Red Hair and Rain

Flash
Tomas Marcantonio


Photo Credit: jpellgen/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Red hair and rain fell over her pale eyes and the roar of weekend men shook the windows of the damp bar behind her. The street was dark and quiet with the misery of lonely winter, but the artist came with such purpose and caramel clothes that he might have been walking straight out of summer’s garden gate.

‘You paint it, I sign it,’ the artist said to the girl on the edge of the gutters. ‘Together we see what revenge and money and ridicule we can milk.’

It took less than an afternoon for the red-haired girl to finish the painting, less than a week for the papers to declare it a masterpiece. It took less than a month to move into the penthouse by the harbour and forget the hard cobbled roads of the lanes and the sad fall of copper into her wet hands. It took some sudden guts and another month of finery to expose the lie, to declare herself the true artist and genius behind it all.

Money, fame and praise tickled her cheeks each day as easily as the raindrops on the streets once had. The darling of the gutters became the darling of the art world, but the art world had its own stencilled script to follow. There couldn’t be a rise as swift and sweet without a sudden scythe to hack it down just as suddenly. Lost her focus, trying too hard, out of sorts, the reviews joyfully declared. The money soon lost on parties and happy destructions, the penthouse gone and the red hair quickly back to her gutters. The artist in his caramel clothes walked right out of summer’s garden gate and dropped a coin at her feet, and the roar of weekend men shook the windows of the damp bar behind her.

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Tomas Marcantonio is a writer and English teacher from Brighton, England. He graduated from the University of Sussex with a BA in English Language and Film, and has since travelled widely. He is currently based in Busan, South Korea, where he writes whenever he can escape the classroom. Email: tommarcantonio[at]hotmail.co.uk

Following the Ghost

Flash
Fran Laniado


Photo Credit: Estitxu Carton/Flickr (CC-by-sa)

I feel him in odd moments. He doesn’t haunt our house, or the place where he died, he haunts me. Just like he promised. Sometimes its a feeling, soft as a memory. Sometimes it’s more like he’s a truck that’s just hit me in my tracks.

I saw him for the first time at a hot dog stand, on my way to work. I never ate at those hot dog stands, for sanitary reasons. I just don’t trust them. But they were Dan’s guilty pleasure. He said that the risk made them taste even better. Which made me roll my eyes.

But the hot dogs didn’t kill him. A stupid fall down the stairs did that. For a long time I was angry for that. That he’d allow himself to be killed by such a stupid accident. Likely tripping over his own two feet. All I heard was the crash. I stop remembering then. Because I can’t allow myself to remember seeing him crumpled at the bottom of the stairwell. So I was quite surprised to see him at the hot dog stand six weeks later.

He wasn’t transparent, or translucent. There wasn’t cold air around him. His neck wasn’t tilted at that angle… He wore a green button-down shirt and blue jeans. My first thought was to wonder where he got the shirt; I didn’t recognize it. Then I remembered what happened. I walked toward him slowly as if he would disappear if I moved too fast. He stayed where he was, and then, as if sensing me, he turned around and gave me a smile and a small wave. When I was almost close enough to reach out and touch him, a bicycle went by, coming between us. By the time the bike was gone, so was he.

I’ve seen him since then. In the elevator at work (the door closed before I could get on). For some reason, I once saw him riding on the back of a garbage truck. I chased the truck for several blocks until I was forced to stop or be hit by a car. I sometimes wonder what will happen if I catch him. Will he pop, like a balloon, when I touch him? Or, will he take my hand, and take me with him, wherever he goes now, when he isn’t visiting me?

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Fran Laniado usually writes longer work, however she likes to write flash fiction as a way to clear her mind and her writing. A way to remind her what she needs on the page and what she doesn’t. She has had fiction published in Synchronized Chaos and New Works Review. She lives in New York and has a secret identity as a school teacher. Email: fl827[at]hotmail.com

The View

Flash
Sabrina Hicks


Photo Credit: Jon Wiley/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

The fancy restaurant had been Robert’s idea, a way to make amends for his hectic work schedule and long hours—not a far cry from what my mother had to endure with my own workaholic father. While Mom painted desert landscapes, Dad tore them down, making real estate deals for more strip malls. Much like my flexible hours being a local photojournalist were a huge contrast to Robert’s days and nights spent at his law office.

“I requested a table by the window,” Robert said to the host, who was checking off our names on the reservations list.

“Certainly,” he said, gathering menus before leading us to the back of the restaurant where expansive windows took in the vistas and red rock landscape.

He pulled out my chair next to the window, and I sat, thanking him as Robert took his phone from his pocket.

“Just a client I need to get back to,” he said, texting.

As the shadows began to descend down the mountains, bathing in a blood orange sunset, I thought how much my mother would have loved this view; how her eyes used to hold the colors of the desert as she painted, interpreting the mood of the mountains; how her work grew darker as she grew older, until she finally left my father and moved to California to live alone in a bungalow near the ocean. She would have loved the view as much as I did, and suddenly I felt sorry I had ever been angry at her for her choices.

“Get anything you like,” Robert said, setting his phone on the table between us, just as it lit up again. “The trout is excellent.”

I perused the menu, but stopped to see the sun slipping below the mountains, staining them purple. The saguaros in the distance, standing like kings crowned in a halo of sunlit yellow thorns, begged to be noticed. Robert’s thumbs typed a furious response, and I watched his brow knit in disgust, leaning further away from the table, reflected in the large window before us.

“I need to use the restroom,” I said, hesitating a moment for his acknowledgement, but his mind was elsewhere. I reached for my purse and slipped away, pausing at the ladies’ room and back at the table to see his head still bent forward, fingers moving across his phone, and the sun dissolving into a thin pink line, pooling along the jagged peaks in a final gash of day.

I rolled down the windows as I drove away, inhaling the orange blossoms at dusk, watching the last of the shadows slip off the foothills, deciding it was a fine time to text him I wouldn’t be returning.

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Sabrina Hicks lives in the Southwest. Her work has appeared in Writer’s Digest, Gyroscope Review, Spelk Fiction, The Drabble and Panoply. Email: desertdwelleraz3[at]gmail.com.

Major Award

Flash
Michael Snyder


Photo Credit: Judy van der Velden/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Some people really are as dumb as they look. Harold was one of these people.

He knew the alphabet, but sometimes confused the order. His face was slack, the muscles droopy, as if he were melting. But Harold did have a big heart. Literally. His blood pump was the envy of cyclists, mountain climbers, and sex addicts everywhere.

His real talents, in order, were: finding four-leaf clovers, blind taste-testing, and making razor-straight lines with a push mower.

But his proudest possession had nothing at all to do with his talents. It was actually a cartoonish-looking statuette that his estranged daughter picked up at a yard sale, yet another belated birthday gift.

Dumb as he was, Harold was not immune to irony. Though he’d learned that some things were better left ignored.

Harold was a creature of habit. Each night he brushed, flossed, and stepped into a fresh pair of underpants. He then slipped between the sheets and prayed for all the people he used to know. Once his spiritual accounts were settled, he would reach blindly for the nightstand until his fingers found the chipped scalp of his prized statuette. Next he rolled his bulky form into a sloppy fetal position and hugged the figurine to his chest, fingering the inscription along the base. Sometimes he cried a little. Only as his breathing slowed to an even hum would Harold dare to wonder if maybe he really was the world’s greatest dad.

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Michael Snyder lives in middle Tennessee with his amazing wife and children. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The First Line; Cease, Cows; Everyday Fiction; Greater Sum; Relief Journal; Lit.Cat; and various other online haunts. His first three novels were published by Harper Collins/Zondervan. Michael is not a big fan of reading his own work. Email: snydermanwrites[at]gmail.com

Ski Lift

Flash
Zack Peercy


Photo Credit: TMAB2003/Flickr (CC-by-nd)

We’re sitting on a ski lift and my butt is cold. I can’t tell you this because of what I already told you. So we continue to sit in silence.

We’ve taken this ride before. Every year, we come to this mountain and you try to convince me to wear the goggles, and I tell you to get a better hat, and we quote that ski instructor who was totally hitting on you. And right now, if I hadn’t said what I said, we would be making bets on who would beat who down the hill.

The sun is setting behind the mountain. The ski lift continues its ascension as we chase the remains of the day, chase yesterday, chase the moments before I said what I said.

You turn to me in the fading light. You say something I don’t want to hear. And I know that this will be our last time racing down the slopes.

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Zack Peercy is a playwright. He’s been published in The Sandy River Review, among others. Email: zackpeercy[at]gmail.com

What the Anemometer Measures

Flash
Becca B. Jenkins


Photo Credit: Mark Blasingame/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Her science teacher called them geodes, but she knew them as thunder eggs. To be precise, all thunder eggs are not geodes, and not all geodes are thunder eggs. But sometimes one and the other are the same.

This is the anemometer, her science teacher said. Do you know what it measures?

It measures the wind. The wind at her back. The speed of her feet. The space between where her toe last was and where her heel touches again. The space between the last letter she wrote and the next one she begins. The space that widens when she stretches her metatarsals, that shrinks when she crinkles herself, her entire self, into a ball.

This is what the anemometer measures.

No, her teacher said. It measures the wind.

He is wrong.

He has science. She has life.

Her mother taught her the four directions, the four mountains, the four colors, the four elements, the four seasons, the four everything. The four phases of life. But she didn’t have four everything. She didn’t have two grandmothers and two grandfathers. She didn’t have two parents and a sibling. She didn’t have her own four limbs.

I’ll hold the pen for you, her classmate said.

Don’t be silly, she replied. See how it fits in the space between my toes?

Sometimes you find jasper in the geode, her teacher said. Not at the center, but in the area around it. It is often red, from the presence of iron. It is almost never blue.

She is red. She is iron. She is always blue.

Last night she dreamed of the raven. She was jealous of his two wings.

You have legs like the bear, the raven said.

But I don’t have four, she replied, only two.

In the morning, her mother poured her coffee. The flavor astringent and dead.

She drank it down and told her mother she didn’t want to go to school.

You have to learn their stories, her mother replied. You must learn their maps.

But I don’t want to go where they want me to go, she said.

Her mother shook her head. At your center is a silk road, her mother said. A route from one world to the next. A path from sea to sky.

But I can’t carry anything back, she told her mother. Only what fits in one palm.

She stretched her single set of metacarpals as evidence.

You have the wind, her mother said.

This is the anemometer, her teacher said. Do you know what it measures?

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Becca Borawski Jenkins is a writer and editor. She holds an MFA in Cinema-Television Production from USC and has short stories appearing or forthcoming in The Forge, The Knicknackery, Panorama, Five 2 One, and Corium. She lives with her husband in an RV they built by hand, on an off-grid homestead somewhere in the Idaho Panhandle. Email: beccabjenkins[at]gmail.com

Flames

Flash
Jenny T.H. Chiu


Photo Credit: Annie Roi/Flickr (CC-by)

Shimmery full moon this morning when I was walking to the train station, reminded me of the day you broke your middle finger and the breakfast crawled with ants but I didn’t care.

In my dreams
you trace your fingers between my thighs, aglow under the moonlight, and your reptilian-cold skin presses against mine so tenderly that when you lie asleep and I lie awake breathing, I do not have to whisper to myself, it’s love, it’s love, it’s love.

In my dreams
I hold you at gunpoint, but you just do that half-smile of yours, daring me to pull the trigger, pull it, pull it. I always end up tossing the bullets into my mouth, like bitter medicine you said was good for me.

In between my dreams
poison ivy grew out of cracks on the stone steps of our house. I kept trying to prune it. It kept growing up.

You always said you didn’t smoke, so who set the house on fire, who, who? In the smog I looked for the poison ivy, and choked my way out. Window panes shattering behind. I didn’t look for you.

Today, I sit out here in the blazing heat, watching the cat pick up a dead bird with its yellow crooked teeth. Glint in its eyes says, look what I caught. I wanted to look away.

Wish I could knock this cigarette out of my own hand.

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Jenny T.H. Chiu is a first-year university student currently living in Australia, although she has lived in Asia for most of her life: Taiwan, China and Singapore. Email: fragulity[at]gmail.com

Delicacy

Baker’s Pick
Timothy Bastek


Photo Credit: haley8/Flickr (CC-by)

Cynthia saw the winged boy today. He was the last of his kind, an ancient race who once dwelled in the jungles far to the south. He did not give Cynthia or her classmates notice when they approached the cage. He just sat in his tree, his back facing them, his features hidden behind his dirty wings. The zookeeper explained the winged boy was dying and would not last much longer, possibly not even through the night. The plaque at the cage’s base said a team of archeologists had found him in a ruined temple cowering by the bones of his ancestors.

When the first colonists arrived two centuries ago, they saw the winged people of the South as nothing more than food. Their wings were considered a delicacy. It did not matter if the cities they built deep in the jungles were a treasure trove of knowledge for modern architecture, nor did the colonists care if their histories and legends revealed the wisdom of an ancient race. All the colonists wanted were their wings, to cut them from their backs, pluck off the feathers, fry them in oil and sacred herbs from the jungle, and dip them in sauces finely crafted from the from the winged people’s own harvest. Besides, the jungle languages were too savage and barbaric for the refined and civilized colonists to understand.

As her class passed through the zoo’s gates back to the bus, Cynthia glanced in the open doors of the restaurant that stood near the entrance. Inside, a wealthy man gave instructions to the chef, who nodded as he sharpened his knives.

pencilTimothy Bastek is from Chandler, Arizona. He’s been fortunate enough to have spent a year studying in Sweden. His stories have appeared in Tales of the Talisman and HelloHorror. Email: timothybastek[at]gmail.com

A Family Tradition

Flash
Tim Love


Photo Credit: Lorenia/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

“Now your hair Jenny,” she said, glumping shampoo onto her daughter’s head.

“Do I have to?”

Her mother moulded Jenny’s hair into a cockscomb. “There, Roadrunner.”

Jenny looked at herself in the mirror. “Again!”

Her mother pulled on each side of Jenny’s head. “Two big ears. You’re Mickey Mouse now.”

“What shape did you like when you had hair?”

“Roadrunner and Mickey Mouse were all my mother could do.”

“Was she nice, your mummy?”

“Yes.”

“Look,” Jenny said, squashing her hair flat, “You!”

pencilTim Love’s publications are a poetry pamphlet Moving Parts (HappenStance, 2010) and a story collection By All Means (Nine Arches Press, 2012). He lives in Cambridge, UK. His poetry and prose have appeared in Stand, Rialto, Oxford Poetry, Journal of Microliterature, Short Fiction, etc. He blogs at Litrefs. Email: tl136[at]cam.ac.uk

Eventually Air

Flash
Michelle S. Lee


Photo Credit: Joseph Bergen/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Corinne and Daniel have been together three years to the day when she found him in a souvenir beach shop in Vero. She had two days off from her job as an admissions receptionist at the Urgent Care and went south for a drive. She stopped for cheap coffee. He stood in the window next door to the café, blown-up plastic, and posed next to a surfboard.

She paused at the pane, seeing Tom Selleck in his golden days of Magnum P.I. when she was sixteen and did not yet feel thoroughly fucked like she did at twenty-eight. He was $25.99, plus tax, but that included his outfit (a faded blue cotton button-down and khakis) and his name, stamped on the bottom of his left shoe, a brown, precisely printed loafer.

Daniel fit perfectly in the front seat of her ten-year-old Camry, same one she drove in high school. Corinne knew she was crazy for buying a plastic man, but then he spoke to her.

“Thank you,” she heard him say in a matter-of-fact voice that caused her to believe in him more than she knew she should. “I was hoping.”

Corinne remained apprehensive for one main reason: that men, in her experience, lasted only until they found someone who was “more accessible.” But maybe Daniel, she thought, would be different. Besides, she had stopped touching people as a rule. Not even after four hand-pumps of anti-bacterial gel followed by size-small latex gloves. Day to day, behind plexiglass, clipboards, and a name tag that read “Ask me about Shingles,” Corinne just saw too much.

Today, their anniversary, Corinne wakes Daniel at dawn and drives them to a small, secluded inlet in New Smyrna where they will watch hot air balloons rise over Spruce Creek. Corinne packed egg sandwiches in foil, a thermos of black coffee, and a blanket because it is March, early, and the car heater is temperamental. She parks almost to the sand. A striped balloon is first to crest the water.

She leans across the armrest, puts her head on his shoulder. It still smells soapy from their shower the night before. A blue balloon joins the sky. She wonders if the earth looks far enough away from up there.

“I wait for moments like this,” she says.

Daniel wants to say, “Me, too.”

He doesn’t. Her contentment presses through his slick skin, fills him as much as it can. He listens to it fall deep into the hollow of who he is and thud to the bottom. In the same moment, he watches balloon after balloon sail into the morning.

Daniel had little memory of a time before her. Just a protracted hissing sound, like air slowly escaping from a hole he couldn’t see.

He wants to say, “Eventually, we won’t be enough.”

He doesn’t.

pencilMichelle Lee is an associate professor of literature, fiction writing, and composition at Daytona State College. She’s been an editor of academic and literary journals, has published across genres, and has earned a Pushcart Prize “happy to be nominated” badge of honor for her poetry. Most recently, her words were published in the anthology, All We Can Hold, by Sage Hill Press and with Spry Literary Journal, Gingerbread House, and Literary Mama. This winter, you can find her work with Hypertrophic, Dying Dahlia, and LitBreak. Email: Michelle.Lee[at]daytonastate.edu