Flash Fiction / Prose Poetry

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.

The Forbidden City – Beijing, China

Deborah Guzzi

Beijing’s north wind skewers bundled tourists rushing through the gates of the Forbidden City. A late afternoon, mushroom-orange, smog descends upon the capitalist infestation. Bug-eyed, the travelers scatter as parade troops enter: link arms, push them under eaves, and against walls. Make way, the leader growls, important people coming—not you, as a diplomatic entourage rolls past in flag-waving Mercedes. A riotous veneer of red-lacquer anxiety crackles through the gilt of the courtyard; a Kafkaesque scene unfolds.

bile rises
in the back of throats:
goose-steps ring

The group’s whisperers animate when the military leave. Elderly women peek into non-public areas behind grime-etched windows. They cluck, and tut-tut, at the pieces of teak furniture piled high, draped in rags and dust. The guide gestures toward the grand courtyard where “The Last Emperor” was filmed. The artful elegance of what was, now, a carapace, valueless to its owners, except for the yuan the gwai lo tourist trade brings.

The late start limits the time which can be spent in the hollow undecorated rooms. A New York Indian couple bemoan the fading sunlight and lost opportunities. Dwarfed by the architecture of the building, and the entering police cars; the group scatters, disturbed like wasps in a hive. The guide’s attempt to lasso the laggards meets with only minor success. Reality has, yet again, not lived up to the New Yorker’s imagination. They are hesitant to leave without their rupee’s worth.

speakers blare on
the police car in the park:
the bus is running

Kentucky Coal Mines

Maya White-Lurie

littered with canary bones, feathers and beaks swallowed by asthmatic shafts. Abandoned mine land’s muscles lean close, fingers curl into palm, never let go. Where birds kept singing, tunnels stretched deep, wooden support forests grew so well in that dark. Children heed stay out stay alive, magnates wind through sediment toward swelter.

Delicious

Lori Brack

The rind flat on the pavement is by chance a circle—whole but empty where she shimmied out of her skin-tight skin. Around the corner, naked Clementine hangs out on a concrete ledge. She would swing her legs if she had any, puckered around her empty center, bold as anything under the sun’s blaze. When night turns cold, Clementine shivers her regret for peeling off there in the street, wishes she had not left so loose her spicy attire behind. She is sticky-sweet and irresistible to the wasp, his gold tooth shine disappearing inside.

The Mexican Conductor

Matthew Dexter

Meth made the miniature train more endurable as it careened through the mall. Children chased the caboose. Eyes full of diamonds and watermelons and blood, pointing with cotton candy dusted fingertips as the majesty blasts its convivial horn. I think of muchachos and muchachas who ride with their siblings or mothers or babysitters. How they bounce. How they should be lost in a cave with nothing but fire. How steel melts beneath the broken wings of fallen serpents.

The Mask of Night

Lorraine Schein

A sleep mask masks sleep so that it does not recognize and awaken her. But she can see it still, swirling under her eyelids, satin under the satin mask.

When she wakes up, a blind man is lying between her legs. His eyelids are sewn shut with her eyelashes. He says nothing but reaches for her.

He Buys a Revolver

Wendy Taylor Carlisle

A 9 MM is “quick and adept.” A shooter stands with his violent ears, in which devils are. The devils are we, the sad followers of the paranoid “what if.” Our leader, Satan, stands whispering in a little hidden section behind the tympani, behind the breathing meat in a visceral explosion of longing and terror, a confusion of focus.

This story has to be in someone else’s hand. I’m not brave enough to write out all this sadness. Moreover, this story has to be turned away from any beautiful dread, any sexy alarm, from excuses, from the biochemical shell game. The man-gun in this story is blank as le Chiffre, unmoored, drifting away from skin and heat, knowing without means, by need. The man in this story is not the other man; the gun is not one we do not own. We are all meat and millimeters. We are all at bay.

The Venus of Merchants

Robin Wyatt Dunn

Her body’s as wide as the tub; in her mouth a cigar. In her hair are bones. Her teeth gold. Gold also in the enamel on her nails. Wrapped tight round her neck, a blingy necklace studding the diamond word: MIDAS.

Her voice is a thousand metric tonnes. Her animal cry an engine so large it is kept in the basement, where it vibrates whole neighborhoods.

She is a memory of what was, and of what is coming to be.

The men stand around her and weep, pouring their wallets over her body, in devotion, and in humility, to abase themselves before her. She accepts it all, as the best temple whore, with her secret god she keeps inside, of no name at all. The escape god, like the escape hatch, unknown to her worshippers, perhaps it only is: the knowledge of the sham of it all.

Torrents of cash flood the basement; the dump truck scoots in, honking, turning Charleston Heston bodies in soylent-green-ways, turbulent and righteous it thrusts the men in their suits into the cement to make way for the promissory notes.

At the heart of the maelstrom, she is screaming.

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