Flash Fiction / Prose Poetry

Up On a High Shelf, the Living and the Dead

Len Kuntz

All her wigs are lined up by hue, each nestled atop a torso-less mannequin, just heads, and of course a sight like that can frighten anybody, especially a kid as young as me, yet I find a footstool from her closet to get a closer look where they sit like glass-eyed zombies, freaky, ghostly, these facsimiles of women who are not my mother. I recognize nothing but the tinny odor of her hairspray, remembering how that was always the last application after her shower and wardrobing, accessorizing, checking makeup in the mirror. I am strong but I admit to missing her, to needing the warm wind of my mother’s breath down my neck as she napped. That time seems not so long ago, like night which was up and then gone, a curtain drawn then opened. So now I do the damndest thing. I close my eyes and rifle my fingers across the plastic cheeks of each mannequin. I picture skin and a face, pretty. I touch there but not the hair, the wigs which are styled perfectly.

We Knew Her To A Small Degree

Mercedes Lawry

She was a boulevard of a woman, with black-eyed dreams and absent tears. She’d carried a bastion of troubles in her doughy hands, crushed and creased them into fine grains. This was long before her lies caught up with her. Her terrors were mauled and buried deep, no lingering voices, no midnight gasps. Her cloud of hair could have housed a welter of wildlife, small enough to hide, sharp enough to bite. The green of her walls was the green of her longing, chilly and somewhat related to nausea. She spoke in tercets when she spoke at all, not minding if no one paid heed and edged closer to the brick and stone of buildings, rough but silent. Her stories were knit by a madwoman, knotted by a drunken sailor, pounded down like cheap meat ought to be. The head of one and the tail of another. Bridges, burnt stew, apple rot, arguments. Quelled clamor, when sleep would come out of stolen grace. She was a woman thick with the slums of faraway countries, yet marvelous. We knew her only in pieces and plenty missing. We knew nothing of the glue that kept the pieces together, only that it was failing, losing its suck, and the pieces were falling erratically, one by one.

Blue Collar

Tatiana Ryckman

Don’t you sometimes comb your hair because it feels like the warm hand of affection? I don’t want to confuse things but it’s possible that nothing matters. I just mean, don’t bother gesticulating if it’s not going to be grand. Make your breakfast cereal tell me moonbeams shoot from the glory holes of my eyes. Your sneakers compete for my attention. The trees you cut into graves could at least invite me in. But what’s in a day? They pass like shit on a factory production line assembled by ladies with hairnets on their feet and men with two beers on their minds; who could you convince to care about an evaluation of these things, good/bad, like a reality television show competition about canned food in a church basement or convertible couches in the backs of vintage cars? You’re sleeping in the warehouse of my cellphone and I keep thinking about drowning it just to prove to you how much you want to get out.

Moratorium

Jefferson Navicky

“If you could do all that stuff and then be dead, I’d say do it.” I dreamed of writing the piece that started like this in the restive moments of waking this morning. It was funny and strange and about death, what would happen afterwards. I can’t remember it now, but I think I knew that would happen. It always does. But it was about this size, maybe a little bigger. If you can let yourself imagine, it was also quite a bit better than this one. I’d be grateful if you did that. Imagine it better. Please do.

From

Jennifer Gravley

I am from bruised thigh, junk drawer, box of borax on the top shelf. I am from vowel hard to pronounce, disordered creek bottom, bloody heel. I am from set of three. I am from formula, jar of baby teeth, sharp-bearded fish. I am from February, from Saturday, from many specifications of the abstractions time and space. I am from hand of my mother, bone of my mother’s ear, mother of my mother’s mother. From a tome of like characters. From filth, from undesirable car parts, from trundled spoilage.

Coelacanth

Diana Smith Bolton

Before the lizard gods, I was shaped from blue clay, my eight fins pinched, scales combed, gills lifted like crescents. I trembled my fins, tested my mouth on coral and young clownfish, dove deep. Above, lands shifted and crashed, drawing lava from my ocean floor. The reptiles rose and fell. Things began to take to the … is it air? New primates grew greedy. I dove deeper, leaving the shallows to those who dared go out in tree shells.

Prudence

Wendy Taylor Carlisle

the beginning and the greatest good is prudence
        —Epicurius

Its 94 at noon on a heated desert morning after two weeks of boutique and backroom antics with their scaly echo of that first gill-to-lung-sac thing crawled up from a polluted creek, antics that could only result in unreasonable headaches, love’s alarm disarmed, and end where no amount of languor can mask the bad girl whine from the pineal gland that knows-it-all when the subject’s betrayal and no amount of wishing can take back the clack of chips from the business isopods turning out their Travelsmith pockets at security. This story is my traveler’s tell-all, starts in idiot default. Dopamine disease, not failure, causes risky behavior. What’s the difference you ask, between my life and the lives of others who also smell of a place where the mermaid gave up her tail on her journey from fish to goddess—only a lifetime learning to hesitate, a modest Epicurean eye, the necessary mediation that tempers a wild urge, the hand that gives off a slight organic hint of fountain, leaves behind a wide-awake woman with her slide & scale & glisten.

Sheila

Zach Walchuk

I saw the first punch coming and was able to duck. Sheila had just come out of the blue house, the one that always smelled like smoke, and she was holding something in her hand. 

“Come look at this,” she said. 

“What is it?” 

“Come closer, take a look.” 

Five minutes earlier Sheila had been crying as she ran inside. Her knee sprouted a raspberry where she had hit the driveway, and for some reason it was my fault. Michael was there too, the fat one who lived in the purple house. I lived in the red house, although it wasn’t entirely red. We had both been chasing her when she tripped. 

“Get over here, you’ll like it.” She held her right hand in a tight fist. 

I walked to her even though I knew what she was doing. When the punch came it was easy to avoid. 

When the second punch came I stood there. It wasn’t any faster, I don’t know why I didn’t move. 

Maybe I had pushed her a little.

With a Little Help from My Friends

Steve Tomasko

“I am large, I contain multitudes.” —Walt Whitman

How, exactly, do I address you, Mixotricha paradoxa? The pronouns get caught in my throat. There’s the core of you—a paramecium sorta guy—but hairy. Those hairs, though, all quarter million of ‘em, are each tiny curlicue bacteria, other beings, rowing in synchrony, pushing you around that sludge inside the termite’s gut you call home. Who’s the coxswain? More little beasts live on your surface, others churn out energy inside, and all schlep together to help that termite digest wood. Are you four separate critters just hanging out inside another? Have you melded into one? Are you an I or a we? Are you contrived from genius, or spit out by random Darwinian thrusts of genes? And why in the world do you have your own Facebook page? How many people want to be your friend?

Viscera

Trace Ramsey

I was ten years old the first time I butchered an animal. It was early winter, the sun low and cold. I huffed from running after the beagles as they chased a rabbit. The dogs howled as they ran, spreading away from me, galloping feet tracing lines in the snow. I fired once at the rabbit as it crossed to my side. The ear ringing mark of the shotgun echoed among the maples and oaks, long clear of leaves. I ejected the shell, took in the metallic whisper of it. I stood sniffling from the cold, looking at the lump of gray fur that no longer moved. My stepfather came behind me as I stepped silently towards the rabbit.

I wedged the rabbit’s head into the crotch of a tree branch as my stepfather growled instructions. He was a cruel man, always ready to raise his voice and hands. This is the man who kicked my brother in the stomach for forgetting to flush the toilet, who threw me down a set of concrete steps for raking leaves incorrectly, who left bruises the size of oranges just below my mother’s elbows from where he grabbed her and forced her to answer to a slight. Out there among the brambles in the squat forest, he smacked the back of my head and pointed to where I should make the first cut.

I didn’t say prayers at the butchering, didn’t offer thanks. I didn’t think I needed to. My stepfather said it was only a rabbit. Earlier that morning, as I walked the forest on my own, I shot a white-throated sparrow for no reason. I took aim and blasted the small bird into fluff as it perched in a thicket. I had imagined, briefly, that the bird was my stepfather’s eye.

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