Charles Rammelkamp: Two Flash Fictions

What’s in a Name? 

_____Morna said, “Do you think he recognized me? Could you tell?”
_____I’d barely noticed the guy when he sailed past on his bike – a day-glo blue helmet, dark glasses. Who could tell what he saw? Besides, we were still in Morna’s car at the time, just pulled up to a meter.

**********

_____“We had a very brief affair,” Morna explained. “We were both on a panel judging a poetry contest. My marriage was at a low-point then, and there was a lot of alcohol involved. But I knew it wasn’t going anywhere. I didn’t really like him, to tell you the truth. He was a snob, so superior.

_____We were having a pizza after a political rally. Another anti-Trump event. These meetings get to be tiring after a while, the need to sustain my outrage, but Morna and I hadn’t seen each other for a while, so it was an excuse to get together for lunch.

**********

_____“He was married, too. I wonder if he still is. I don’t see how anybody could live with him, but Bob and I are still together, so who knows? How’s it with you and Fred?”
_____“Ted. We’re still married. Everything’s fine, actually. It’s been nineteen years. Wow. He’s my second husband. The twins are from my first marriage.”
_____“That’s right, Ted. How are the twins?”

                                                                        **********

_____“You really don’t think he saw me? Recognized me? I didn’t know he rode a bike. Well, it figures.”
_____“How do you mean?”
_____“He was always worried about his carbon footprint. Don’t get me wrong. I think that’s legitimate. It’s just that he’s, I don’t know. Wow, I hadn’t seen him in ten, fifteen years.”
_____“I really couldn’t tell if he saw us or not, Morna. What’s his name, anyway?”
_____“You know, I’ve actually forgotten! It might have been Ted, to tell you the truth. Or maybe Fred.”
_____I wondered how many affairs Morna’d had. She was forever complaining about Bob. She used to drink quite a lot, too.

 

Thank You for Being a Friend

_____In the men’s locker room, Buddy Haskell was sitting in one of the faux leather lounge chairs watching a re-run of an episode of The Rifleman, a black and white western that aired in the late 1950’s, early 1960’s, starring Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain. Buddy watched this show every Saturday morning at the gym. I’d just been for my swim and was headed toward the showers when I heard the kid on the show, Mark, Lucas McCain’s young boy, say, “I can even say all seven stanzas of ‘Sheridan’s Ride.’”
_____Wait, a TV show where a kid recites poetry? Were people just more literate back then, was reciting a poem on a TV show not a big deal? “Sheridan’s Ride,” a Civil War poem by Thomas Buchanan Read, a portrait painter as well as a poet, though more popular in Florence than the United States. Portraits of Lincoln, Longfellow, Tennyson, the Brownings, William Henry Harrison. “Sheridan’s Ride” among his most famous poems.
_____On The Rifleman, General Philip Sheridan had just ridden up to the McCain Ranch looking for a place to stay. Mark, who worshipped the man the way very young children admire army soldiers, began to recite, “Up from the south at break of day …” and through to the last line of the first stanza, “And Sheridan twenty miles away.”
_____But after one verse, Sheridan interrupted him. “Sheridan twenty miles away,” he scoffed. “Now that’s what a man gets for trying to serve his country. They write a poem about him!” An attitude that may be the most American of attitudes. Sneering at literature.
_____In real life, Sheridan was a career U.S. army officer, played a vital role in the Appomattox campaign that brought the Civil War to an end. He was also the one who initiated the scorched earth policy Sherman would later follow through Georgia to the sea.
_____After the war, Grant sent Sheridan out west where he fought in the Indian Wars – The Great Sioux War, the Red River War, the Ute War. Popular history credits Sheridan with saying, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”
_____In 1870 Grant sent Sheridan overseas to observe the Franco-Prussian War, and the next year he was in Chicago to coordinate military relief efforts during the Great Chicago Fire. In the 1880’s he became a great supporter of the Yellowstone area, preserving it from development. (later to become a national park, of course). .Sheridan died from a heart attack at the age of fifty-seven, in 1888, having just sent his memoirs to a publisher. He outlived Read by sixteen years, though obviously Read’s poem was still being read in the mid-twentieth century.
_____“Sheridan, what a bloodthirsty bastard he was,” I commented to Buddy, still marveling at how American history and literature’d been so casually part of a knock-off TV western.
_____Buddy grunted. We always greeted each other casually when we saw each other at the gym, not exactly friends but familiar, on a first-name basis.
_____“I figured he was a made-up character,” he said. “You never know, do you? The Golden Girls comes on next.”
_____A commercial for some kind of deodorant came on then, and I proceeded to the showers.

 

 

Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. A chapbook of poems, Jack Tar’s Lady Parts, is available from Main Street Rag Publishing. Another poetry chapbook, Me and Sal Paradise, has just been published by FutureCycle Press.

Genelle Chaconas: “Catch”

Catch

Her baseball, rusty-skinned, moldy, tossed high as the sun, arches towards someone in the dead weeds we can’t see; they break him into a sea of ragged, liquid shadows. The breeze wilts. That silence more hollow than emptiness, that sound like electric insects, forms. Who are you throwing it to, I ask. She doesn’t answer. I watch her chase into the high weeds until I cannot see.

 

 

Genelle Chaconas earned their BA in Creative Writing from CSUS (2009), and their MFA in Writing & Poetics from Naropa University (2015). Their first chapbook is Fallout, Saints and Dirty Pictures (little m Press, 2011), and Yet Wave (the Lune, 2017). They serve as head editor of HockSpitSlurp Magazine.

 

Nora E. Derrington: “Apologies to Zelda”

Apologies to Zelda

My therapist mentions dissociative episodes, and I think immediately of the moments just after I found out about my ex’s affair.
—–I watched from outside myself as I screamed at him, shoving stacks of previously important documents onto the floor. I saw myself as a creature of anger, a furious golem of flame instead of clay. I wanted to hurt him the way my pride—even then, I knew it was just my pride—had been hurt, and I threw a paperweight at his head. It flew wide, the heavy glass ball cracking the drywall three feet away from his left elbow.
—–The watching part of myself recoiled in dread as I picked up our long-haired dachshund mix, Zelda. I held her out at my husband, crying, “You’re breaking her heart!” She didn’t struggle, just tucked her feather-tail under her legs and turned to gaze at me with baleful eyes—and that look brought me back to myself. I managed to swallow my rage long enough to set her gently back down, to feel shame creeping in to douse the flames.
—–Cancer claimed Zelda not long after, before my ex found out I had planned to leave him all along. I will never stop wishing I could take that moment back. “I know, Zelda,” I want to tell her. “I don’t know why I did that, either.”

 

Nora E. Derrington holds degrees from Boston University and the University of New Mexico, and she currently teaches English at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. Her stories have appeared in Pilgrimage, The Future Fire, and elsewhere, and she reviews fantasy, horror, romance, and science fiction titles for Publishers Weekly.

 

Ran Walker: “A Closed Lid”

A Closed Lid


—–My mother ran into the den, terrified. My heart raced, as she, unable to speak, began to mime what she had just seen.
—–“Something’s in the bathroom?” I said, watching her point down the hall.
—–She nodded, moving her hand up and down like she was jiggling something.
—–“Something’s in the toilet!” I yelled.
—–This time she nodded so hard I thought she would make herself dizzy.
—–I jumped from the couch and approached the bathroom cautiously, several steps ahead of my mother.
—–Standing on either side, we stared at the closed toilet, unable to ignore the sounds of violent splashing within.
—–I instinctively put my foot on the lid, unsure if whatever was inside could push open the lid and run out into the house.
—–“What is it?” I asked, swallowing hard.
—–“A rat,” she deadpanned, her voice finally back.
—–It seemed as if the splashing was getting louder and louder.
—–“Did you try to flush it?” I asked.
—–“I’ll try—but keep your foot on the lid, okay?”
—–I nodded, more out of fear than obedience.
—–She leaned forward and cautiously pressed down on the handle, as if the motion might offend the thing inside. The familiar sound of the toilet’s flush filled the room.
—–Then silence.
—–We stood staring at the closed toilet, my foot still planted firmly on top.
—–“I guess we should look now,” I said.
—–“Wait,” she responded, running to the kitchen to grab a broom. When she returned, she lifted it, prepared to beat the hell out of whatever emerged.
—–I lifted the lid with sloth-like slowness until we could see the clear, empty toilet bowl.
—–Afterwards we laughed nervously about what had happened, but in the years that remained before I left home to go to college, I nervously looked down every time I used the bathroom, unable to shake the fear that something hairy might one day brush against me.

 

Ran Walker is the author of sixteen books. He is also the recipient of a Mississippi Arts Commission/NEA fellowship for creative writing and a Callaloo Writers Workshop fellowship in fiction. He currently teaches fiction writing at Hampton University in Virginia.

Brian Winters: “Saint Merle of the Desert”

Saint Merle of the Desert


—–Lee was already into his second cup of decaf when he saw Caryl pull his pick-up into the Black Bear Diner parking lot. He folded up the Visalia Times and watched Caryl lock the truck door after getting his cowboy hat. There was that mutual nod of acknowledgment as Caryl walked in behind a family whose bleary-eyed children did not look to be in a traveling mood.
—–“I’m guessing you read the same thing I did this morning,” Caryl said as he seated himself.
—–“That I did.”
—–“So, they’re saying they have nothing in regard to leads.”
—–“Who is they?”
—–“The cops. In New Mexico. I thought you said you read it.”
—–“Right, right. I did. Okay.”
—–“They have nothing to work with. When I was on the phone with them the other day, they were getting ready to talk to investigators and behavioral specialist people.”
—–Lee started fidgeting with the coffee creamers. “That sounds like it,” he said nodding. “To analyze him. To come up with speculations then draw conclusions. That figures.”
—–Both men paused as a waitress brought coffee. Outside, they could see the pale morning light shine on the Southern Sierra Nevada mountains.
—–“So, for right now, it’s anybody’s guess as to why Merle might have done this and where he disappeared to.”
—–“Aw, that’s just nonsense. Why else would someone park a U-Haul on the side of the 81 highway, pull out all the things that tied him to life—his coffee machine, his two-thousand-dollar big screen, the diplomas, his custom suits, his iPhone and iPad, the laptop, all that stuff—and just dump them onto the highway, then strip down to nothing, toss whatever it was he had on into some improvised bonfire, then walk bare-assed out into the open desert, looking for a hole to live in like some kind of hermit?”
—–“Yeah, well, we know the answer to that one, don’t we?”
—–That was Caryl, unwrapping the silverware from his napkin.
—– “What I want to know is how this didn’t happen sooner.”
—–That was Lee, questioning the complexity of a man’s patience with the world.

 

Brian Winters generally writes about the restless or the unshaven. His story “Mjorgonlar, Class of ’88” was recently featured in the Manzano Mountain Review.  Having lived in Kansas, Idaho, and Kentucky, he currently hangs out in Twain Harte, CA, and can be found eating street tacos on most weekends.

Jim Hilgartner: Two Flash Fictions

Time Is Running Out

            And once again the water leaves the shore, fading away to the horizon. The shore extends itself into wet flats, miles of rippled mud draped with long strips of sky. These turn back to water, gray like the mud but lit from within, when the wind blows in from beyond the distant waves.
———-Small boats settle and sprawl on their sides, abandoned by the water that lent them grace.
———-We sit on the birdlime-spattered rocks, in the gray wind, and watch the water leaving.  We say nothing, each thinking, There it goes. The water rushes outward, toward the edges of the earth. The gray sky lowers; sheets of it lie on the mud and turn to water when harried by the wind.
———-Time is running out. We see it, we know it. Give me your hand.

 

Doc Barfield’s Dreams

———-As a younger man, dreaming, Doc Barfield relived incessantly the morning his two boys drowned. He’d smell the bacon and eggs as he stirred them in the skillet, admire the first salmon-colored streaks on the horizon as he walked with the boys to the dock. He’d shake their hands—very manly—and make them promise to wear their life vests. Tell them to bring back a stringer of bream so he could fry them up for lunch. Realize his life was over the moment the sheriff tapped on his door. . . .
———-But in his later dreams, Doc Barfield’s boys remain undrowned. He has lunched with them on the bream they’d have brought back if their canoe hadn’t capsized, attended ball games, graduations. He’s bailed the younger, Toby, out of jail, and discovered with the elder, Frank, that he is gay. The boys he dreams are all grown up now, out living on their own. This is a source of comfort to Doc Barfield, whose cancer is quite advanced, and who can’t say what will happen to his dreams once he is gone.

 

English Professor (Huntingdon College) and Fiction Editor (THAT Literary Review), Jim Hilgartner has published in journals including Apocryphal Text, The Chapbook, Greensboro Review, Mid-American Review, New Orleans Review, Red Mountain Review, SLAB, and Vermont Literary Review, and twice received Fellowships in Literature from the Alabama State Council on the Arts.

Salvatore Difalco: “Playmate”

Playmate

Amorphous, hazy morning. The fleshy stocking-clad brunette in my bedroom requests a Coca-Cola and a magazine. She is an image from a dated magazine, and I am the printed ephemera crowding the margins. Instead of despairing, I gaze out the kitchen window.

Blue, red and yellow dots make up the view, with passing people thick-lined in black to separate them from the scenery and from each other. A wandering path with no clear point of departure or arrival meanders anesthetically through different densities of green.

“Where’s that drink? I’m bored. I’m really bored.”

“Coming right up, hon.”

And I am like a defeated nation; fear and dread fill my mind like stick figures fleeing from fire. Many comrades fell during the fighting. The generals are all mad. I need more than psychology to sort out the minefield my thoughts have become.

“Hurry. I’m dying of thirst. And I’m dying of boredom.”

“There are better ways of expressing society’s failings.”

I am not hurrying. I shut my eyes and move through suspended bamboo poles of resentment, into a spot-lit clearing, the poles gently swaying and knocking together behind me like giant wind chimes. Photographic fragments of my past flash by. A lost history. But all memory is lost history.

“I’m getting sweaty!”

“Maybe you’d rather bleed.”

“What’s that supposed to mean? You can’t talk like that to me. I’m American.”

“You’re from Buffalo.”

“I’m still American.”

“You grew up an hour away.”

“You don’t own a gun, do you?”

The word gun slides into my ears like mud. A chill goes through me. The kitchen looks composed of Ben Day dots. I feel like an opium smoker resting against a monument. I feel incongruous.

“I feel incongruous.”

“That Coca-Cola better be cold.”

The hard edges of her words clack together, then soften and merge to form one sound: “Caw. Caw. Caw.” It’s as if a giant eagle occupies my bedroom, with a giant beak and cruel, horny eyes.

 

Salvatore Difalco‘s work has appeared in a number of print and online formats. He lives in Toronto.