You’ll Understand One Day

Flash
Jo Goren


Photo Credit: new35168/Flickr (CC-by-sa)

Pay attention, you said.

This is how you scald the milk for morning cocoa.

You placed a chair by the sink for us to stand on and wash up after meals.

Nothing lives forever you said when we found the birdcage empty.

This is how to fix an omelet.

You couldn’t ride a bike or swim but made certain we learned.

Behave, be kind, it beats being nasty, you said.

You made our clothes.

Baked pies.

Scolded me for kissing boys.

One afternoon you brought home a pup.

We named him Rusty, but he became your best friend.

Rusty ran in circles around your legs all the way to the beach.

We watched you walk away, dog by your side, dressed as if you had an appointment, stockings, skirt, hair perfect, to go lie on a blanket to read and write beneath the dunes.

You needed time alone, you said, every mother does, you’ll understand one day.

Rusty kept us in check, and away from you with his shrill barks.

If we didn’t mind, he’d nip at our heels.

Bored making our own fun, we’d made sandwiches to distract the dog.

We zigzagged on hot sand that burnt our feet before he ripped into our shorts.

We counted the hours until you came home smelling like sunshine until one day, the day you trained us for, when you didn’t.

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Jo Goren is a writer, artist, community volunteer for the YWCA of Cleveland and member of Lit CLE. Her writing has been published in Ekphrastic Review, Literary Mama and Libros Loqui. She was a nominee for Best Small Fictions 2019. Twitter: @drawing4dollars Email: jmgoren[at]gmail.com

Memory Wave

Flash
Margaret Crompton


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

He takes her hand and waits for her wave of memory. Today?

*

What? What this?

Smell. Scent. Fresh. Air. Tree. Tree? Is this tree?

Tree is rough. Bark. This is smooth, soft. Touches me. It feels like my hand. Not mine. Not-me.

I see. I look at it, this not-tree. Not me. But like me. Hand—touch. Face. Eye—see. Nose—scent. Mouth—speak.

I speak: ‘What?’

Other mouth speaks: ‘Miranda?’

I hear: ‘Hello Miranda.’ Ear—hear. I say: ‘Hello. Mi—Rand—A.’

‘No,’ says the other mouth. ‘You are Miranda. I am Ferdy. Say: “Hello Ferdy.”’ Ferdy is not tree. Not it. Ferdy is he.

He touches me. His hand holds my hand. His mouth touches my mouth. My mouth feels. I feel. I feel happy. My heart feels happy.

I touch his face with my hand. I touch his mouth with my mouth. My lips kiss his lips. I kiss his hand.

His eyes look at me and overflow. Tears run over his face and touch my hand. You touch my hand.

I embrace you and weep. I feel full of joy. I am in love. I am love.

‘I love you, my Miranda,’ you say.

‘I love you, my Ferdinand,’ I say. ‘Who are you?’

‘I am your loving husband,’ he says. ‘You are my beloved wife.’

‘Husband?’ I say. ‘Wife? Do I know you?’

‘We’re married,’ says other mouth. ‘We live together, when you’re well.’

‘Well?’ asks my mouth. ‘What is “well”?’

‘“Well” is when you can remember,’ other says.

‘Remember?’ asks my mouth.

Other hand touches mine. Not-me. Soft. Smooth. What is this? Is this tree? Scent? Smell. What this? What?

*

Her wave of memory climbs, curves, climaxes, collapses. He holds her hand until she sleeps. Tomorrow? Perhaps.

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Since becoming 70, Margaret Crompton has turned from textbook writing (communicating with children in social and health care) to exploring poetry, short stories, drama, literature for children. She reviews children’s books for Friends’ Journal (PA). Two of her plays have been performed by Script in Hand—so-called because they all enjoy acting but can no longer remember the lines. Some poems have been set to music for the choir in which she and her husband sing. And some have been published. Two short stories have been published. “Memory Wave” is her first encounter with flash fiction. Email: margaret[at]lapwings.eclipse.co.uk

Corrections

Baker’s Pick
Buffy Shutt


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

From an article in last Friday’s newspaper:

The article misstated that Laundry Camp was free. The fee is $25 for one class, two loads. She admits to being high when she signed up. Her building’s washer is still broken.

The article misspelled her fiancée’s new start-up. It is A Hack Job, not A Wank Job. She says he doesn’t own a tablet. She doesn’t believe he can do this on an iPhone. He popped her.

The article omitted the facts that with her new promotion, she had to kiss her boss on the cheek and agree to keep picking up his dry cleaning. She says the dry cleaner guy gave her a winter jacket that no one had claimed for three years.

Because of developments after the paper went to press, the article failed to note the landlord gave her an eviction notice as her check was returned twice due to insufficient funds. She has a car and she and her son are living there for now. They park in the back of the dry cleaner’s.

The article had incorrect information provided by her mother.

Errors are corrected during the press run whenever possible.

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Buffy lives in Los Angeles where she writes poetry and short stories. She spent most of her working life marketing Hollywood movies and documentaries. A two-time Pushcart nominee, her recent work has appeared in Bird’s Thumb, Magnolia Review (awarded the Ink Award), Califragile, Split Lip Magazine, Rise Up Review, The Hedge Apple, Dodging the Rain, Cobalt Review (awarded the Earl Weaver Prize for the baseball issue). Email: buffyshutt[at]gmail.com

Love Means Nothing

Beaver’s Pick
DS Levy


Photo Credit: Dustin Gray/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

The Tennis Champ of the Whole Wide World drills forehands at the backboard with the accuracy of a cold-hearted laser beam. The green wall with its imaginary net issues a dull echo: Thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump. The Tennis Champ of the Whole Wide World could drill like this all day. She’s a machine that never misses. Before the yellow ball ricochets off the backboard she’s already got her Ultra-Lightweight Composite Professional Tennis Racquet Endorsed by The Tennis Champ of the Whole Wide World’s extra-wide head poised to pounce. Overhead, the sun crosses. Her shadow dances west to east, the pleats on her white tennis skirt flounce up and down. Geese fly high overhead in pattern. The moon rises. Lightning bugs dodge her blistering forehands. Orion cinches his belt a little tighter. The Big Dipper looks like a ball-hopper she doesn’t need. Her boyfriend walks down the asphalt path. She hears his sneakers before catching a glimpse of his shaggy brown hair. He laces his fingers between the chain-link fence, pokes his nose through and whispers: “Are you ever, ever coming in?” The Tennis Champ of the Whole Wide World says yes, no, maybe. When you’re a winner, you have to stay on top of your game. Everyone wants to knock you off the trophy perch. “In tennis,” she reminds him, “‘love’ means nothing.” And when he trudges off into the dark, she blasts the nap of the fluorescent ball and the hollow ping it makes echoes in the darkness. The Tennis Champ of the Whole Wide World isn’t willing to lose—not even her own cold, uncompromising heart: Thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump.

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DS Levy’s work has been published in New Flash Fiction Review, Little Fiction, MoonPark Review, Cotton Xenomorph, The Alaska Quarterly Review, Columbia, Brevity, and others. Her collection of flash fiction, A Binary Heart, was published in 2017 by Finishing Line Press. Email: deblevy[at]frontier.com

Crouching Tigress

Flash
Savera Zachariah


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

She follows his every move, watching intently. The man doesn’t know that he is in the presence of the one-eyed, man-eating tigress of Champawat. The tigress crouches, poised to pounce.

The vultures wait in the sidelines. They hope there would be some carcass left. The lions are not bothered. They are too stuffed anyway. The chimp, hiding from view, watches with glee. One less human. These mutated apes mock him all the time.

The man walks towards the tigress. The animals draw a collective gasp. He is fearless.

The taxidermist places the glass eye into the empty eye socket. He steps back to view his work, checking for imperfections. Satisfied, he walks away.

The tigress fixes the man’s retreating back with a glassy stare. Tomorrow, she will be taken to the Natural History Museum.

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Savera Zachariah is a freelance writer with bylines in a few International publications. She enjoys writing flash and creative nonfiction pieces, and loves experimenting with different forms. Email: savzac[at]hotmail.com

Caring

Flash
Tim Love


Photo Credit: James Jordan/Flickr (CC-by-nd)

At dawn she’s still asleep beside me. She’ll be asleep for hours. Not wanting to leave her, I start YouTube on my iPhone, decide to search for “Wish You Were Here.” I didn’t realise there were so many versions—by tribute bands, street musicians, even Guns N’ Roses. I choose the original.

In my teens I taped a friend’s Pink Floyd LP. I used to listen to the recording lying on my bed, my head sandwiched between loudspeakers. I played it loud. I didn’t care about anyone else. I miss those crackles and scratches now.

I get up to stop waking her with my sobs, watch the landscape learn the language of light—first scattered specks of frost, a background murmur rising from the horizon, plains surfacing from silence as syntax chains glint to glint, a surging chorus of fields and roads leading into the past, the land brighter than the sky.

Minutes must have passed. I look back. I want to touch her to see if she’s still breathing, like I did with our firstborn. The sun cures nothing, shining like the moon. She’ll take vitamin D pills instead, stay inside, use me like the weather—something to talk about when there’s nothing left to say. I’m the rain from Blade Runner, the Teletubbies sun, the note she’ll find on the breakfast table saying “Sorry, I’ll be back.”

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Tim Love’s publications are a poetry pamphlet Moving Parts (HappenStance) and a story collection By All Means (Nine Arches Press). He lives in Cambridge, UK. His prose has appeared in Cortland Review, Connotation Press, Dogzplot, Forge, Stand, Unthology, etc. He blogs at Litrefs. Email: tl136[at]cam.ac.uk

Couch

Baker’s Pick
Jared Levy


Photo Credit: emdot/Flickr (CC-by)

My dad came home from work and sat on the the black leather couch in the living room. He always sat on the same spot. He always looked tired. Every night it went work, couch, until the couch developed a large impression where his butt landed.

Until my mom kicked him out. Then I sat in the spot. I was younger then, about eight or nine, so I fell into the spot. It was like falling into a pit. It was like wearing hand-me-downs.

When my mom asked to sit in the spot, I said, “No, it’s mine.” But my mom said I couldn’t claim the spot. She said it was a little weird for me to be fixated on the spot when there were so many places to sit. What about the place on the other end of the couch where you could put your legs up? Isn’t that more comfortable?

I ignored my mom and stayed in the spot. I came home from school and watched the same TV my dad watched: sports, ER, and any movie on TNT. When my mom got home, she said she was too tired to argue with me. Do what you want.

About a month later, my dad visited and my mom left the house. My dad walked to the living room and looked at the couch, but he didn’t sit in the spot. Instead, he sat in the place my mom talked about, the place where you could put your legs up, and I didn’t know what to do. It didn’t feel right to sit in the spot, so I sat on the floor near the couch as my dad asked me, how were classes, how was basketball, how were my friends?

I tried to answer, but I kept looking at the spot, getting more and more angry. My answers got shorter and shorter, from a sentence to word, and my dad looked more and more uncomfortable, getting quieter too, until I told him I needed to go to the bathroom. I went to my room instead, shut the door, and tried to punch a hole in the wall. The plaster cracked. My knuckles got raw and bloody.

My dad yelled, “What are you doing up there?”

I yelled, “Nothing!”

I went back downstairs to the couch and sat on my hands. Blood stained my favorite corduroys. Crimson speckled all over the bottom. I threw my pants out before laundry day.

When my mom kicked my dad out, I was sitting on the couch. He looked at me and asked, “Is it always going to be this hard?”

I said, “I don’t know.”

And when my mom came home on the day my dad visited, he stood up to say hello, but she walked past him and over to me. She put her hand on the back of my neck and asked, “How was it?”

I looked down. I said it was fine. I softened under her touch.

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Jared Levy has stories published in regional and international journals including The Quotable, Apiary Magazine, The Machinery, and The Matador Review. His most recent published story, in Cleaver Magazine, “Waiting for you in Paris”, was nominated for a 2019 Pushcart Award. He holds a BA in Philosophy from Bates College and is the recipient of support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Lacawac Artists’ Residency, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. He was born in Philadelphia, PA, and currently lives there, too. He is a proud member of the Backyard Writers Workshop. Email: jaredmlevy[at]gmail.com

3 A.M. Idyll

Flash
Phebe Kirkham


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

My daughter wants to go for a walk after midnight through the summer streets of our neighborhood. She is restless at night, she says. I tell her she cannot go alone. She argues; I refute. After hours of boiling, down at the bottom of the pot is a single reason: she is a girl. She is furious, as she should be, all her anger directed at me, though it is not me who has made this world.

But at three a.m. when I wake as I do every night, I think of all the other women, their tide tables grown erratic in midlife, who find themselves beached on the hard sand of two or three a.m.

I imagine all of us rising from our beds, pulling on our robes and our sweatshirts and our leather jackets, adjusting our hijabs and our wigs, rearranging our side parts and our braids, slipping on sandals and loafers and sneakers and boots, gathering our soporifics—our warm milk in a mug, our tisanes, our hot water with lemon, our shots of vodka and cachaça and soju, our books and our knitting and our word searches, our decks of cards and our dominoes and our mahjong tiles.

I imagine us opening our doors and stepping down onto our stoops and out onto our corners, standing like so many pickets in a fence, while all the girls of the city come out for their walks.

We would not speak a word to the girls. We would gather around quiet but fierce games of five-card stud and go. In low voices, or with deft gestures, we would trade our hard-found remedies for flashes of heat and frozen shoulders and forgotten names.

We know that the girls have things to settle within themselves. We remember that to do this work, they must believe they walk unseen in the sweet, thick night.

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Phebe Kirkham teaches writing and literature at York College, CUNY. She holds an MFA from Brooklyn College and lives in Queens with her husband and daughter. Her twitter handle is @7thPhebe. Email: phebekirkham[at]gmail.com

Warm Milk

Flash
Shani Naylor


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

The first time Sylvia travelled through time, it caught her by surprise.

She’d been sitting at the table eating a sandwich when she found herself tottering around a garden with rose bushes towering over her. At first she thought she was drunk then a spaniel bounded up and rubbed his head against her hand. “Jessie,” she said tentatively, recalling the dog she had when she was a girl.

The second time she was pulled back was also confusing. This time she lay on a blanket on the ground and tried to call out, but no words came. She looked down to see she was wearing red rompers with an embroidered yellow duck. The surprise made her lightheaded and she spun back to her bathroom, where she’d been brushing her teeth.

She tried telling her daughter Meg, a lawyer at a big city legal firm. Meg nodded with pursed lips and started discussing the merits of local rest homes, so Sylvia closed her eyes and willed herself back to her parents’ home.

She found herself enveloped by warm bare arms and being held securely. A milky smell wafted around; she leaned forward, nuzzling, looking for its source. Her eyes stayed closed and she felt at peace. She wanted to stay in these arms forever. She filled her tummy with milk and softly fell asleep.

She woke up at midnight; Meg had gone and she was in bed.

Sylvia decided to go back. There was nothing in the present to keep her. Nothing in her house or her small town. Meg didn’t need her. She wanted to be back with Mummy and Daddy. With Jessie and her brother Alfie.

She lay in bed and willed herself to travel back again.

This time she wouldn’t be returning.

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Shani Naylor lives in New Zealand and has had stories published in the Top of the Morning Book of Incredibly Short Stories and Flash Frontier. Email: shani.naylor[at]gmail.com

Streaming

Flash
Ona Gritz


Photo Credit: DeeAshley/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

It’s the summer before my son leaves for college, the season, friends with older kids warn me, he’s likely to rail, accuse, anything to cause a rift large enough to walk through to his new life. Mostly he’s just quieter than usual, internal, except the times when, knowing I’m at my writing desk, he tosses a deflated soccer ball against the living room wall.

“Sorry, I forgot,” he responds when I call to him to stop, a claim so outrageous I wonder if he does this less to rankle than to hear his own name spoken—loudly, firmly—to assure himself that we’re still us, he’s still here.

One evening we watch Friday Night Lights: the pilot, the second episode, and, though I’ve got a stack of dishes waiting, he’s supposed to walk the dog, and I don’t actually care for football, we can’t help but allow ourselves one more.

From then on, this is what we do, night after night, worry together about the star quarterback turned paraplegic; the bookish boy briefly loved by a troubled girl; the addict’s son whose body is brilliant at sports. At dinner, we talk about these Texans as though they’re our neighbors here in New Jersey. We gossip, predict, offer advice only the two of us hear.

Too soon, we finish the series and, for days, we’re both doleful, aimless, grieving this loss in place of the one we rarely mention, though of course it’s streaming toward us, mere weeks away.

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Ona Gritz’s essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Utne Reader, MORE magazine, and elsewhere. “It’s Time,” which appeared in The Rumpus, was named a Notable Essay in Best American Essays, 2016. Her books include the memoir On the Whole: A Story of Mothering and Disability, and the poetry collections Geode and Border Songs: A Conversation in Poems, written with Daniel Simpson. Email: onafawn[at]gmail.com