9 comments

American Contemporary Fiction

Foley Gaspers nearly ran out of fuel driving to Venice Beach in a 2000 Camry he had stolen from his girlfriend, Sarah. He abandoned the car on a narrow one-way street.


He walked to the boardwalk, intending to make his way to the pier for a jump and a swim, but had issues. Fish to fry. He was under the impression Sarah was having an affair with a co-worker.


She was tired of his unfounded accusations. 


Why would I want to sleep with Kingston? You’re the one with the problem, Foley. You can’t even figure out whether you’re straight or gay. Having a queer boyfriend isn’t kosher with me.


Why don’t you ever reply when I text you at work?


Foley had yet to figure out the etiquette of wireless correspondence.


I don’t answer your texts because I’m busy working! Why don’t you ever send me smiley or people emojis?


Because emojis are for the verbally incapacitated, Foley thought.


***


After he abandoned the Camry, Foley was arrested for being a nuisance. He wasn’t booked for a crime. Rather, the authorities allowed him to spend the night at the police station.  


In the morning, upon release, he laced up his treasured sneakers, a pair of Asics that were black and grey with red features. He called his mom and her boyfriend from the station, but Irene and Angel were so exhausted and alarmed by his recent antics that they refused to respond to calls at 6 a.m. Irene didn't want to hear her son calling from a jail phone again.


***


The shoes Foley wore into the outlet store were old school Adidas Sambas, size nine and a half. After browsing a handful of different types, the sneakers that caught his eye were a stylish model of a brand he had never owned before. He found a box that contained a size ten pair.


He contemplated walking out of the store without paying for them.


The words go for it, sounded in his mind's ear.


As soon as the the sneakers were on his feet, he felt like a bigger person. The confidence allowed him to not visit the register as he walked out of the store. He strode out of the store wearing the Asics.  


***


Two weeks after he stole the athletic shoes, he wore them on a pilgrimage, migrating thirty miles from beach city to inland suburb to prove his devotion to Sarah.  


On the voyage he encountered a woman navigating a shopping cart in opposing traffic. She commenced drifting into the right-hand lane. 


After he caught sight of her, Foley saw she could have been a beauty queen in a previous incarnation. 


Cars were maneuvering into the left lane to avoid hitting her.


He approached her near a bus stop and said, excuse me, ma’am, can I push your cart for you?


No. God has kicked me out of paradise, the homewrecker!


I see a mini-mart down the road, let me buy you a strawberry milk. 


Foley remembered his mother buying him sweetened, pink-colored Nesquik to coax him into doing his math homework.


The woman stopped in mid-stride and removed a grimy gold engagement ring from a jacket pocket. She regarded it with a furrowed brow and moved toward the waste can at the bus stop.


Foley sensed that better use could be made of the keepsake. 


If you don’t want that, I can give it to someone I care for.


Without hesitating, she discarded it in the waste can. 


Can’t do it, she said, it hasn’t been blessed by a holy person.


***


Having bought the promised drink, he exited the gas station mini-mart and saw the homeless woman preparing to cross the intersection.


He called after her, Here's your Nesquik!


Stop being an asshole and give it to your mother!


Foley’s eight-hour trek ended at Sara’s house where she indulged him with a session of pity sex. But no matter how many efforts she made to spice up their amorous relationship, Sara couldn’t rid Foley of his paranoias.


***


After leaving the Venice Beach jail he asked for change to get on a bus headed toward downtown Los Angeles.


Getting off the bus near Skid Row, he began regretting all the trouble he had caused his mother.


He found a public phone and dialed her number.


Before she answered, he noticed a pair of pigeons fighting in an overhead roost. He took this for an auspicious sign. He was going to get muscled for his prized Asics. 

           

Mom, I’m in L.A. I spent the night in jail. Can you or Angel pick me up?


Foley, we can’t take any more of your escapades. When are you going to come to your senses? When are you going to have compassion for your mother?

           

I had to beg for money to get on a bus. I'm considering going to a homeless shelter. The neighborhood I’m in is tough. I can’t do it. I need help.


Brief, vacant silence.


Can you hear me? I’m in trouble, Foley said.


Yes, son, I can hear you, but I have one of my morning migraines. I can’t drive in my condition. I’m phoning Angel. Find a safe place to wait. Call me back when your at an address where we can find you.

          

I’ll call you as soon as I find a safe spot.


***


After hanging up, Foley turned around and saw a woman struggling to cross the street with the assistance of a makeshift crutch. The crutch had been fashioned from the steel post of a traffic sign. 


She was barefoot and he decided he was going to shoplift footwear for her. He entered a store full of made-in-China sports memorabilia, most that unquestionably infringed on American trademark laws. He saw a pair of American football franchise slippers, picked them up and stepped out of the store as casually as he had walked in.


The store didn't have any socks.


He found the woman sitting on the sidewalk around the corner from the knock-offs store and crouched near her.


Can you use a pair of shoes? he said.


With an appreciative nod she accepted his gift and inserted her dirty, calloused feet into the fuzzy blue, green and white slippers. As soon as she had them on, he saw they were several sizes larger than the size she needed.


The woman stood up, thanked Foley and hobbled back in the direction she had approached from. 


No sooner had she vanished from sight than a black BMW sports utility vehicle approached the curb near where he stood. Two young men wearing hoodies and baggie pants came out of the vehicle and began arguing and using aggressive body language.


Foley, convinced the time of reckoning had arrived, made a run for it. 


He entered the sales office of a large, modern-looking structure. A concierge sat behind the desk.


Are you interested in today’s open house?


No. I need to use your phone. I'm in a crisis.


Our phone is only used to assist prospective tenants of the Ivory Towers apartment hotel.


Foley glanced through the windows of the office to check for the marauders he imagined were after his sneakers. Even though he didn’t catch sight of the imagined footwear thieves, he removed his shoes and ginger-stepped out of the hotel lobby. 


Foley walked 10 yards to another building, and before stepping in, gently set his Asics on the sidewalk.


Two older Hispanic men were doing construction work in the entryway. They noticed he was not wearing any shoes.


Lo siento, we have no money, one of the men said.


I don’t need money. I just need to call my mother. She needs to know where I am so she can pick me up.


Sensing his desperation was genuine, one of the construction workers handed him a phone.


You rest here until your madre arrive.


With a gasp of relief, Foley thanked the men. He called Irene and gave her the address of his newfound safe spot.


***


After what seemed like an eternity, he saw Angel's car pull up the street. His mother was in the passenger seat. 


Overwhelmed by relief, Foley didn’t say his farewells to the construction workers who had sheltered him. He waved down Angel, but before approaching the car noticed that his Asics were still on the sidewalk where he had placed them over an hour ago.


Dumbfounded, he picked up the sneakers, climbed into the back seat of Angel’s car, and started crying.


His mother regarded him with affection.


Foley, it’s okay. You’ll be fine. We’re here for you.  


Lucky I found that safe spot, her son replied, the Asics securely on his feet.


May 13, 2022 07:48

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

9 comments

Michał Przywara
02:52 May 17, 2022

That was great! :) I don't even know where to begin. Maybe the beginning. That's one hell of a great opening sentence, right from Foley's name, as Deidra pointed out. Action, conflict, relationships, all of it, and it just continues like that. The writing was smooth, but the story was a whirlwind. I sense no malice from Foley, just an almost childlike impulsiveness moving him from one adventure to another. Maybe he's scatterbrained, maybe he's just looking for something and he has no idea what. There's a line that particularly stood out ...

Reply

Mike Panasitti
03:12 May 17, 2022

I've yet to find a single overarching motivation for Foley, but he definitely intends no malice. He ends up doing malicious things when he intends well. Thank you for perusing the first story in what I hope will be a flash fiction series.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Kendall Defoe
13:08 May 22, 2022

Wow...and wow. I have such a movie in my head right now! Well played, sir... 👟 👟

Reply

Mike Panasitti
14:32 May 22, 2022

Thank you Kendall. And where on virtual earth did you find the sneaker emojis?

Reply

Kendall Defoe
18:24 May 22, 2022

Planet Samsung.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Scott Skinner
20:53 May 18, 2022

This was an interesting look at a man in what seems to be a mental health crisis. Addressing the prompt via the Acis was well done, and though the story didn't follow a linear structure, the parts of his life you choose to share helped shape how Foley interacts with the world. I wanted to know more about the nuisance he caused that led to him being arrested. I think he may have been perceived as homeless based on other areas in the story, but I'm not certain. You left out the quotations around dialogue, which was a little confusing for ...

Reply

Mike Panasitti
10:55 May 19, 2022

Scott, thank you for the detailed comments. I wasn't sure the non-linear structure would be easy to follow, but I'm glad the story has made readers curious to know more about Foley. Novelist Ali Smith manages to make clear when a character is speaking without the use of quotation marks, therefore I made a first go of the stylistic omission here. In future episodes of Foley's adventures, I'll try to specify what nuisances he causes, so as not to leave readers guessing. Thanks again for the close reading. I'll return the favor whenever ...

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Deidra Lovegren
16:35 May 15, 2022

The perfect name of this MC: Foley Gaspers Just brilliant. All the characterization is RIGHT THERE in the name. Hoy Boy! Can you can spin a tale! I think you hit every single emotion...I'm exhausted (in a good way) from the MC's mental and moral gymnastics. I so love the banter. Agreed: "emojis are for the verbally incapacitated" 🧐 And the diction? *chef kiss* -- "escapades" made me snort. Suggestion: I usually italicize MC's internal dialogue to help keep it all straight (so to speak). Sprawling, tender, wild. I loved it. A thrill ride. ...

Reply

Mike Panasitti
04:23 May 16, 2022

No further said than done... additional adventures of Foley Gaspers we shall have.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply