All posts filed under: Flash Fiction

Deadlifting

Helicopters fly over Portland Harbor. It’s late. A warm summer night in July; and full of flies. The bugs attack the day’s catch and are swatted away by swollen hands. Two weathered Americans carry a body wrapped in blue tarp from cold storage. The first mate trips on his boots, slips his grip, and drops the torso. “Careful, Josh! Christ,” hisses the captain. “That’s my bad,” says Josh, wiping his hands on a pair of overalls. “Bend with your knees, not your back,” says the captain. Josh nods, mindful of his form, and drops into a squat. They count three seconds in silence then haul the corpse up again and carry it to the stern. It reminds Josh of deadlifting at the gym. “What d’you think this one did?” he says. “Same thing they all do,” says the captain. “Piss off the Company.” They chuck the body into the sea, and in the same motion, the captain falls against the gunwale, out of breath. He stares at the black water until his first mate comes …

The Caregiver

“Oh it’s a real one!” She exclaims, her wide eyes dancing about the nail salon, looking at but not really seeing the other customers. I grab her wrists as they flutter about, like caged birds, and the two Asian women remove her shoes and dip her gnarled feet into the little tub of warm water. Her toes are curled like knobs of ginger. The warmth calms her. Lou’s eyes begin to slide shut, and she leans her head towards me. “This place is much nicer than that other one,” she whispers loudly, and I know what she’s talking about. I nod, hoping she’ll leave it at that. “Remember, Jessie? Remember that fat woman sitting beside me?” “Yeah, Lou. How’s the water now? Does it feel good?” “Oh Jessie she was so fat. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. Like a sausage fit to burst!” She does make me laugh sometimes. “Relax Lou,” I say. Suddenly she sits up straight. “But who’s in there?” She cocks her head, staring at the wall, and points a …

April Fools

They sit at opposite ends of the kitchen table, the raw end of an argument stuck in their throats. Speechless. Depleted. Defeated. Thirty-three years of marriage and no place left to go. Outside the desert simmers in a broiling heat. There seems no escape. No way in. No way out. Trapped by their circumstances, they sit emmeshed in the hum of air conditioning and accumulated detritus of over three decades married. My god, how they feasted on each other in those early days! Starved now for affection. Compassion. Comprehension. They wait in their chrome and black-marble kitchen, time elongating. The jagged edges of their narrative have inflicted new and deeper wounds—the lifeblood of their relationship seeping away. Neither able or willing to stop the bleeding. Anymore. This latest confrontation the net result of so many others. It’s clear, they face a future entirely divorced from the one to which they pledged. How? How did they devolve from elation to desolation? How did they come to be languishing in their emotional desert where nothing thrived anymore? …

the echo between passing hills

Me Why can’t I have time in your space? Why must I stand outside looking in through frosted glass? You enter me. Greedily. Devouring. Taking. I reach, but your air ices. You It’s a whirr. A sound that I swat away like mosquitoes hissing. A chilled breeze. An apparition without form. Me My ribs are cracking in your vacuum. This want feels skeletal, slithering through me like lichen, sun starved. Where is your warmth? Touch? Why does this always happen, to me. Connections that fray like severed synapses. Electricity that sizzles then deadens, narcotized? You What does this person want? Always. Clinging. Cloying. Clawing. You’re cacti, and my skin is a rash. No. Not cacti. Too assertive. You’re a pale rose, six days past the sell-by-date, blackening. Steve Gerson, an Emeritus English Professor from the Midwest, writes poetry and flash about life’s dissonance. He has published in Short Beasts, Panoplyzine, Crack the Spine, Decadent Review, Vermilion, In Parentheses, Wingless Dreamer, Big Bend Literary Magazine, Coffin Bell, and more, plus his chapbooks Once Planed Straight; Viral; …

Prophesies

We’d sit in the diner for Sunday suppers, surrounded by grease fire and bellowed orders for fried chicken and giblet gravy. Grandpa held court at the head of our table, like Ezekiel, prophesizing about exile. “I’ve seen it all, boys, and it ain’t pretty, believe me All Mighty, but we got us some hope, I tell you,” crossing his heart, him in his rolled-up dress shirt, starched as stiff as the gospel, as holey as Palm Sunday. With his dinner fork held aloft as a scepter, he’d preach forgiveness from Colossians 3:13, saying in hushed tones over his grits, “Bear with each other, boys, and forgive one another, even if you’ve got some damned grievance, ya hear?” Or he’d lash out at sinners (forgetting all about forgiveness, I guess). “You remember your Psalms, like 145:20, where the Lord says He’ll destroy them wicked ones,” and gramps would wipe the waffle syrup off his whiskers. I’d see travelers in the diner come and go like calendar pages turning, like pilgrims to a shrine. They’d nurse a …

Toothpaste for 36

“You brought me toothpaste?” “Yeah. It could have been worse.” “Than toothpaste?” Gail closes her mouth. The party starts in an hour and she hasn’t started getting ready. Evan watches her rub her tongue across her teeth. Maybe she hasn’t brushed her teeth yet, he thinks. Gail turns her head. Her blonde hair edges over her shoulders. She opens her mouth and inserts a fingernail. “Everyone will be here in an hour.” “I know, I’ll, I’ll.” “You’ll take the toothpaste to the bathroom. I know I’m only turning thirty-six, but Evan, toothpaste?” Evan drags himself into the living room, down the hallway and into the bathroom. He places the tube on the sink and looks at himself in the mirror. He doesn’t bother to turn the light on so the shadows and the guilt make him look old. Haggard. Archaic. He turned thirty-three last month. Gail found an old fountain pen for him that he loves and uses every day. He closes his laptop just to use the pen. He throws his right hand to …

Homage

Harry lifted his head and pointed his chin at the face of the Ferté-sous-Jourre monument. The imposing white Massangis limestone commanded attention in the French town square. It resembled a three-panelled photo frame, its only images letters of sorrow. It glowed peach with the going down of the sun. There was a jolt in his chest when he discovered the name. It was towards the top of the right-hand column, beside a rust-coloured stain. He laughed, tear-like. In that moment of recognition, he felt an overwhelming need to share the story of John Cokley. To tell with pride and sadness how on the first day of the Great War, during the first engagement with the enemy at Mons, his great-grandfather was missing, presumed….by two o’clock on an August afternoon by the locks along the Mons-Condé canal. Only his surviving comrades would be protected by the Angels of Mons. But he was alone on grey cold steps. Instead, he bowed in reverence and offered up a prayer, his gaze falling upon the area of his body …

TikToktastrophe

Ophelia held both hands in a straight line beneath her chin and tilted her head slightly to the left. It was her thirteenth or fourteenth time running through her version of the new TikTok dance she was about to post. The lengthy rehearsal was necessary. Ophelia was an insane perfectionist about all things social media, from the dance moves to the fit. And today’s fit was, indeed, fire. She wore a pair of peach Forever 21 biker shorts hiked up to accentuate her waist and lift her butt, plus a silver tri-back sports bra that held everything in just right. Ophelia pictured the comments she was going to get and caught her breath. Calm down. One more time through the choreography and she’d be good to go. Ophelia mouthed the words to “Sequin Baby” as she practiced in front of her iPhone which sat in silent appraisal on the dresser. After a few false starts, she tapped the screen to begin the performance for real. This time she captured the fluid, flirty flow she’d been …

Outlaw

[For Jean-Luc Godard] They were going to lock me up. I said, ‘Fuck it.’ It didn’t make any difference to me. I’d been locked up on the outside this whole time too. They didn’t know it—but I knew it. It was burned in me like a swastika tattoo, like a concentration-camp serial number, same difference. The prisons were moving outward just as the continents had lost their land masses and turned into islands. And still it wasn’t yet Christmas. This is 2000-plus years later from something but I’m wearing a gray slim-fit suit. I’ve got a Fedora on my head. I smoke cigarettes constantly and let them burn up my throat and lungs. I’m planning an early escape. It’s my modus operandi—to breathe less than your average sub, your average subhuman as I’ve been cast. Who cast me? It doesn’t matter. It’s not my lot to complain. I’m leaving town today. I’m trying to leave town. I may even go to Rome but don’t let that get out. These fuckers will follow me everywhere. Anyway …

Peck. Peck. Peck.

If ever Viv wanted to disappear, now was the time. Thirty-one teens sat in plastic chairs before wooden tables and stared at Remington keyboards. A hefty woman with a band leader’s baton barked commands from the back of the portable building that served as a classroom. Viv’s nerves did not allow her brain to process Sister Felicia’s words. On her left Viv saw the hands of a boy move to an expectant pose over the typewriter keys. Viv mimicked his hand stance as best she could. The fingers of her good right hand curved over the metal letters while her stupid left hand’s fingers seemed glued together and bent upward with her thumb moving nervously over the space bar. The girl to her right offered her the flicker of a smile, and Viv began counting her breaths. The clicks of Sister’s heels back and forth at the rear of the classroom fell into rhythm with Viv’s inhales and exhales. Zydeco…zydeco…zydeco beats filled her head. 
 Viv heard Paul Newman’s laugh as she looked out her …

Beyond the Light of the Fire

The boy sucked the last cold chip from the park bin and crept back to his bed under the bridge. The new month had orange eyes and brought with it a scent of winter. Crisp packets and empty cans slept in the crevices. A stray was sitting on his cardboard and hissed. He sighed and hoped when he turned 12 he’d get more respect. “That’s my bed, but mooj over a wee bit and I’ll share with you.” As he crouched to pet its head, the cat waddled off. He slumped and felt a lump. Dug a hand under. A finger. It was chewed around the edges but hadn’t been dead for long. Flakes of skyblue polish still on the nail. He sniffed. Warm perfume behind the knuckle. A smile surfaced – this was the luck he’d been waiting for. He hid it under his armpit and waited for the pink scratch of morning. After the street emptied of footsteps, he dug a hole between thorn bushes and weeds and planted the finger. Days… weeks… …

Body Parts

The boy got his fear of the hospital from his grandfather, who when he came to visit would often complain that his doctor was threatening to chop off another body part. His grandfather was missing two fingers on one hand and a thumb on the other, and the last time he had come to visit he said they were after his foot. So when the boy got sick, and his parents asked him if he would like to go to the hospital, the boy shook his head and said no. Still, he heard his parents outside his bedroom debating whether they should take him anyway. His mother thought it was a good idea, because he was “delirious” and “running a fever,” but his father wanted to wait until morning and see how he was doing then. “And what if he comes to us in the middle of the night?” his mother asked. “Then I’ll take him myself,” his father replied. That night, the boy had a dream. His neighbor, a nurse, snuck into the house …

Fated Reality

The darkened sky descended early upon the misty autumn trees. Icy pellets held fast to the shrinking maple leaves. Avery Livingston glanced about the deserted array of sweeping trees speckling the thick, overgrown forest. With a damp chill in the frosty air, the calls of the summer birds had long been forgotten among the rolling hills. Where was she? How did she get to this strange and desolate place? It had to be a mistake! Frozen in time—in this forsaken place. Silence easing its way in until it finally reached her deceptive ears. She was alone. All alone. Far away from the world she once knew—warm, friendly, filled with love and happiness. But now it was all gone—gone to the point of no return. Could this possibly be the end? Avery’s memory swam in circles. Heaviness weighed on her mind. What had happened? She closed her blurry eyes. Her labored breathing had slowed. Almost to a halt. A single tear made its way down, past the sticky blood clinging to the enormous gash on her …

Origins: A Family Story In Flashes

1. My private cosmology—it seems my parents had sex when I wasn’t looking and so created me. From then on, I saw all that I know. I know exactly when Bill and I created James. I logged it on a paper chart. James and Jordan had Noa when they weren’t supposed to be getting pregnant (wildly dangerous). Then our juicy piece of fruit, Noa, defying all, arrived through Covid, being underweight, other perils. Now there’s a maybe baby in a surrogate woman in Wisconsin. So my world, my private universe began and continues. Thus goes Joanna’s cosmos. 2. MY MOTHER The sheets are snapping in the wind on my mother’s clothesline, from the patio to the end of the lawn. The pulley’s screeching when we pull the wash in. A heaping, the rumple fills willow basket. Some days our wash smells like the first breath of air—so wide with clean—I want to walk around in it. In winter the winds freeze our wash. My father’s gray work shirts, pants, our nightgowns, our dresses all stiff …

Gretchen

Hers is the kind of name that belongs exclusively to grandmothers, and Gretchen Morris didn’t grow into it until her mid-seventies. Before that, she wore her name like an oversized hand-me-down, warm and snug, but not quite flattering. She watched herself float through life, a specter who was there but only ever partly. She went to all twelve years of school and four years of college, officially moved out of her parents’ house, applied to her first job and a succession of other jobs, met a guy, broke up, met another guy, had the relationship fizzle out and die, broke up, met yet another guy, got married, and bore two kids. The cycle repeated as they too went through school, college, and alas, heartbreaks. And it wasn’t that she hated the cycle. It was fine. The cycle gave her summer holidays and shared laughter with colleagues; it gave her two wonderful men she was proud to call her sons, and a husband whom she later outlived, but otherwise loved. She wasn’t miserable either, or at …

Hyacinth

I stand in the circle and my back faces the direction of my throw. My feet are squared. My weight shifts from leg to leg. I never look back at the wedge of green stretched far behind me. Still, I see it spread out behind my eyelids. I begin to pass the discus back and forth with each shift of my weight. Left. Right. Left. Right. I open my eyes. I swing my right arm and search for my rhythm. I see my teammates in front of me. Some joke around. Some others are lost in thought. And a few have their eyes fixed on me. They know my wind up will soon begin. They hold their water bottles but do not drink. I sense their emotions. Nervous. Hopeful. Doubtful. Waiting. In a way, not so different from how they look at every teammate when they throw. How I look at them. But it feels different to me. Coach. His eyes narrowed in a squint. I can’t tell what he’s thinking. If she wants to …

Big Familia

There were shrieking, curdling, gulping, bleating cries combined with hurried shouts and panting. And clucks. The patchy green property flowed down a hill into a white fence leading to an elk preserve at the foot of Wyoming’s Teton mountain range. My brother-in-law got drunk multiple times on the trip and hopped the white fence hoping for some headspace in elk and bear territory. My brother David was rounding first base during our wiffleball game, the eighth of the trip, as I jogged home from third – getting pegged with a plastic wiffleball by one of my pre-teen nephews was a more favorable outcome than outright sprinting and dissolving any sense of athleticism I still held with them. Seven goats roamed the property with fifteen chickens, twelve ducks, five turkeys, a few hissing geese, two ranch hands, and thirty members of my immediate family – my four siblings and I plus our spouses, parents, and their eighteen grandkids. I avoided a fluffy tangerine-colored rooster and almost slipped in its droppings as David rounded second, a train …

Your Secret

You know I know your secret. What you don’t know is that I’ve known it for some time. You thought I only found out that night, when you were indiscreet after one too many glasses of wine. When you looked at him, over the top of your glass, and then looked away. And then you reached out as he was leaving, and with a casual, yet tender brush of your fingers, you removed some stray cat hair from his jacket. It was the ultimate giveaway. You see, I know he doesn’t have a cat and you do. Then you caught my eye. Caught me watching you. You smiled back at me. I had been watching you a lot that evening. Do you remember? I had seen the way you flirted. You think because you do it to everyone nobody will notice when you hone in on him. Do you remember the way you were flirting with me? You also touched me, on the knee, on the arm, but it was never intimate, I never had …

A Study in Paisley

Ever look at a drop of water through a microscope? —In biology class, like everybody else. Why do you ask? Because I’m convinced it can’t be a coincidence. —What? The resemblance between the ciliated unicellular organisms you see frolicking in moisture under magnification and the figures on paisley shirts. Remember paisley shirts? —Vaguely. They were big when we were in high school. As a matter of fact, I happened to be wearing one the night I attracted the notice of a man with no lips. —You exaggerate. Not a bit. In place of a mouth, he had only the hint of a slit, so that I didn’t take it as a compliment when I caught him staring at me in the subway. —I don’t suppose you were dumb enough to encourage him by sustaining eye contact? Even as a kid, I knew better than that. On the reasonable assumption he was a lunatic, I looked straight back down at Madame Bovary. —That’s not a book anybody of my acquaintance would have been reading in high …

Just A Crack

The bedroom door was open again. Just a crack, a hair, as his mom used to say. Dim light from the hallway shone through, momentarily distracting him from the fact that it was open. Hadn’t he closed it earlier, though? Not all the way, just slightly over the frame. Sighing, he got out of bed to close it over again, shutting if fully this time. An undetermined amount of time passed. He woke up to the sound of the door opening. Again, not by him. But not all the way, just a crack. Now he was afraid. But it was just the door, and his own hallway beyond. Matthew Spence was born in Cleveland, Ohio. His work has most recently appeared at Bluepepper.com.

Raising Again

Both Eva and Girl, who was the human’s small, amber-coated mix of a best friend, howled atop the roof of the only place they’d ever known as home. For the man who’d placed them there before the waves had taken him away. For the rains that had broken for the first time in a week to come back and take them, too. But it was already done. The man was long gone, and the water was receding. As they looked to the sky, the moon performed a miracle. It returned. It seemed braver upon its arrival. Bolder. Somehow more alive than before. So alive that it didn’t stop when it filled to its brim with its splendid light. Soon, it spilled into the rest of the timid sky. Glowing. Burning. Like the sun. There was such an abundance of brightness that Girl hid her eyes in the creases of Eva’s soaked jeans. When she peeked again, she saw that the light wasn’t only of the moon. The stars, which had been among the first to …

Can You Blame Me for Holding On?

It was the first of November. We sat in the drizzling rain on the hood of your broken-down Malibu. Parked outside the Taco Bell at the intersection of Secor and Central, I’d just overdrafted my bank account to buy you dinner for the last time. You ordered a Crunchwrap Supreme and cinnamon twists; I ate from the dollar menu. You wanted to share a drink, I wanted to share the past. The temperature set to drop any day, it was no secret what the end of autumn would bring: broken records and cell phone screens. The sharp chill didn’t stop you wearing a green dress, denim jacket. You wanted the night—the season finale of our failed history—to be cordial. The sun began its retreat behind the silhouette of the revival theater. Above us, a small patch of light in the clouds. A dry moment. An onset of violet and raw sienna. Fresh nails, Jack-O’-Lantern pattern, you sifted through the packets of hot sauce and read aloud their messages with the reverence of a fortune cookie …

Why read flash? Why write it?

We’re not here to convince you to write flash fiction, nor to read it. But you should. Upon first learning about flash fiction, it seems full of possibility for being annoying, fun, thought-provoking, and just maybe satisfying, for both readers and writers. At the very least, it can be a daily reading or writing ritual without requiring a major time commitment. For a writer, flash might seem like an easy way to get published. But it’s not. Flash pieces must grab, arc, involve, connect, and conclude in an uber short story. It is a tall order. At the same time, writing flash can be very productive, regardless of whether you intend to publish the works. It presents the opportunity to express the stories (or even just phrases) gnawing at the back of your mind without forcing a long-term time-suck. For those who dislike writing traditional short stories, flash offers an appealing way to tell a story and inspire new perspectives. Plus, it provides the chance to explore different styles or craft techniques without messing up …