sparkles, beads and, oh I can’t remember. Well, nothing else. Wait! There’s also a prize for the best one.”  She sat down quickly. The other women, except for Valerie, clapped.

Mimi took over again. She smiled at Valerie. “Dear, for our Open Up and Let your Heart Show segment, you will tell us about your problems with that horrible man? The others nodded vigorously and applauded some more.

The women were waiting for her to begin so Valerie sat and took out five yellow files from her briefcase. As a caseworker, it was her job to make weekly visits to this group home and to make sure that the residents were well. She would not call them crazy, just –
diminished. They had already forgotten their plans for the evening. They always did.

When Valerie walked to a taxi an hour later, she heard her name and looked up to see the elderly Affirmation Society waving and smiling at the door. Mimi blew her a kiss. Valerie knew that after the women closed the door, they would turn to the orderly waiting for them with their last cups of juice. They would sleep very well, the drugs would see to it.

As the car moved away from the curb, the driver spoke. “How are you tonight?”

Valerie looked at his weary face, and smiled.

“Well, actually, I’m valid.”

He laughed. “Aren’t we all.”


  1. Ha, I think I'd like to sit in on one of these meetings. :-) These ladies sound highly amusing. Nice job!

  2. You left me wanting to read more!

  3. Good one! I'm valid, you're valid... :) I thought she was one of them at first. Nice twist.

  4. aren't we all indeed?..nice job m.

  5. Nice imagery. Who's to say who's crazy and who's valid?

    I'll echo Michael and the cab driver..."aren't we all?"

    Karen :0)

  6. Very nice! And we certainly all are... in some way at least :)

  7. I can't help picturing Stuart Smalley making a cameo appearance in this group. Nice!

  8. "Aren't we all."
    Perfect ending to a great story. Well done.

  9. Loved those last two lines. Excellent flash this friday. Peace, Linda

  10. I liked the irony of this Marisa, that Valerie was so comfortable with the predictable craziness she was enroute to, yet so anxious to get away from the disheveled young man she did not expect.

    And then the ending, “Well, actually, I’m valid.” was so perfect.

  11. Love the quirkiness Marisa. I agree - great ending. Great story altogether!
    Thanks for the laughs!

  12. Love the last two lines!

  13. "... as if through directed strength of gaze, the bus would be pulled along, unable to stay Local and become an Express."

    A wonderful phrase. I love it.

    It seemed, reading this, that the Affirmation Society was the last thing Valerie needed. But, it turned out to be exactly what, well, the doctor ordered.

    This story careened into the unexpected so smoothly I didn't even notice the transition.

    Very nicely done.

  14. I almost lived in Invalid street. good call.

  15. I could totally picture this. Some nice lines here -- I imagine you're the type of writer that gets quoted often :)

  16. Nice flash job. Trickster, you. Great twist.

  17. I like Rosa's comment - the juxtaposition of different kinds of crazy ;-) very nice flash! Interesting that they were asserting their validity when those around them (family? the nurses/doctors?) undoubtedly had the mentality of questioning their validity.

  18. Solid writing throughout. Nice job.

    I was quite taken with the story at the start. Loved how she dealt with the guy with the "camera".

    Then I began to become disappointed in her as a character when I thought she was just going to her weekly mutual admiration society. What a delightful reveal when I suddenly discovered why she was really there! That hit the sweet spot of a story.

    And as others have said, the last two lines are a perfect ending.

  19. So where does that affirmation society meet? What a great escape -- validation and crafts! I really enjoyed it.

  20. Nice flow, great story. I knew there had to be something to it, but wasn't ready for the cute twist.

    I will be reading more.


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