Latest Stories

Origins: A Family Story In Flashes

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.

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 as boards. We lay them in a pile like a stack of bodies in the garage, wrinkles frozen like long bones.

I begged my father to let me go on the roller coaster at five, maybe six years old. My older sister had just gone. He gave in, bought two tickets. Just him and me. The bar snapped down across our seat, the car creaked up the old wood rails, clicking up, pausing. Each creaky click brought more sickening fear to me. My father held me tight, sad that he had misjudged giving me a thrill. We went over the top and swerved hard one way, then the other, down the terrifyingly steep drops. Higher again then flung down terrifying peaks. “Scream Jo,” he shouted to me. “Scream as loud as you want.” But I had no sound in me.

I visit my sister barefoot in the morning, crossing painted red steps in front of our adjoining front doors. Or she crosses her back garden, comes up the back steps to my small porch where we sit and listen to the trees stir, the cicadas sing. I’ve alighted here temporarily camped out in someone else’s walls and problems. This untethering keeps me slightly off the earth, out of the ordinary. In this neighborhood of painted wood houses in contrasting saturated colors, of trees, backyards, small porches, insect song, rain falling, I visit my sister barefoot a few times a day.

My father’s bones. I have a 12 X 8 full-length X-ray of my father’s bones. When I look at this portrait of my father’s bones—I feel the familiarity of him. The bend in his body to one side that happened over the years is there. A sadness too that no other image brings. My sister, says, “It’s a heart stopping thing. I remember collecting it at the records window at the hospital and the tears spurting out. The young black guy behind the window saying to me, ‘Hard as it is coming into this world, you think it’s easy getting out?’”

Joanna Clapps Herman has had 40 publications during the Covid era—some are poems or micro prose pieces: in Odyssey PM, MUTHA, Pummerola, The Ocean State Review, Italian Americana, Persimmon Tree, Fatal Flaw Literary Magazine. Her book length publications include, When I am Italian: Quando sono italiana, exploring the question of whether it’s possible to be Italian if you weren’t born in Italy, No Longer and Not Yet and The Anarchist Bastard: Growing Up Italian in America. She has co-edited two anthologies; Wild Dreams and Our Roots Are Deep with Passion.


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 least, not more miserable than her next-door neighbor. Still, whenever she introduced herself, and God knew how many times she had to do that, the syllables never rolled off right. “I’m Gretchen,” she’d said in her first parent-teacher conference, and the teacher had smiled but Gretchen could see the thought she immediately had: ‘what kind of young woman has the name Gretchen?’.

Then, Gretchen turned old, and everything fell into place. It happened slowly, as old age does, starting with the first strands of white hair that overtook her head. Most women cried at the sight, but she thought they looked like the onset of a crown, like the first flakes of snow on a boring stretch of earth. Her body changed to finally fit the name she was given. It hung perfectly from her stooped shoulders, and she realized that her wrinkled arms filled the extra fabric the way her toned muscles never did.

When Gretchen now stands in front of the mirror, she doesn’t see a ghost anymore. She sees a woman who has lived through more than seventy birthdays but no longer has to ask what the purpose of birthdays is. Her eyes shine a little brighter, and the world, somehow, seems more beautiful from behind her black reading glasses.

“I’m Gretchen,” she says to the little girl that her second granddaughter Mabel brings home. “But please, call me Grannie.”

Erica Fransisca is an Indonesian-based freelance writer who studied English Literature at the University of East Anglia. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Anak Sastra, Paragraph Planet, 101 Words, and Five Minutes. Find her at


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 play at being a boy, what to do I care? he told my parents. Then he just shrugged. I wasn’t supposed to hear. But I did.

Then I find the rhythm. I’m dialed in. When I was on the girls team I never quite tuned in to that groove. And I begin to wind up. I swing my right arm back, the discus now vertical. I’m balanced on my right foot and the ball of my left. Winding up the tension. Tightening my muscles, a snake coiled with intent to strike. I’m committed. There’s no turning back now.

I’m not on the girls team anymore.

My swing begins. My weight shifts to my left foot and my right leg comes off the ground at the same time as I begin to spin. Perfect balance is required. I have practiced this move thousands of times and I will for thousands more. Believe it. But right now, I am only in the moment. Or maybe outside the moment. I feel my muscles uncoil. I feel the rotational force of my swing. I balance on my left foot like a top, held upright by opposing forces.

A throw only lasts a few seconds. Most people think there’s not much to throwing a discus. How hard could it be? It’s just a heavy frisbee. I think of my throw like an enso. The uninterrupted swirl of the brush leaves the circle on the paper but my throw leaves even less for the universe to remember — apart from the final measure of the distance as proof that on this one day I stood here, that on this one day I threw my discus. That on this one day I was present.

My right foot plants. My power position. Two thirds through the rotation now.

They will measure the distance of the throw and claim they can tell what kind of boy I am. Someone will say, last place. What a sissy. Or maybe I will be in the middle of the pack. Those who lose to me jeered. Those who beat me relieved. But what if I this throw, this time, what if I beat them all? What will they say then? Maybe you really can judge someone from a single throw. But I doubt it.

I rotate my right hand, leveling the discus, anticipating the release. My left foot touches the ground just after the right. I feel the discus roll across my index finger as it leaves my hand. It’s on its own now. All that’s left is for me to spend the remaining force by spinning in place. I land facing outwards down the field.

The discus is still in the air. My teammates watching now behind me. Their mouths hanging open, their eyes fixed on the discus. But I keep my eyes shut. The throw felt good.

Good throw kid. Coach. A few kids cheer. Most say nothing.

The only thing on my mind is my next throw.

Geoffrey Marshall is a writer in Aurora, Canada. He knows just enough to be dangerous (mostly to himself) in several different fields. You can find his work in the September 2022 issue of MoonPark Review as well as The Ansible and Academy of the Heart and Mind. Upcoming work will appear in an episode of the Kaidankai podcast and A Thin Slice of Anxiety. His education never really took, through no fault of his instructors (debatable) but he did manage to acquire a BA in English Literature from Carleton University. Find him on twitter @g_k_marshall.

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 of five- to nine-year-old nephews chased behind, hurling the ball as he slid into third. Some of the younger ones collapsed, screaming the phrase “not fair” more than I’d heard since teaching at an all-boys catholic high school. The sun was in its first move toward the mountain peaks, signaling the end of the day, and right at the level to shine on the wooden white Adirondack chairs lined up next to the first-base line. My wife, sisters, mom, and sister-in-law, the group my dad called “the girls,” drank wine, periodically kicking a pecking hen away. If it were a pointillism painting, their Nike shorts and plain Target t-shirts would look more formal, but in my view, it looked more like east Texas had come to town. I laughed when my sister Mary Claire suggested a Bordeaux instead of my mom’s boxed wine – and laughed harder when she described the Bordeaux as “robust.”

Everyone in their place, even the ranch hands Rex and Connor ran out to join the game, which got my dad to come try his hand at pitching, an audience for his past-prime athleticism in cut-off scrub shorts. But as I crossed home plate, a central figure caught my eye. In front of the chair line of crossed-legged women and wine glasses, but far enough away from the pasture playing field, light flickered through the dancing Aspen tree leaves onto two baby blankets. The two youngest kids, Mary Margaret and Elodie, swam in place, rolling over to giggle or spit or a handful of grass they’d pull up. But next to them, my nephew Tommy stretched across the softer of the blankets, leaning on his elbow and crossing his legs. His mom, my sister Katie, asked him to join the game, but he was nursing an injury from a Netflix binge the day before and felt tired. He lifted a handful of something in the air, and I watched as the sun set on my family, my feet covered in chicken shit and my dad yelling at someone to toughen up, and Tommy letting a handful of Cheeto-puffs fall into his titled mouth, giggling and crunching before a goat came staring with its rectangular pupil.

C.E. O’Banion is a 32-year-old writer and father of two living in Baton Rouge, LA. His work can be found in The Southern Review, Whalebone Magazine, and a few newspapers here and there. His debut novel Chinese New Year is coming out December of 2022. He is a writer who has previously worked as an attorney, cake decorator, teacher, and nursing home director. He’s been fired from two. You can find more of his work on his website.

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 your full attention. You were acting out a role. Flirting with his best friend, while looking at him. It wasn’t subtle.

Although now I think you wanted me to find out. Didn’t you? I think you were fed up of all the secrecy, all the stress of arranging times to meet. You’re both married to other people, it can’t have been that easy.

I’m not married, as you know, it would be so much easier to have an affair with me.

And now you know that I know, I’m wondering what you will offer me to keep quiet?

But don’t worry, your secret is safe with me.

You see, I have a little secret of my own. You’re not the only one with a cat.

Terri Mullholland (she / her) is a writer and researcher who grew up in the West Country and is now living in London. Her flash fiction has appeared in various journals and anthologies, including Litro, Flash Fiction Magazine, Toasted Cheese, The Liminal Review, Mercurious, and Analogies & Allegories Literary Magazine. When she is not writing, she can be found curled up with a cat and a good book. Find her latest on Twitter: @Lesley_Cat

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.


The resemblance between the ciliated unicellular organisms you see frolicking in moisture under magnification and the figures on paisley shirts. Remember paisley shirts?


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 school.

I wasn’t reading it, I was studying its cover, on which a greasy type with a twirled mustache and bushy side-whiskers was peering over the plump bare shoulder and down into the cleavage of a woman in a billowy dress.

—That’s why you bought it—for the cover?

Who said I bought it? It wasn’t mine. It belonged to Marian S., the girl I was returning from a date with. No, take that back. It didn’t just belong to her, it was an extension of her person. Every page of it was imbued with her fragrance.

—So you stole it from her—is that what you’re saying?

Nothing of the kind. She lent it to me, in connection with a commitment she’d made to raise my level of civilization.

—What made her think your level of civilization needed raising?

She lived in the Village in a brownstone. Her parents taught college. I lived in the Bronx in a housing project. My parents worked in the post office.

—I see. And it didn’t bother you to be condescended to in this way?

Not by her. I was only too happy to be pizza dough in her hands. Why do you think I was wearing that paisley shirt? For shit sure not because I liked it.

—But to get back to the lipless man who was also susceptible to that shirt …

By all means.

—I assume he was still staring at you the next time you raised your eyes from your book?

Worse than that, when I got off at my station, he followed me down into the street.

—It was night, you say?

And foggy.

—I bet you never ran so fast.

Alas, he turned out to be faster and ended up leaving me with no choice but to stab him with the pocketknife I failed to scare him off with. Luckily for me, the cops didn’t put any effort into clearing the case, no doubt because—as the papers reported—he was an escapee from Bronx State Hospital with a long record of assaults. I’m only confessing to the homicide now because the statute of limitations has expired.

—You seriously expect me to believe such a preposterous story?

Not for a minute. All the same, it’s a good deal more interesting than what actually happened.

—Which was?

Nothing. When I looked up from my book the second time, the lipless loony was gone, never to be seen by me again, except in an occasional nightmare.

—So what you’re telling me is that—apart from this complete nonevent—you made it home without incident from your civilizing date?

That’s about right. Since nobody had bothered to wait up for me, I didn’t even have to fend off the usual questions on my way to my room to snort Madame Bovary.

Stephen Baily has published short fiction in New Pop Lit, Bullshit Lit, Ink Sac, Mercurius, and some fifty other journals. He’s also the author of eleven plays and three novels, including Markus Klyner, MD, FBI (Fellow Traveler Press, 2021). He lives in France.

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

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 flee—after the birds—had found their way back, too.

But they seemed off. Weak. Confused. Forgetting to float overhead. Instead, they fell.

Crashing and bouncing. And, then, they died. Their light diminished.

Eva held Girl and tried her best to shelter the both of them as the curious fragments of the sky stormed upon and around them.

The celestial corpses dinged against Eva’s arms and dug into Girl’s back. Some smacked the tin on which the pair sat, and others landed onto the soggy ground and into the few oaks that remained rooted in the bleeding soil.

When the world went quiet, finally, Eva and Girl waited.

They watched above, below, and to their sides, their bodies so close they couldn’t tell which heart’s rhythm belonged to which body.

But nothing more came. Not in the immediate seconds that followed. Or in the minutes after that.

Eva got up and walked warily across the dented roof, and Girl trotted behind.

The human girl bent down and touched the just-gone stars. At her touch, they blinked. But went out again.

Girl nosed a few herself, becoming closer with the scent she had believed, only a few minutes gone, she and Eva would very well know.

Eva used her foot to sweep the surrounding stars into a pile, and, then, she picked them up—one and then another and collected them in the cradle of her small arms.

Slowly, these stars, sensing life, began to glow.

Seeing this, she added more. All those she could see and reach. Ones she, herself, picked up and ones Girl placed at her feet.
Eva, with her arms stuffed full of stars, turned to Girl and was so bright it looked as if she were holding the moon itself.

Girl howled at the stars her human had raised again. But this simple act of barking wasn’t enough. Girl put her head down and squatted against the tin. Then, she raised her head and called as far up into the sky as she could reach.

A prayer.

A thanksgiving.

Eva began howling herself, letting loose the fear and sadness she contained.

She threw her hands in the air, sending her bundle of burning stars back into the sky. And there they remained, floating higher and higher—all the way up until they were back beside the moon.

In their place. In their home.

At the edge of the roof, Eva and Girl looked out into their world.

Above the graveyard of flickering stars, bright, beautifully glowing ones were shooting back up into the sky. To try again.

Perhaps, believing that, with this time, it might be right.

Eva placed her hand softly on Girl’s head, stroking the insides of her friend’s ears and watching beautiful show. Of light. Of reclaimed life. Of the world being put together again by those who remained.

Eva and Girl were so very tired, but they knew what it was they had to do.

Although it was still dark and hard to see, the spreading light from above would guide their way.

Bradley Sides is the author of Those Fantastic Lives: And Other Strange Stories. His recent fiction appears, and is forthcoming, in BULL, Ghost Parachute, Psychopomp, and Superstition Review. He is an MFA candidate at Queens University of Charlotte and lives in Florence, Alabama, with his wife. For more, visit

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 prophet. “Do it with passion or not at all.” “I’m not just another pretty face.” “Can you blame me for holding on?” You couldn’t look me in the eye; I couldn’t release the breath trapped in my lungs. We waited for the dark. We waited for the rain to return and redeem us.

Nathan Elias is the author of the novel Coil Quake Rift and the short story collection The Reincarnations (Montag Press 2021/20).

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 your in-progress book’s voice or flow.

Pre-reading flash pieces for another journal, I recall our team earnestly reading submissions, each person giving equal consideration to every story. Some stories connected, many did not. This is why flash is not necessarily an easy ticket to being published (which is where it can be annoying, especially if you think you eloquently hammered out something really good), for as with longer literary works, flash can be largely subjective. It either connects or it doesn’t.

We do our very best to choose pieces based on literary merit rather than subjectivity. Craft plays a role, as does heart, and by heart I’m talking about connection. And that’s the rub, the hard task of keeping subjectivity down while listening to your heart and mind, and feeling stories for connection.

That’s what Short Beasts wants. We don’t so much go for wow. We go for feel. Because we believe feeling is what makes flash work, what makes it worthwhile.

You decide what feel means. Adrenalin-inducing, heart-stopping electromagnetic word shock, romance or bromance or girlmance, mind-bending simulation, or what have you. (Just don’t be interesting.)

Short Beasts is open for submissions.