All Posts By Owen Sader

59 Minutes in Germany – Flash Fiction

Posted on 4 min read 43 views

They said I need a union

What union

An electrician’s union

To install a light fixture

I guess

Why don’t you do it yourself

I don’t know how, do you

No… my father did it

I look over at my daughter. She’s icing her shin, her leg propped up on a chair. Two neighbor girls sing to her in German.

I need to go to the bank before it closes

It’s 3-37

Yeah

You won’t have much time

I have to try. Can you watch her

It’s no problem

I listen to the singing and push open the door without understanding a word.

I try to run and lurch down the sidewalk, feet slapping against cobblestones. The people on the street stand alert, watching me out of the side of their eyes.

I’ve memorized German bank hours: nine to noon, hour lunch, prompt close at four. With a four-day weekend, I desperately need the cash as my debit card is frozen, and my AMEX is near useless.

I’m sweating when I reach the bank. The sliding glass doors part, and instead of finding shelter, I walk into a sauna. If it’s 75 outside (whatever-the-fuck Celsius) it’s 90 in the bank.

I walk up to the youngest, and most likely to speak English, teller.

My card has been turned off

Ok, let’s see why. What’s your account number

I don’t know

It’s on your monthly statements

I don’t have those

You don’t keep your monthly statements

Patience.

Here’s my passport, can you look it up

He looks to his left, staring at a white wall. I look too, expecting to understand something. All I see is pulsating white.

Yes, passport is enough

I can smell us. There’s no escape when it’s hot. They not only don’t have air conditioners, they don’t believe in them.

Ah, your card has been locked because you didn’t respond to text

Would it have been in German

Yes

I don’t speak German

Yes, but they need text from you

Check-mate.

Can you reactivate it

Yes, what’s your pin

ATM pin

No, internet pin. You made it when you opened account

I forgot it

You forgot something only you would know

Check-mate again.

Yeah, I guess

That’s ok. We make you a new pin

Oh…ok

It needs to be five lubbers

Did you say letters

Numbers

I stare at the keyboard. The smell is overwhelming. I can’t tell if it’s him, me or everyone else. Her birthday. 22312.

Ok, your card will work again. Next time you get text from bank make sure you respond to it

Outside is physical relief. My sweat dries in the air as I walk. I sweat a lot more since I switched to deodorant that doesn’t kill me.

So many people are sitting at small cafés enjoying the day. I feel like I’m barreling to some inevitable conclusion, while the world stalls, everyone eating ice cream, staring at nothing.

Back at the flat I pick up my daughter and an ice-pack, thank my neighbor, and start heading for the door.

Say goodbye to the Mädchens honey

Tschüss

I fireman carry her to the car. She wraps her arms around my neck and kisses me on the cheek.

Papa

Yes

Schocolate

You jerk.

In the car

She goes dead weight in my arms, almost spilling onto the pavement. I juggle her into a ball and dump her in the backseat. She splays out sideways across the car seat.

Schoooocolaaaaate

I toss half a Mars bar I was saving into the backseat.

Danke you

I want to pound the gas but I’m so bad with a stick that I know I would kill it. I back out slowly, letting a pack of bikers pass, and then sputter down the street. I accelerate as best I can on the straightaways while she sings along loudly to Micky Mouse.

I coast into the parking lot and see her mom texting on the phone. Three minutes late.

I had a really nice time with you. I’m going to see you again very soon

Ok

I lift her out of the car seat and hug her. She hugs me back, only for a moment, and then starts to squirm.

I set her down and she runs to the car.

Mama

I watch the car drive away. I stall the engine as I back out of the parking lot and try to shift into first.

 

2018

Contracts – Flash Fiction

Posted on 2 min read 50 views

The shattered glass is so fine that it’s almost like a powder across the floor. Tim’s already got out tack-board from the storage closet, and the new gap will take its place in the queue behind the rest of the boarded-up stain glass windows.

“Did you reset the clock?” I ask.

“Shit,” I hear him mutter. “I’ll climb up and do it as soon as finish this,” he says, stretching out a ladder to reach the window.

I hear the creek of the door and move towards the entrance. Listening to their footsteps, I know they’re tourists: light, haphazard, without intention. I walk to the altar instead.

I dust off the Dala sphere. It’s boring work, but it’s better me, than the paid help. And they’re all paid help. With the cultural preservation checks still coming in from the government, it’s the closest thing to putting money in the till.

One of the sensors stays dim as I run my rag over it. Shoot, it’s burnt out. I’ll need to scrape together enough to get this fixed before Sunday. For those left within 60 km, this is the way they know me. My blessings pressed upon them through their Dala spheres, the taste of the Eucharist injected whey composite.

I can’t stand the Dahlia sphere. Or I shouldn’t be able to stand it, but then why does having it down seem like drowning? I need it. It’s the only thing separating me from a museum caretaker.

No. If this were a museum it would be in better condition.

A bang echoes through the stone arches. I jump backwards, bracing myself against the altar.

“Sorry”, Tim calls.   

The board for the window is lying on the floor under the window.

I hear a creek on the steps behind me and whip my head around.

“What?” I call out.

“Are you the priest?” she asks. In her hand is a King James Bible.

Dissolution of the Mirror

Posted on 1 min read 40 views

I’ve never been able to get used to a mirror. Some of my ex’s might scoff at that. But I’ve never been sure what I will see staring back at me.

This is what I look like?

I can never seem to remember. It’s a continual reacquaintance with a childhood friend, often older, sometimes younger, then I remember. Lately skinnier: the stress and Shigella induced dysentery from the trip to Peru have taken pounds off me, deepened my cheeks, thinned my face. It’s a fight to get it back. Now I feel, more than I have in a very long time, the urge to know the guy.

This time I won’t forget. I see you now.

But I do forget. Lately, the amnesia has morphed into something else entirely. Unlike before, I carry a mostly clear image in my head of who I will see, however when I actually look in the mirror, the dissolution begins. I can force it, strain, and bring it back into focus for a moment, before I seem to blur in front of myself. What does look back at me seems transient. Borrowed skin and bones. Most of the time I don’t panic. Sometimes I feel gratitude.

Denver, Asylum

Posted on 1 min read 39 views

There’s comfort to being back in the regularity of Denver.

I never thought that the job, the board meetings, and this city would be a comfort in my life. But that’s what it’s become. I don’t believe it’s the regularity of the days or the ease of the city. What I like are the people I see, and the way that I waste my days.

The Day After

Posted on 2 min read 32 views

I woke up hoping to find a new perspective, that things would seem more optimistic with sleep and the light of morning. Instead the mental vomit continues, now seeping into my extremities. I knock over a carton of milk, and walked into a doorway, my body refusing to work. There’s static in all of me: my mind, my fingers, and I’m so exhausted, but I can’t fall asleep.

At the Munich airport I try to board a flight to New York. They tell me I’m at the wrong gate. I stare at them glazed, on the verge of tears, until I realize what they’ve said. I run across the gates until I reach the Denver flight. No one is there. I hold my ticket up to the machine and the doors slide open. I run through, bounce off of a glass wall, and nearly fall down the escalators as they restart their movement under my feet. At the base of the jetway, the last people are boarding the flight. I walk past my seat and then double back to it. It might be the last open seat on the plane.

I felt so strong in the morning before court. I took my time: meditated, worked out, ate breakfast, reviewed the documents, took my time, arrived early. By the time I got home I couldn’t even think straight. I couldn’t even watch a movie or read a book. A high-speed fly apart of someone’s psyche.

It’s nothing bad so to speak. More of the same with small concessions. But I’m the one that wants change, that’s why I’m there. And so more of the same feels like suffocating. I knew things could go well today or they could go poorly, but my blind spot has been stasis. You cross your chest and tell yourself you’re prepared for whatever comes, only to find that nothing coming is a devastation you hadn’t prepared for.

There are some mistakes you carry around with you for a long time. And yeah you can learn from them, and you don’t have to call them regret if that makes you feel better. But in your heart you know if you could go back you would do it differently. Letting my daughter leave Denver without a formal custody agreement is that unequivocally.

Court

Posted on 1 min read 36 views

The feelings in preparing to walk into a court hearing are unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. As a I sit outside the door, waiting to be ushered in, there’s a screaming in my ears so that I can’t hear or think of anything else besides what’s rushing towards me. And yet everyone and everything in the room is silent and austere.

Not having control over your relationship with your child makes you feel like a caged animal, penned in and frantic. For me, it manifests in blistering headaches and a state of mild, but near constant, unease. Like I’m trying to sprint on gravel. And yet as upset or desperate as I become, there’s very little that I can do about it, besides return to this place that I said I would never go to in the first place.

Asia House

Posted on 1 min read 13 views

Hey.

Hey again. Remember me?

…Yankee boy! Of course I remember you.

I’m impressed. 

I have a very good memory.

Yes you do. 

You come here to see your daughter. You separate from your German wife. 

Right. Right. Not my wife but same difference. 

And you live in South Carolina. 

Colorado.

Ah. Same thing.

Both have a C.

I remember what you had last time

Really?

Sure I remember. Sit down. Sit down. I’ll bring it out to you. 

And an apfelschorle please.

Of course. Same as last time. 

SF, Again

Posted on 2 min read 30 views

It’s been a while since my last business trip. As result my tolerance is high for getting up early, fighting the road warriors for an outlet at the airport, and waking up on the plane with neck pain. It feels good to be back in SF. How a Best Western in San Mateo can cost $500 a night still baffles me. But I accept it, because everything here looks unassuming and costs a fortune. It feels like a slight victory that most consumer goods are roughly the same price as their Denver counterparts. Yes, I paid $1.50 for a bottle of water!

Writing about SF is like writing about New York: why bother? It seems like it’s been done to death, and I can’t imagine that I’m going to reveal anything that wasn’t said earlier and better by Mark Twain. Instead, I focus on what it means to me. Why does it feel good? If you’re negative, you would say it’s damp. But after living in a high plains desert for half of my adult-life, I find it reinvigorating. Everything is lush and green, and even a sad-sack area like San Mateo seems beautiful when looking you’re looking at it through panoramic window lined conference rooms.

It also has an elusive “character”. In a two-block walk through the Tenderloin I saw two people shooting up, one person shatter a window to steal luggage, and three people being arrested. What decade is this? I’m not young enough to say that this is a good thing, but after two decades of gentrification, it’s at the very least baffling to someone who who’s only been to New York post it’s transformation into an adult Disneyland.

It also feels good because it feels far away. As much as I enjoy it, I know it will end in the very near future. And that helps to provide me with the distance to truly enjoy the place without judgment. It doesn’t resonate at a deep enough level that I would consider disrupting my life for this place. But I appreciate it, and bit by bit, I uncover what vibrates with me.

White Noise

Posted on 1 min read 45 views

I’m having nightmares again. But not the predictive nightmares of murder and terror. These are of the type where almost nothing happens. They’re regular interactions and they make my heart ache.

I have a dream where my grandmother, who died last year, is showing a quilt that she made to my daughter. She explains that she made the quilt out of feed sacks, which I remember her telling me they used to do on the farm. A piece of the truth interlaced into the dream. And then long stretches of déjà vu. Nothing true, but things I know so well.

They’re nightmares of foreboding. And I realize that it’s probably the cocktail of being back in Germany, and the book I’m reading, White Noise. I’m not able to place the book. It’s all dread and low grade constant panic adding up to something I can’t predict. And yet it hangs in the air, like it’s in the room with me. That’s how the dreams are. That’s how Germany is.

Excerpt: Mark’s Short Story

Posted on 4 min read 36 views

As the novel nears a finished state, most of the time that I spend with it now is in editing and small nit-picking changes. This is fine for something to do at the end of the day, and yet doesn’t really meet the needs that had me writing the novel in the first place. As a result, I’ve been working on several short stories involving characters from the novel. The one that is furthest along involves Mark, and takes place over a long weekend in Ohio, where he’s arrived to spend time with his daughter. The goal was not to create something semi-autobiographical, and yet I would be lying if I said it didn’t borrow a set of near constant emotions from the last two years of my life.

I wake before my alarm. There’s no sense trying to go back to sleep, my heart’s racing as if I’m being chased by a tiger. I thought I had pulled the window shades closed, but a light emanates through a break crack they come together.

I shuffle to the bathroom. Take a leak. And turn and look at myself in the mirror.

What a fucking demon. I’m not hung-over, I’m not strung out, but I might as well be. There are dark circles under my eyes, and my skin looks colorless and loose. I’m worse than coming down, I’m myself.

“Fuck you!” I scream into the mirror.

I swipe my dopp kit from the counter and the contents go flying across the bathroom. Shouting, I grab the edges of the counter, trying to tear it out of its foundation. It doesn’t even budge. The static drives me into an even deeper rage. I throw all of the well-placed hotel amenities onto the ground. But everything is cloth and plastic, and makes a dull thud when it hits ground. Even the glasses are sterile wrapped plastic cups.

I go back out into the room and tear at the sheets on the bed, throwing them into a corner and then straddling the naked mattress, punching it over and over again. I only realize I’m still yelling and cursing when I slow down, and the sound of blood rushing in my ears dies away. I’m sweating, drooling, but I don’t feel any better.

I look around the room. Despite my outburst, it’s condescendingly maintained it’s intent: clean and inoffensively temporary. The amount of people who have lost their minds in places like this must be staggering, and they know it. They consider it in the construction, and bake it into the bill: plastic curtains and tubs, fake wood furniture, mounted television, built in bulbs, with the only real glass being the bathroom mirror. ‘Your Personal Safety’, it could be another line item on my hotel bill, and they’d be right to collect it.

I roll off the bed and onto my feet. My legs maintain me better than I expect, and as I stand up, my mind moving over and past the pain in my lower back from the flight and unfamiliar bed, everything goes blank.

Where am I? I see the stripped bed. Housekeeping must be here. I came back early. No, I’m in my boxers. That’s not right. And slowly, with focused effort the dream returns: the last five minutes, why I’m here, my living nightmare.

I walk to the window and open the drapes. The window itself barely opens, it rolls out perpendicular through a crank at the base, and diagonal wind passes through an additional screen before entering the room. Safety first.

It’s not sunny outside. The sky is almost completely covered by a layer of clouds. The clouds are a glowing, radiating mass, and despite not being able to see the sun, the world seems illuminated. Below me is the hotel cement parking lot, around that a long thin circumference of short green grass, and behind the grass a ravine with overgrowth and adolescent trees. What’s down there? A creek? Why would they have left a strip of wilderness in this cost-effective first ring suburb?

As a child, that ravine would have fascinated me. What exists down there, just beyond sight, waiting to be explored? Even in the absence of extraordinary, I would have filled in the gaps. I’ve made Camelot with less: some ferns, rocks and mostly dead grass (when drought induced water restrictions would take effect). How easy it was to get wrapped up in those things as a kid. Worlds formed in front of me, neither bending towards me nor asking me to amend myself.

My imagination came to me so much more clearly then. How obvious now that the sacrifice of time spent living in this world is other-worldliness. Like my waking life, I have to force myself to manifest any fantasy, and when they do come they feel forced, blurred and laced with suspicion.