Harriet Goes Outside by Dan Nielsen

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Harriet needed to leave the house. It’d been days since she’d so much as stepped off her front porch. Yesterday, while preparing for a walk to Lake Michigan, she noticed, through her bedroom window, a bug climbing the inside of the outside screen. She pulled up a chair. From this perspective, the bug seemed to be crawling up the roof of the house next door. It was at least ten feet tall. Harriet stayed home.

That was yesterday. That was silly. There are no bugs that big. Today, Harriet would go outside.

The weather forecast said grey and windless. Lake Michigan wouldn’t be at its best. Harriet considered a walk to Aldi, but you shouldn’t grocery shop hungry. She’d eat something first and buy less as a result. There’d be fewer bags to carry, not so many items to put away.

Harriet checked the pantry and found one last can of Progresso Light Low-Sodium Vegetarian Vegetable Soup. The contents message should have read: bland-tasting murky water with mushy vegetable bits plus the odd elbow of macaroni. She’d attended a library lecture on how flavorsome food adversely affects your health. Health be damned, she added a slice of pumpernickel, a handful of grated cheddar, and a tin of chopped chicken. She set the microwave for five minutes. While the much-improved soup heated, Harriet gathered sour cream, hot sauce, and French’s Fried Onions for toppers.  

The microwave dinged. Harriet ate it all. She opened the kitchen window for air. The sun shone in a cloudless sky. She’d take that lake walk after all.

Something machine-like made a high-pitched whine. Harriet remembered yesterday’s bug. She closed the window.

When Harriet was younger, people accused her of having a bad personality. She visited a psychologist. Tests were conducted. The results indicated that her personality was not bad per se, and certainly not her fault. What she had was a Cluster B Type Personality Disorder characterized by dramatic, overly emotional, or unpredictable thinking or behavior. From then on, if anyone made remarks, Harriet had a ready response.

When leaving the house, Harriet liked to look her best. For this occasion, she chose a pink chiffon prom dress with matching hat and shoes.

The walk to the lake was eventful. Harriet conversed with a bunny. She crossed the street to avoid a dog. She spotted a low-flying helicopter and waved to its pilot, who aggressively waved back.

Lake Michigan looked lovely. Harriet sat on her favorite bench. Waves gently lapped the shoreline. She regarded the bugs, hundreds of them, crawling out of the water and onto the beach, each at least ten feet tall. She noted again that machine-like whine, now a thousand times louder.


Dan Nielsen is a part-time open-mic standup comic. His flash manuscript Flavored Water was a semi-finalist in the Rose Metal Press 2017 SHORT SHORT CHAPBOOK CONTEST. Recent FLASH in: Cheap Pop, The Collapsar, Ellipsis Zine, Brilliant Flash Fiction, and OCCULUM. Dan has a website: Preponderous, you can follow him @DanNielsenFIVES.He and Georgia Bellas are the post-minimalist art/folk band Sugar Whiskey.

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One thought on “Harriet Goes Outside by Dan Nielsen”

  1. Pingback: “Harriet Goes Outside” published in (mic)ro(mac) | preponderous

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