John Brady: Two Flash Fictions


_____“Who left dirty dishes in the sink?” 
_____She wanted to shout it. But in the cool, gray air of dawn, her voice would have carried, and her daughter was still sleeping. 
_____Anyway, she knew who did it. He was still sleeping too, snoring lightly in the bed she had just left. Probably rolled over to take the heat from her still lingering in the sheets.
_____Running her hand along the sink’s smooth edge, she appraised the aftermath: the once rubbery noodles baked hard to the pan; the smear of red sauce across the plate; the half eaten meatball speared with a fork.
_____Her mother knew lazy men. “Look at those hands,” she had commanded. “They’re soft like your father’s. He won’t lift those fingers to help you.”
_____Yeah. But he had done other things with those fingers. Like hold her tight and stroke her in lovely ways. 
_____Even last night when he came to bed after his shift. He ran his hand along her arm just right. He had smelled nice too, all freshly soaped and showered. She had nuzzled her body into his, smelling his nice smell through the haze of near sleep. 
_____She wondered too though. Wondered if she should come up through the haze and ask him if he had cleaned up. But after a moment, she dropped her suspicions, choosing to hold on to that little joy in the dark. 
_____As far as marital crimes went, it was a small one. Just a minor misdemeanor. 
_____But it wasn’t the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last no matter what she said. 
_____How many small crimes added up to a big one? How many dirty dishes in the sink, how many times being late for pick-ups, how many toilet seats left up amounted to a felonious assault on their being together? 
_____If she couldn’t trust him with the small stuff, how could she trust him with the big stuff? The stuff that mattered. Like continuing to care enough about her to keep touching her in lovely ways. 
_____She picked at the dried cheese with the knife. 
_____It was lighter now in the kitchen, and she recognized the time that had passed. Looking at the clock, “Damn, damn!” She couldn’t be late again. 
_____As she ran to her bus, she noticed she still had the knife. She wondered what she should do with it.


_____Joyce stood by the stove and rubbed the patch on her arm through her nightshirt. Its roses, once so red, had faded with a million washings. 
_____“Rub it.” That’s what Carol at work had said. “When those cravings get bad, rub it hard. That releases the nicotine faster. Uh-huh,” she had said. 
_____Joyce still wasn’t sure. Carol had a lot of goofy theories she felt free to share. This morning, Joyce didn’t care. Goofy idea or not, the cravings were bad. So she rubbed. 
_____Crazy Carol. And Yolanda. She was a real winner too. With those nails. So long and bright and always matched to her lipstick.
_____Carol and some of the other girls would laugh about Yolanda behind her back. “Who did she think she was getting all fabulous just for office work?”
_____Joyce laughed too. 
_____But maybe not as hard. Those nails were kind of something. And long as they were, Yolanda could type. Clickety-clackety. One even had a little diamond in it. Not a real diamond, Joyce knew. She wasn’t stupid. Not real, but it sparkled like maybe it could be real. 
_____Goddamn this water was taking so long. The flames on these dinky stoves were so pale and tiny. 
_____She looked out the window over the sink. Beyond the roof of the house next door, she could see the sky. No clouds and already bright enough to make her blink. There was just too much sun in this town sometimes.
_____A lady singing about how much she loved her honey floated from the clock radio next to the open sleeper sofa.
_____That’d be nice, Joyce thought. A stray thought for one more stray morning. 
_____The water in the pan bubbled, and Joyce poured it into the cup. She watched the deep brown crystals turn muddy.
_____The screen door banged behind Joyce as she stepped onto the stoop. 
_____Across the courtyard, Mr. Ruiz was cleaning his grill. That guy was always grilling. Loved feeding all those kids and grandkids of his. Always coming and going and making such a racket. Laughing and yelling. Laughing mostly.
_____Joyce took a sip and then shaded her eyes. So bright. Even this early. 
_____Mr. Ruiz looked up and smiled. 
_____Joyce went to rub her arm, but waved instead. She paused and then smiled a bit too. She would ask Yolanda where she got her nails done. Sure she would, she told herself as she went back inside to get dressed for work. 


John Brady is a writer based in Portland, OR, whose fiction and non-fiction writing has appeared in various outlets, including Exposition Review, the Los Angeles Review, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Mother Jones, Punk Planet, the Los Angeles Daily News, the San Francisco Chronicle and on National Public Radio.

Nathan Leslie: “Triangle Stamp”

Triangle Stamp

_____Wayne liked the African stamps best of all. One rainy day his mother bought him a starter kit–a bag of miscellaneous stamps from the hobby store and a book in which to affix the stamps, by country. The European stamps were compelling, especially the lithe Italian images and the German stamps, each featuring that dictator or post-war mop-up image attempting to project positivity–factories, women working, a family gazing off into the future. Nothing wrong with trying to stay upbeat.

_____But the African stamps were colorful and featured animals and were not always little boring corrugated squares–some were triangles, others were trapezoids. The African stamps depicted colorful action shots of animals, not tedious gray statues or bewigged politicians from the 1700s. It was birds, elephants, monkeys, warthogs, giraffes, gazelles. Some stamps depicted animals for which he lacked a name. This sent Wayne to the Britannica set in the basement. And the countries–he could figure out Sud Afrika and everybody knew about Egypt and Nigeria. But Namibia? Ifni? Rhodesia? Zambia? Back to the Britannica set. He learned more from his stamp set than he did from his geography class.

_____Wayne’s father didn’t care for the hobby.

_____“Why are you wasting your time cluttering up the house?”

_____Wayne’s mother cocked her head, unsure what to say. Caught in the middle.

_____“I’m not cluttering–”

_____“It’s stuff. The more you collect and hoard the more we have to pick up. The more your mother has to deal with these things, dusting. Cleaning up behind you all the livelong day.”

_____Wayne said nothing. He scratched his chin. He was fifteen years old. He fantasized about driving away, just as fast and straight as he could. But he couldn’t do a thing.

_____His mother tried to explain.

_____“It’s a pansy hobby,” Wayne’s father said. Looking at all of these little images from 1932 or whatever, he explained. That is not what the man of the future does, how he operates. “We are forward looking here,” his father explained. “Not backward.”

_____In this picture Wayne sits staring out the window into darkness. Someday he will be able to do something. Someday he will be able to make his decisions. One day Wayne woke up and his stamp collection was gone. Nobody could say where it went. Later Wayne found one triangular shaped stamp on the rug, next to his bed. It was from Republique Centrafricaine and featured a striped, maroon and black beetle of some sort. Wayne stuck a pin through it and affixed the stamp to his small cork bulletin board. It was perfect.


Nathan Leslie won the 2019 Washington Writers’ Publishing House prize for fiction for his satirical collection of short stories, Hurry Up and Relax. Nathan’s nine previous books of fiction include Three MenRoot and ShootSibs, and The Tall Tale of Tommy Twice. He is also the author of a collection of poems, Night Sweat. Nathan is currently the series editor for Best Small Fictions, the founder and organizer of the Reston Reading Series in Reston, Virginia, and the publisher and editor of Maryland Literary Review. Previously he was series editor for Best of the Web and fiction editor for Pedestal Magazine. His fiction has been published in hundreds of literary magazines such as ShenandoahNorth American ReviewBoulevardHotel Amerika, and Cimarron Review. Nathan’s nonfiction has been published in The Washington PostKansas City Star, and Orlando Sentinel. Nathan lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, Julie.

Dan Nielsen: “Oatmeal”


_____“Coffee, Sugar?” the waitress asked in passing.
_____Warren looked up from his book and nodded. A cup and saucer appeared. Coffee was poured.
_____“Anything else, Sugar?”  
_____“Eggs over easy and rye toast, please.”
_____She wrote something on a notepad, tore off the top sheet, and placed it beside the saucer.
_____“Do I pay now?”
_____“Whenever you like, Sugar.”
_____“I was going to order oatmeal, but it’s not on the menu.”
_____“We only have the packets.”
_____The waitress tore off another sheet and handed it to the cook through a little window. The cook said something that made the waitress laugh. Warren tried to think of something funny to say. He added creamer to his coffee. He turned over the bill. There was the dollar amount and a name he didn’t read.
_____The eggs arrived. Warren ripped off a corner of rye toast, dipped it in the tiny tub of grape jelly, and used it to break open a yolk.  
_____“Want me to warm that up, Sugar?”
_____“Please.” Warren thought of something. “Is there a pay phone?”
_____“You passed it on your way in, Sugar.”
_____There was a phone book attached to a wire. Warren thought about the alphabet. He hummed the song. He found the page with the name and went down the list with a finger until he came to the full name. He dropped a quarter in the slot and listened to it fall, hitting a little bell somewhere along the way. The dial tone was a dead person in a hospital. He stared at the book and dialed a number. He stared some more and dialed another number. He lost his place. He started over. He made it to the end. Someone answered on the second ring.
_____“You said I could call.”
_____“And you did.”
_____“Is this a bad time?”
_____“No, I’m interested in what you have to say.”
_____“I found the place. It looks good.”  
_____“I was a little worried.”
_____“There’s no bed, but I saw a lunar eclipse.”
_____“That’s nice.”
_____“I slept in a chair that smells like cat.”
_____“Is there a cat?”
_____“Not now.”
_____“You have a phone?”
_____“I’m in a restaurant.”
_____“Are you having breakfast?”
_____“They only have the packets.”
_____“It sounds like you’re okay.”
_____“That’s why I called. To let you know.”
_____“Are you okay?”


Dan Nielsen is a part-time standup comic. His least flavor of jelly is petroleum. Recent FLASH in: Connotation Press, Jellyfish Review, (mic)ro(mac), Necessary Fiction, The Cabinet of Heed, and Cheap Pop. Dan has a website: Preponderous, you can follow him @DanNielsenFIVES. He and Georgia Bellas are the post-minimalist art/folk band Sugar Whiskey.

Mike Lewis-Beck: “Mexican Wedding Cake”

Mexican Wedding Cake

Carlos puts the .45 automatic in the glove box, then waves as he pulls away from the Morelia cathedral in his 1957 Desoto sedan. for the banditos! he says, just married. Dolores of the river sits on his lap, head veil flowing. the rear window plastered “amor de corazon” in lime paint, they drive off to lake Patzcuaro swerving left for the little white fish and their love, as the fireworks castle ignites, and everyone eats hand-machine-peeled oranges.

Watching a play, Miguel reflects, it is watching a play, but not the Cherry Orchard. Chekhov hides the bandits, and the women are old, old maids, or married already. the violence is the purse not the pistol, testaments from a house servant. estates to be protected, land not wives.  peasants starved, but not enough. the manse to be sold, the servants to go, the orchard cut down for development.  

Whack!  whack!  whack!  ax felling cherry trees. who will nurture the land? who serve the tea?


Lorca?  what has he to do with this?  

He wants to speak.

Green. green. green. verde, verde, como te quiero verde. the land must be saved. it is dry, always dry, lost Spanish land, before and after the conquistadores. feed the land, if nothing else feed the land, it must be green.  

My little piece of earth, already it has shade and birds, it carries the green on its shoulders, in high wind and low…


There are no bandits anymore, the brides are for nothing, and the servants have gone. but the earth still wants manure.


Mike Lewis-Beck writes from Iowa City. He has pieces in American Journal of Poetry, Alexandria Quarterly, Apalachee Review, Big Windows Review, Blue Collar Review, Cortland Review, Chariton Review, Guesthouse, Heavy Feather ReviewPure Slushand Wapsipinicon Almanac, among other venues. He has a book of poems, Rural Routes, with Alexandria Quarterly Press.

Mark Cassidy: “Lenny”

Lenny (circa ’60)

He is sitting alone at the counter of a downtown diner somewhere along the middle of the evening, late in November. Kind Of Blue is playing. People pass by outside the window, their features distorted by the rain streaming on the glass. He smokes a cigarette. He keeps a cup of coffee and a notebook in front of him at all times. He is ready. When it comes, he’s gonna be ready. He’s wearing an open necked white shirt under a corduroy jacket. With patches.

_____Towards midnight a cab will pull up to the kerb, spraying gritty, icy water over the sidewalk, and someone will not get out but will roll the window part way down and peer for a moment into the diner’s interior before pulling away again in the direction of the train station while he lights another cigarette and does not turn around. Later, the rain will turn to snow and the chilly streets will fall silent, swollen with mystery and longing.


Mark Cassidy writes, “I was born in the UK and emigrated to Canada once my schooling was finished. I have worked all round the world and now live in Texas.”

Phillip Barcio: “Muddy Waters”

Muddy Waters

I see thousands of me standing on the sidewalks, riding the subway, lying in the grass and walking on the beach.

Who is teaching us not to trust?

The lady next to me at Muddy Waters coffee house on Valencia Street got up from her seat and walked outside to talk to someone on her cell phone. She left her laptop sitting out on the table, along with her wallet, open, with a credit card sticking out of it.

About fifteen minutes later she came back in. Everything was still sitting there exactly as she had left it. She looked at me and laughed and said, “I must be pretty trusting!”

“Why shouldn’t you be?” I asked.

What, just because this is an economically depressed neighborhood in a large American city? Just because there are desperate, homeless people asleep in almost every doorway? Just because every morning the business owners around here spend half an hour washing the urine and human feces and vomit off the sidewalk in front of their cafes and shops? What’s any of that got to do with trust?

What she didn’t know was that while she was outside talking on her phone, I counted eight people who came in off the street, ordered at the counter and left again, walking right past her stuff. One was a trembling, disheveled man in a filthy coat. He shuffled up to the counter and stared longingly at the Iranian woman who owns the cafe. She smiled at him, reached into her tip jar, pulled out some change and handed it to the man. The gentle creases around her smiling eyes as she handed him the money looked to me like sun rays lighting up the room with love.

How many other laptops and credit cards resting on vacant tables had this man walked past on his way here?

I’m not an idealist. I am only speaking from my own experience. Most people will not steal from you, even if they have the chance.

Most people will not hurt you, even if you deserve it.

Most people are ready to share whatever they have with whoever truly needs it.

Most people love each other without hesitating.

There are no enemies, only collaborators in the creation of moments, all waiting to find out what we’re going to do together next.


Phillip Barcio is a fiction author, arts journalist, and host of the Apocalypse Mixtape radio show. His writing has appeared in Western Humanities Review, Michigan Quarterly Review online, Space Squid, The Swamp Ape Review, and various other fine publications. He can be stalked at, or around Evanston, Illinois.

Fred Melton: “Paranormal Paranoia”

Paranormal Paranoia

As a thrice-divorced, somewhat bald and possibly paunchy forty-seven-year-old man living in a basement, I’m proof cancer doesn’t always kill (in spite of a lack of maternal love) with proper vigilance put in place.
_____Early detection, and the help of an Asian pedicurist and her Tao cheese grater, conquered carbuncular carcinoma of both my big toes. Contracted weekly visits: $43.99 (cash only).
_____Last year, a genticulated sarcoma burrowed into me with the determination of a one-armed well-digger. Cure? Hoffa-style yoga and onanism. This, of course, my mother did not appreciate despite WebMD documentation that success skyrockets if self-flagellation is performed before a priest during Easter Mass—which most certainly occurred. Twice.
_____Two months ago, I expected to perish from pineal gland obnubilation, a clouding of that testicular-like nub perched atop my amygdala—that scrotal blob, when locked and loaded, causes otherwise well-adjusted white males, like myself, to spray lead and mayhem throughout movie theaters, usually matinees, and across gay bars, long after Happy Hour. Prevention? Percolated free-range coffee enemas.
_____Until last night, I thought my long-term prognosis was excellent.
_____Around ten, not one minute after plopping down in my Yoda jammies and party hat, bottle of Gray Goose squeezed betwixt my loins, just as a tightee-whitee’d-look-a-like Joel Osteen charged across a rented big screen TV toward a Brazilian jujitsu submission demon, my mother goes ape-shit. Yes, I may have used her credit card for this once-in-a-lifetime-pay-for-view cage fight, but she’s the one who left her purse wide open.
_____However you look at it—and I’ve looked at it all day through the lens of weed—she had no right to yank open the door to her basement and scream, “I’m gonna kill you, you motherfucker.”
_____Something’s amiss.
_____Vigilance is to be increased—followed by purchase of a Taser.



Fred Melton has work published in Best American Mystery Stories 2002, Jabberwock Review, Passages North, Front Range Review, Oyez Review, Bellingham Review and Talking River Review, as well as other magazines.


David Petruzelli: Two Flash Fiction Pieces

El Paso

Before Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald went off to Hollywood in the winter of ‘27, they left their daughter, Frances Scottie, in the care of Scott’s parents, who lived in Washington, DC.; on their last afternoon in town Scott took his mother, Mollie, to a matinee. Scott was never sure whose idea it was to see Flesh and the Devil, though Mrs. Fitzgerald adored John Gilbert, and Greta Garbo was one of those secrets Scott managed to keep to himself. Gilbert gave his mother a lot to think about that day, and even though she annoyed Scott with questions about a cartoon they watched before the movie began, her warm thank-you afterwards surprised and touched her son in a way that made him think he’d never see her again, and at the same time knowing this wasn’t true. On the train the next morning, relieved that his daughter seemed content to stay behind, he was still sad that in the last reel Garbo fell through the ice and drowned. Then somewhere in Kentucky, feeling a little tight and dozing off, he kept breathing Zelda’s perfume and dreamed he was rescuing his idol.
_____It was his first trip to the west coast, and Scott was convinced he could write a feature for United Artists, and go home with easy money. They were introduced to Lois Moran, an up-and-coming 17-year-old actress, and Scott couldn’t believe how beautiful and intelligent she was, then made the mistake of describing her in similar terms to Lois’s mother, all within earshot of Zelda, who went back to the couple’s hotel room, where the evening clothes intended for their first Hollywood party were laid out on the bed, and used Scott’s straight razor on them.
_____In the end United Artists passed on his flapper comedy, about a magic lipstick that made its wearer irresistible to men. He and Zelda took screen tests and quickly grew bored with the process. Zelda ended up making faces, and Scott hated how he looked: too pale, too old. On the long trip back East, they were going through El Paso when they again quarreled about Lois, and in the club car that night, his wife removed the platinum wrist watch Scott gave her when he was courting Miss Sayre of Montgomery; Zelda opened the nearest window and tossed it out. The train gave a long, mournful whistle. In the Texas dark, Lois, or maybe Garbo, found it in the deep grass.

Chinese Coffee, East 52nd St.

Half a block away it seems too busy in front of my building: neighbors, strangers, all looking like they’re in the way. And there I am, about to walk into it after finishing work, ready for the bad news about the break-in, or the child found unconscious in the foyer, a hand trying to keep us back. And sure enough someone notices, turns from the others to step in front of me, though her voice tries to be friendly: “Hi, could you wait a minute? We’re almost done.” But what they’re doing isn’t police work, they’re making a movie, and the short sad-faced man looking homeless in the middle of all these people is dressed for fall even though it’s June, with a grimy raincoat and black beret pulled down to keep his head warm. In a low voice he explains what’s going to happen next, and I realize he’s talking about the brick wall two doors down, and the sunlight still on it and how well this works, and if you get rid of the coat & hat and clean him up, the poor guy could pass for Al Pacino, and with the woman next to him saying Al this and Al that, maybe I’m right, and I listen to the voice again, and yes, it’s Pacino—louder now—“OK, let’s try it.”
_____Then everyone comes off the steps as if they know where to go and what to do, and I’m wondering who the director is and where’s the rest of the cast and what are they calling this thing? “Chinese Coffee,” one kid tells me like it’s a password or he just made it up, but that’s really the name, Pacino’s directing himself, and even the title says the film’s being shot quickly and cheap, though it won’t be released for another three years, with Pacino as an unsuccessful New York City writer who in the scene they’re filming today gets mistaken for this serial killer by a quartet of detectives jumping out from their beat-to-death undercover car.
_____I watch as they slam him against the wall—over & over, take after take, with Pacino each time forced to press his whole body into it, the bricks painted a rich deep red that in the finished film looks redder still. A close-up shows you his weariness, but also surprise, as though the man can’t believe these things keep happening to him, while the actor once more feels the wall on his hands and face, the warmth left over from the first time.


David Petruzelli has had work published in crazyhorse, The Gettysburg Review, The New Yorker, Pleiades, The Southern Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. A poetry collection, Everyone Coming Toward You, won the Tupelo Press Judge’s Prize and was published in 2005. He lives in New York City.

David Henson: “The Glassblower’s Wife”

The Glassblower’s Wife 

When they’re young, he plies her with crystal roses and hummingbirds. He even promises a life-size unicorn, but quits after fashioning the horn. The years break the fragile things, some glass, some bone. But she manages to protect the horn.

The last time he tells her not to wait up, she tries to calm her thoughts by doing laundry. But when she folds his sweaters, she’s twisting his arms, breaking his ankles as she does his socks.

The minute hand pounds cracks in the face of her wristwatch. Dishes and cups slide from kitchen wallpaper tables, pile jagged grins on the floor. Moonlight caves in the picture window, leaves long spears lounging on the couch.

Sometime before dawn, headlights flood the bedroom. A car door thunks. She hears him plodding up the steps, feigns sleep.

He’s quickly a pile of snores in the dark. She takes the horn from under her pillow, her heart a fist opening and closing around a shard of glass.



David Henson and his wife have lived in Brussels and Hong Kong and now reside in Peoria, Illinois. His work has appeared in various journals including Gravel, Moonpark Review, Bull and Cross, Literally Stories, Riggwelter, and Pithead Chapel. ( @annalou8)

Tom Block: “Mystic”


_____I hang my head in shame.  “I’m not a mystic.”  I raise my head.  I look her full in the eyes.
_____Jazmin lowers her gaze.  “I,” she begins.  “I didn’t mean to . . .”  She turns away.  “Tankeen will be here soon.”  Then: “He – would you like to meet him?”
_____Tankeen is Jazmin’s Shaykh.  I do not want to meet Tankeen.
_____Sanjay is there.  He is a professor of Urdu.  He has two children.  He says he is spiritually drowning.  “I will wait for Tankeen,” he says.  “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
_____“I had a premonition that I would meet him,” Jazmin says.  “I was in class.  Suddenly, my head was completely enveloped with a purple color.  Like a scarf.  Or a haze.  The next day I met him.  Purple is the color of his tariqah.”
_____I feel nauseated.
_____“When Takeen took the bayah in Senegal.  The Grandshaykh served oatmeal for breakfast.  Tankeen did not want to eat it.  The Grandshayk’s son kept saying: ‘you eat it you eat it you eat it’ until Tankeen ate it.  Tankeen had a bad back.  That night, he had a dream that a zipper zipped up his back and made it better.  Some people think that the Grandshaykh put something in the oatmeal.  But Tankeen —”
_____Tankeen breezes into the wood-paneled room.  It is the lobby of a century-old dormitory hall at Columbia University.  He sports a jazz goatee.  His dark skin melds with the aged wood all around.  A red scarf hangs over his shoulders.  His face beams.
_____“Here he is,” says Sanjay.  Sanjay steps back and then forward.  
_____“Is this —” begins Tankeen.
_____“This is Sanjay,” Jazmin flutters.  Tankeen thrusts out his hand, grabs Sanjay’s hand and pulls Sanjay to him.  Sanjay sighs.  “And this is Tom.”  Tankeen takes my hand, lets it go and then places his hand against his heart.  
_____“It is nice to meet you,” I say.
_____Tankeen and Sanjay sit down on the hard bench, face to face.  Sanjay hopes that Tankeen might be able to save him.  
_____I move with Jazmin to the side.  “I want to go,” I say.
_____“I’ll escort you home,” she says, her voice a scattering of butterflies.
_____“I don’t want to go home.”
_____“I’ll take you where you want to go and then come back.” 
_____“I want to go to a bar.  To sketch.  But I need a sketchbook.”  Am I spiritually drowning, as well?  I frown.  “Take me to a drugstore.”  A drugstore might have a sketchbook and a pen. “I didn’t bring my sketchbook,” I apologize. 


Tom Block is the author of five books, a playwright, 25+ year exhibiting visual artist and Founding Producer of New York City’s International Human Rights Art Festival ( He was a Research Fellow at DePaul University (2010), LABA Fellow (NY, 2013-14), Hamiltonian Fellow (2008-09) and recipient of funding/support from more than a dozen foundations and organizations.