Francine Witte: Three Flash Fictions

No Good

_____She knows Morley is no good for her.  End of the world stuff.  His previous girls had 1) hung herself like a spring floral in her closet and 2) threw herself off the bridge bag of old laundry style.
_____But still there was the sex.  Oozy and tingly and down to her toes.  She would find herself thinking about it everywhere.  Oh yes, the way he bit her lip.  And yes, his calloused fingers.
_____One day, she is waiting for him to come by like he promised, and she gets a phone call from his wife.  She is whisper quick and tells her that Morley himself is dead. Another lovergirl shot him jealous through the head.  I am going through his cell phone, the wife says.  With you, I’m only halfway through.
_____She thinks of her place in the alphabet.  Mary.  M. That’s only halfway through as well.  She wonders about the X’s. There can’t possibly be an X.  So maybe it isn’t as bad as it seems.
_____She thanks the wife who, as it turns out, has already moved on to the next.

 

It’s not pretty

_____leaving a man you promised to marry.  Leaving him in the car as he drives you to your wedding.  Leaving him in the empty parking lot near the drugstore where you pulled in that first night to pick up emergency condoms.
_____It’s not pretty how that all means nothing now. How the guests are waiting. How the preacher is waiting, how the man you promised to marry is about to become a white oval face in your memory as you slip out of the car, out of your wedding dress and run in your underwear, into the drug store, into the backroom behind the pharmacy section, into the arms of Hector, the delivery guy, who was always smart enough to bring his own condoms those sweet achy nights behind the garage while the man you promised to marry slept right upstairs.
_____And it’s not pretty how when you do slip into Hector’s arms, and feel his warm breath on your neck, you smell the faint perfume that Lucinda the night cashier always wears.
_____And how you hold off his kiss just long enough to look out the window to watch as the man you promised to marry picks up your empty wedding dress, props it up sitting in the passenger seat and drives off to go home and wait for your call the way he has done a hundred times before.

 

On Second Thought

_____I decide to return her gift. It doesn’t come from an honest place. It doesn’t come from love.
_____The gift is a cashmere scarf. How very chain-y of her. If I keep it, I will have to promise to meet her for lunch.
_____If I keep it, she will be able to cut me into multiple me’s, like a cartoon dog. I would still me, but there would be 16 me’s, and smaller, much smaller. Each one smiling and inviting her to tea.
_____I know if I keep it, I will never be able to shake her upside down out of my life. She will  be a cereal box I keep putting back on the shelf because it’s not quite empty.
_____I know if I keep it, I will fall in love with the cool cashmereness of it, soft, like the way time softens a memory, how a friend stealing your man a time or two, can turn into a life lesson.
_____Like it was really a positive how she taught me how to watch for the want in other women’s eyes when I bring them around my man. Thank you, I might even learn to say to her. Over lunch. Over tea. As I sit there, my thumb stroking the lying pull of the cashmere. My other fingers frozen in disgust.

 

 

Francine Witte’s poetry and flash fiction have appeared in Wigleaf, Mid-American Review, Lost Balloon, Stonecoast Review, Moon Candy Review, and many others. Her latest books are Dressed Wrong for All This (Flash), The Theory of Flesh (Poetry), and The Way of the Wind (novella.) She lives in NYC.

Gail Hosking: “Proprietary Rights”

Proprietary Rights

_____I tell the story of Walter every time I pour some cherry brandy into this small cocktail glass with its stem and etched details. The story is that this crystal flute once belonged to his mother, a woman long gone since Walter was well into his 80’s that school year I lived with my grandmother in New Jersey. Her boyfriend, we called him, when he came for a meal, his thin suit legs crossed on the couch as he waited for a place at the dining room table. Walter with his gray hair and cane was a quiet man and seemed grateful as he leaned over his plate while my sisters and I chatted about this or that. Afterwards, he drove us in his black car past its prime up to Howard Johnson’s for ice cream, the only sounds in the car gears shifting from the floor.
_____When he moved to a nursing home, we took a bus to visit, and found him in a small room, his slippers under a single bed. A clock ticked on the windowsill. We made small talk as Grandma held his hand, and my sisters and I ran down the hall searching for a Coca-Cola. Little did I know then that we were learning right there in that small building of old people that time turns quickly, everything is fragile. A whole set of his mother’s cordial glasses moved to Grandma’s china cabinet after Walter died like something belonging to the heart. Decades later they are in my kitchen where I repeat Walter’s story every time I pour sweet liqueur into the remaining chalice grasping its stem and studying again the spiral of engraved leaves and berries swirling into an old pattern, its narrative on the move, its future home unknown.

 

Gail Hosking is author of the memoir Snake’s Daughter (U of Iowa Press), the poetry chapbook The Tug (Finishing Line Press), and a book of poems, Retrieval (Main Street Rag Press). MFA from Bennington College. Poetry and essays have been published for years, and some have been anthologized. Two essays were considered “Most Notable” in Best American Essays.

Charles Rammelkamp: “Lost in the Supermarket”

Lost in the Supermarket

_____I was walking down aisle four looking for the V8.

Coffee
Tea & Cocoa
Juice
Sports Drinks
Powdered Drinks

_____I swerved my cart around a gray woman who muttered, “All the weird things they’re doing to our juice,” resentment heavy in her voice like the aggrieved white people you hear muttering about immigrants and gays. Or is it black people and Jews? Juice. Posting manifestos in Facebook before – well, they used to call it “going postal,” but now maybe it’s more like going viral. I wonder what she meant.  What were “they” doing to “our” juice?  I plucked a spicy hot V8 from the shelf and put it in my cart, thinking, what had they done to our tomato juice?
_____Later, I caught up with the woman in the chilled foods section frowning at the cottage cheese selections while I snared a carton of orange juice from the cooler. No pulp. Not from concentrate. The look of dull anger in her eyes as she looked at the Chobani told me she was angry about what “they” were doing to “our” yogurt. Latte? Coconut? Heresy!

 

 

Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. A chapbook of poems, Me and Sal Paradise, was published last year by FutureCycle Press. Two full-length collections are forthcoming in 2020, Catastroika, from Apprentice House, and Ugler Lee, from Kelsay Books.

Zach Murphy: “Ceilings”

Ceilings

When Garrett went to bed, he placed a gun under his pillow and lay awake wondering whether or not it was a good spot to rest a loaded weapon.

 

 

 

Born near the warm beaches of Hawaii, Zach Murphy is a multi-faceted writer who somehow ended up in the charming but often chilly land of St. Paul, Minnesota. His fiction pieces have appeared in Haute Dish, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, WINK, and the Wayne Literary Review

Philip Kobylarz: “The Temp”

The Temp

_____She was a professional run away-er. Everything she originally signed up for, she ended up abandoning, then wanting to return to, but was somehow unable to, thus, her past was a distant memory and little proof was kept, in the form of photos back when we had those printed, or letters, back when we wrote those, or documents proving that she was there at this certain time, back when we used to keep such things in boxes in our closets.

_____At first it was the convent, and to think that someone would ever, could ever, sign up for what her father called “the military” and actually walk into buildings where magical ghosts danced and people believed that you had power over them because you could talk to the ghosts is enough to blow or severely warp, any mind, however strong or normal it might be.

_____Cut to the island of Haiti and signing up to do medical work for the severely poor and being so scared about what she had gotten into that she walked into town and bought bottles of wine and hid them in her communal room to whenever the time was ripe she could drink them alone, not even in the company of others, not even going out to share the stress and tension of life abroad but to wallow in an escape deeper into the darkness that led her so far from the home she despised (a brick house in a village) and led her so far away into the unknown that she could no longer bear, so it became time to run away again.

_____Onto America where English lessons were paid for, a Visa won by lottery, a life moving from city to city to city in search of a place to fit in, in search of a way to pass the tests, a series of horrible, low paying jobs, a series of anonymous apartments, a series of an endless series of series.

_____And then that too needed to be escaped from, the midwest where she came to from the island because that’s where northern Europeans go when they don’t know any better. Off now to the coast where there was a promise of a free nursing program, as that is what she had been in the convent, never one day earning a penny for herself, not one day having a voice, not one day able to be herself, and the plan was now to bloom into the lovely flower she could be.

_____But it continued to be the same. Same bad living situations and now because rents were high, with people she barely knew. Jobs that always changed and left her wondering who would be next. Dates with men that would never even lead to anything except time not spent alone but in her mind, always time wasted, and a life of always wondering where she had gone wrong, what was wrong with her, and what the secret was to a happiness that if she even had for a moment she would invariably run away from, half-laughing, half crying.

 

Philip Kobylarz‘s work has appeared in Paris Review, Epoch, Poetry, and Best American Poetry. His published books are ruesNow Leaving Nowheresville, A Miscellany of Diverse Things, All Roads Lead from Massilia, and Kanji Amerikana.

 

 

Geoffrey Miller: “a Typhoon in April”

a Typhoon in April

The scent of a foreigner’s potpourri decorates the young dolls whose excessively tattoo shoes mark them as impossible housewives. These grateful and guilty onyx tinted officers of excess melt inside a conclusion of access to modern prescriptions and jealousies.

_____Their hostess, Yui, suspects the compulsory motives of beauty, lust and job – scabs from lost letters now burrowed epidermal deep by half-eaten loves. “Everybody is a mistake, a victim, a ghost but with us girls a suspect is underground.”

_____Warm tea melts the bias patterned dream of a Sunday in Yokohama, “No, it won’t stop, inconsistencies, after-parties, vacations.”

_____Relaxed and excessive, Miyumi’s dangerous tears collapse a second wall and the whole peeks at rope persuasions and disproportionate motives of struggle and compulsive trust in a remodelled kitchen house.

_____Yui’s clothes scream future but are jaundiced by art, “Quit watching and arrange a mistake.”

_____Miyumi mulls access to a horrible act, a goblin of a storm that lashes to rip, to lacerate and to expel the second suspect in her house.

_____Somebody gratefully lassos her fancy, “No one loves the job of an immigrant harp.”

 

By early morning Geoffrey Miller is a writer of flash and science fiction, some of which has appeared in Crack the Spine, Midway Journal, and the Ilanot Review. By night he is the editor of NUNUM and a very slow jogger.

Mandira Pattnaik: “Expropriate”

Expropriate

_____She heard footsteps on the terrace. A man poking his walking stick on the terracotta burnt-red tiles? She could be wrong though. She was wrong. Maybe. She huddled her kids to the warm bedroom nestled between the spiraling wooden staircase and the archaic attic, and waited. The kids lay on either side of her—their home on this Greek island was snug like their mother’s lap. Within minutes their combined rhythmic exhalations lulled the kids to sleep.

_____With ears attuned to each rustle of the dry Sal leaves in the garden, each cry of the mourning cricket and each groan of defeated waves hitting the shore, she lay stiff and ready.

_____This started two weeks ago when her sailor husband left. The neighbors saw his wagon pull out at dawn. Mrs. Grace of the Elementary School down the bend insisted she saw two forms buckled in the front seat—one of whose head lolled. But her eyesight was failing. Over tea and cookies that afternoon, the missus told her that the sailor was gone to Scandinavia.

_____Before leaving, Mrs. Grace had waved to the kids emerging from their log house in the nook of the dried Magnolia that split into three at the base. The kids were playing hide-and-seek.

_____She unspooled canned images from that day. The night before, and until the dawn, seemed to rush in her mind—hazy and indistinct, but the evening stood out—like an aftermath. She remembered watching sunset sitting immobile on the cane chair, the grass of the lawn like velvet at her feet. Darkness descended from the rock faces and slithered down—down—down to the distant ocean. Between gusts of moist sea-winds, she evaluated the broad stretch of the ocean bathed in ephemeral light. Half invisible fishing trawlers swayed in the grayness. Nothing seemed amiss.

_____Down to her right, between the dark mass of the low dunes and the white sands, dominating the whole view, were colossal trees, heavy and dense, full of the brutal force of nature left to itself. Left to oneself natural instincts are always brutal.

_____The monotonous hollow whisper of the crashing waves had sounded feebler and feebler as she had slipped into a battle-weary sleep.

_____Would she keep the log house? She knew that is where her children hid, night after night, to escape their mother’s cries, waiting for their father to collapse in a drunken heap. Hard solid wood—would fetch a decent price. She couldn’t always be wrong—like he thought.

_____No! She wasn’t wrong. He was.

_____She’d have to do something about the walking stick too— his father’s—which he used on her back. She would plant it upright near the creeper; let the Devil’s Ivy expropriate the stick. Like she would—his money, the children, this house—while the waves gnawed away the sailor and his wagon at the bottom of the cliff.

 

Mandira Pattnaik writes flash and poetry. She is humbled to have her work published by The Times of IndiaFewerThan500, 101words, Runcible Spoon, Lunate Fiction (forthcoming), (Mac)ro(mic), and Eclectica Magazine. She loves to travel and embroiders to keep busy.

 

 

Robert Wexelblatt: “Surprising Consequences of Our Revolution”

Surprising Consequences of Our Revolution

_____Like all objects, the object of our revolution was unknowable-in-itself, accessible only through its secondary qualities, its taste, color, odor, texture. Like all revolutionaries, our revolutionary vanguard failed to understand that the object of their sacrifices was unknowable. On the contrary, they passionately believed in the glorious end, not just the taste, color, odor, and texture of the revolution. As we massed on the hills overlooking the spread-eagled capital—literally on the precipice of victory—our leaders smiled at one another. They could smell and touch and taste their final triumph. And it came swiftly, too.
_____Bottilini, the immensely prolific court composer, died penniless in a gutter at the age of forty-two. In his last appeal to the new Ministry of Culture he had written: “So I mastered the composition of the string septet. So I wrote over four hundred of the things. Look, I admit the string septet happened to be favored by the Ancien Régime, but is that my fault? Couldn’t you people use a few string septets too?”
_____The celebrated orator Halbschwacher fell silent. He had been the scourge of the Royalists who had not dared to imprison him for fear that he would convert the other prisoners, the guards, that his eloquence would captivate the very locks. Now that thunderous voice was heard no more. He retired to a cottage on what had once been his country estate, took up bee-keeping and knocking together wooden tables and rush-bottomed chairs. In response to an attempt by the Minister of Propaganda to recruit him, he replied, “What’s there for me to say? You want slogans. Slogans are vulgar. Without the cognoscenti of the Court my talent for invective is obsolete. Best wishes.”
_____The revolutionaries now had an inkling that all the consequences of their victory might well have been unknowable and they hastened to fill this intolerable creeping vacuum with ugly apartment blocks, agricultural collectives, hydroelectric dams, steel mills, nuclear reactors, wind tunnels, and rocket engines with enough thrust to launch the Royal Museum into solar orbit. The achievements of their frenzy were amazing. But what of their object, their original goal? Faint traces of its taste, color, odor, and texture may still be discerned from time to time in the swirling, multicolored effluents fouling our rivers.

 

Robert Wexelblatt is a professor of humanities at Boston University’s College of General Studies. He has published five fiction collections; two books of essays; two short novels; a book of poems; stories, essays, and poems in a variety of journals, and a novel awarded the Indie Book Awards first prize for fiction. Two collections, one of Chinese, the other of non-Chinese, stories, are forthcoming.

 

Alexina Dalgetty: “Getting the Cogs to Fit”

Getting The Cogs To Fit

Michelle mixed colours never seen before, golden and fresh green daylights, purple and orange night times. She dusted over old landscapes with new ideas. She shifted perspective. She elongated trees. She owned the leisurely landscape.

Her paintings sold. They sold well. They sold for more money than Michelle thought anyone should pay for a modern day painting. She searched her canvasses for clues to their value. She eyed their competence and plausibility, their creative use of new colour, shadow, and perspective. It bewildered her. But still, she painted.

Her children grew older and left home. They had children of their own. They clattered through her house, demanding she paint their squirming babies. Her colours didn’t mix right for babies. They looked underdone and over roasted. Her children didn’t care. They oohed and ahhed. They paid for frames and hung the awful likenesses.

Her husband stopped working. Instead of packing a lunch and going to an office or wherever it was he used to go – she couldn’t quite remember, so much art in her head – he stayed in bed until late. He did odd jobs around the house and volunteered with the local historic society. He spent peculiarly long periods of time in the garden shed.

Gliding elegant into old age, Michelle woke one day compelled to paint cogs. Dry sandy dust coloured cogs. Orangey, browny, sludgy cogs. Each fitting into the other. Working in harmony. She saw them with the painterly eye that lived in the fibres of her heart. Cogs in motion, an engine to life. Each morning she painted the cogs and each evening she painted the canvass blank. The cogs refused to fit in paint the way they fit in her heart.

 

Alexina Dalgetty lives in Stratford, Ontario, the traditional territory of the Anishnabek, Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), Ojibway/Chippewa peoples. She has recently started writing short stories.

DS Levy: “Reverse Psychology”

Reverse Psychology

Pauline decided to rent a cabin in the woods where she could die peacefully. She sold her house and everything in it except for some clothes, her car, and a framed photo of her beloved toy poodle, Beau. For weeks, she lived among tall trees where no light could penetrate. At night, her heavy head sunk deep into the pillow. Once, she heard a terrible scream, but knew it was a vixen calling out to her mate. She went back to sleep, unafraid. If it had been human, if someone had wanted to come in and kill her, so what? She put her trust in the Good Lord, knowing that soon she would enter His Holy Kingdom.
_____Instead of growing weaker, however, Pauline grew stronger. The food she’d packed in had run out. Her appetite, ravenous. One afternoon, she decided to drive her old reliable Buick into town to buy some groceries. On the way, she passed a purple Baja Bug in a dumpy car lot. A frivolity, the modified Beetle nonetheless called out to her. She had always lived her life inside the lines. She went back, traded her car on the spot, and drove off.
_____When she got into town it was late. She was famished. There was only one restaurant, a bar, its neon sign promising “Liquor – Dancing.”
_____A good Baptist, Pauline had never let alcohol pass through her lips. Nor had she ever smoked or danced. Entering a place like the Stumble Inn was sinful. Even so, she parked her Baja Bug outside and went in, sliding into an empty booth in the corner.
_____A man with a mischievous mustache sashayed over and slid in across from her. At first, she thought he might be a ghost who’d walked out of the wood paneling.
_____“You must be new in town.”
_____“Just passing through.”
_____He offered her a smoke. Though Pauline had been taught that cigarettes were harmful to one’s health, her body a temple, she thought, Why not? The man tapped out a stick, and she put it between her lips and let him light it, and immediately she choked. The man raised one of his bushy eyebrows. They both laughed. After a while, she got the hang of it, holding the cigarette gracefully between her fingers, sucking its smoky warmth into her lungs.
_____The man plunked some quarters into the jukebox.
_____“Dance?”
_____Pauline didn’t hesitate. He escorted her onto the floor where it was just the two of them. The bartend and waitress looked on, while Tony Bennett crooned “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.” The man reined her in tight, his flannel shirt soft against her skin, his Old Spice Cologne tickling her nostrils. He pressed her tightly, their hips held together like praying hands.

 

DS Levy‘s work has been published in New Flash Fiction Review, Little Fiction, Barren Magazine, MoonPark Review, Cotton Xenomorph, the Alaska Quarterly Review, Columbia, Brevity, and others. A collection of flash fiction, A Binary Heart, was published in 2017 by Finishing Line Press.