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.

Joseph Saling: “Getting On”

Getting On

You never knew what we were about, so days
turned to pebbles in your shoe. You wanted
to quit the path, sow seed and watch it grow.
But that place was not for us. I tried to take
the bundled twigs you carried to build a fire,
but you had chosen each the way a child
gets seashells at the beach and wants the next
to be better than the last, coated with pearl.

You often asked where we were going, but I
didn’t hear; the wind was so strong it swallowed your voice.
You’d scan the edge of sky but found nothing
to see. At night you’d walk away from where
I lay until I became as distant as
the stars that seasoned the dark. The sun and cold
made our skin like leather; our souls immune to time.

One day we saw a colony of ants
go marching off to war. You followed them
until you saw their swift red current swirl
into a sea swelling with death then watched
as red pygmies clashed with giants, picking up
their dead and dragging their black bodied foe behind.
Later you cried. And when I asked you why,
you couldn’t say beyond its awful silence.

We came on houses built among the rocks
and gardens spackling the earth. You asked to stop
to splash your face with water from their wells,
to rock on weather-grayed porches and feel the touch
of another woman’s voice besides your own.
Later, you found stones and showed me pictures of birds
rising unimpeded toward the sun.

In towns where farmers sold fresh fruit, we walked
among them, sat with them at night. I heard you laugh
and saw their light reflecting in your eyes.
Brighter than the stars, softer than the moon.
A mountain crazed the rim of heaven’s bowl.
A city rose like the mountain’s child. Its streets
flowed like liquid music, its walls shimmered
like pearl in the morning sun, its windows blazed.

You said I should go ahead. You said you’d stay.
I lost my way. Against a wall of stone,
I watched the lights rise from the city. I
had nothing to do but wait for dawn to creep
across the sky, erasing stars. The world
around me shivered with sound, a staccato dawn,
the polyphonous hillside spotted with bird song.

And I had somewhere else I needed to be.
Having seen the wonders of liquid music and glass
on fire and you becoming you, I turned
and made my way down the mountain’s other side.

 

Joseph Saling‘s book A Matter of Mind is available from Foothills Publishing. He is the runner up for the 2016 Bacopa Literary Review Prize for Fiction from the Writer’s Alliance of Gainesville, and his poetry and short fiction have appeared widely in such journals as The Raintown Review, The Formalist, The Bacon Review, Blue Lake Review, and Carcinogenic Poetry.

Cliff Saunders: “The Final Storm”

The Final Storm

The day the stars fell, we were looking
at blue sky and losing faith in ourselves.
Our love cracked right in half like a tower
in a cold city that shook the ground
while everyone else panicked.
We spilled into its abyss late into the night.
It was important for us to suffer in our silence.
We wanted something that was us,
that represented us. All we found
were ashes around the drain in the sink.
How did it start? We knew the storm
was coming. The lights dimmed clear
across the country, and a paper ball
that kept on growing floated down sunlit Broadway.
An organ broke, snow fell from within us
out there on the street, where it left too harsh
of a light, including a moon only days from death.
I spent a lot of time praying for you and me,
waiting by the phone for you,
puffed by wind and surrounded by the sea.
All I ever wanted to do was dance
behind the curtain of the big bus
with you, to your heart’s discontent.
At the end of the bus ride, where were we?
I asked God all night to go sliding
down hillsides with me the way the wind
always revels in the final unraveling.
Instead, he gave me a gift, a story of codes,
and the text read: Once upon a time, the boy
who touched your broken heart beside the inlet
made you cry while he slept on your couch.

 

Cliff Saunders has an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Arizona. His poems have appeared recently in Connecticut River Review, Five 2 One, Avatar Review, Smoky Blue Literary and Arts Magazine, and Whale Road Review. He lives in Myrtle Beach, where he works as a freelance writer.