Harry Munoz bled into his work. Divorced, self-blacksheeped, working underneath Old Parsons Bridge, he slashed and scratched ancient feelings into his canvases—red and black blurs of fire and corruption. Brickmold, rat flesh and the occasional tossed bottle shriveled his brains. Fischer thanked the flood of ’62 for gifting him the slimed black painting with a signature in rust. His mother slapped his child face for bringing home that grotesquery. Now Fischer executes his part. Bridges crumble, rebuild, rename. Cities stack upon boneyards. The terror leaks; his daughters can’t sleep. Higher calling—choice? The artist cuts smooth, practiced initials. Nods.
Shoveling snow, he relishes stillness. Flakes falling, ground blanketed in white, he’s reluctant to clear it. Snow renews one, buries darkness, grudges, criticisms from father’s mustache.
Hills covered in white, he imagines a self defined by no one.
He dances, shovel raised, victorious memento.
He wishes the snow wouldn’t end.
She parked her car at her thinking place high above the water in the old quarry, she could see the lights of her small town in the distance. Many milestones in her life had been decided behind that steering wheel, just staring into the darkness.
She remembered that early decision to break off her engagement and to fight alone and then her decision to continue fighting even when mainstream medicine failed.
Today, the results of that experimental medication gave her the strength for one last decision as she stared into the darkness.
Drive or reverse?
Finally, everyone was together under one roof. Besides wearing an overpriced suit, Thomas was elated. The subtle man was a gracious host; even little Jenny told her mommy how pleasant he looked. He didn’t point out that they were all invited to Sunday dinner each week for years. He didn’t mention that during every telephone call, he asked to meet his great granddaughter. He didn’t remind them that he tried to organize every holiday, to no avail. He didn’t say anything at all...as each one passed by his casket.
He lay there half comatose with a team of physicians bending over him. In their attempt to resuscitate the MI patient, they were administering life saving drugs, some directly into the heart and some intravenously. As time passed by, the monitoring machines indicated a worsening outlook. Then there was a straight line on the monitor, and the doctors hastened to pick up the defibrillator. One…two…three. The line became zigzagged--the proof of life.
Then a strange change began to appear in the convalescent. He tended to be more and more narcissistic and gradually became a chronic bragger.
During music class, Devansh and I got into a fight. In our defence, we didn’t like each other. The teacher had no idea, but still, he should’ve seen how we glared at each other.
We argued. Devansh snapped. He said I was done for.
‘After school, we’ll meet outside, by where the school buses park. We’ll fight like real men do.’
We were in year nine.
I took the bus home, watching the spot outside the street where the buses parked. I was too good for fighting. Or too scared. I didn’t care.
Devansh was sitting two seats behind me.
‘They say laughter is the best medicine.’ Thomas thought to himself chuckling.
Thomas realised that his life was too valuable to throw away. The boy had given him a good laugh jolting him out of his dark depression, but it was more than that. Something in the boy's look and the way he nodded when he passed by.
Thomas shrugged his shoulders and reached into his jacket pocket resting his hand on the cold metal of the gun barrel.
‘I won't be needing this.’ Thomas thought. ‘I’ve a second chance and to think I'd been about to end it all.’
Cissy twirled in front of the mirror and giggled with delight. Her face was flushed, and her eyes sparkled with excitement. Her mother oohed and aahed, as she glimpsed her young daughter’s reflection in the hall mirror. The hours that Beth spent on the sewing machine were well worth the effort. After kissing her youngster on her rosy cheek, Beth made one final adjustment to the princess costume. Cissy then quickly grabbed her empty wicker basket with one hand, and her mother with the other. It was time to go trick-or-treating.
Don’s wife left him last year for another man and recently filed for divorce. Now that his wife’s gone, he’s unable to afford his beautiful new dream house, and it is in foreclosure. Worst of all, the court restricts his visits with his two children to every other weekend.
But this morning, Don found a white feather at his doorstep. He remembered that his grandmother always said that a white feather is a sign of good things to come. Don picked up the feather, put it in his lapel, and went to work. Later that day, Don got a promotion.
“No, it can’t be. It must be a bird, or a plane or something,” said Lois.
“On what planet is that a bird? I’m telling you, it’s Superman,” replied Jimmy.
“We’re not having this argument again. Clark, tell him that’s not Superman.”
“What? No I’m not!” said a distracted Clark Kent, dragging his eyes away from where they’d been drilling an X-ray hole in Lois’s blouse.
“No, it’s definitely Superman. Tell her, Clark!” urged Jimmy.
Clark looked up at the alien spaceship in the sky, and gave the answer least likely to worry his friends. “Yup, that’s Superman alright.”
He’d unearthed the clues, but they were clues to what? Were they clues to a mystery or simply the misguided ramblings of his brain?
He looked for answers, but the more he looked the more muddled it became.
He looked left and then right and all he saw was the same scene he’d seen – no changes. No evidence of anything. And no one was there or appeared to have been there.
It was a quandary and nothing new or unexpected seemed to be happening.
Then he remembered – he was four months old. Better to let his mother find his bottle.
The argument started over something and nothing, but her heart felt like stone and forgiveness a million miles away.
She had not wanted to argue, she never did, but she knew he wanted, no, he needed an excuse to hurt her.
For how long must she endure this, this vicious never-ending circle-for all their married life, he could never change, of this she was certain.
Fear, humiliation, pain, weariness, if you asked her, she would run out of words to explain.
Today she knew she must leave with the fear that he would someday find her.
The day I stopped drinking, my migraine headaches increased in intensity and frequency. Then I began to see dots drifting from the corner of my left eye across the room. Putting my faith in cannabis and Zen, I’d smoke a joint while meditating in the lotus position for ten minutes daily.
Ken, my fiancée, almost spoiled my smooth recovery, declaring, “Deirdre, you’re just a drama queen crying for help.” Perhaps if he hadn’t been lost in a male mid-life crisis—checking out his hair loss or driving a classic corvette whenever possible—I might have taken his words to heart.
We must demolish the town’s fountain, Raymond,’ the mayor told me. ‘It broke years ago.’
‘Wait,’ I replied. ‘I’ll fix it.’
I rerouted the mains water supply. The fountain began to flow but the town’s swimming pool emptied.
I reconsidered and dug a well for the fountain. The borehole severed a pipe. Sewage swamped the town square.
‘Enough,’ the mayor said.
She dynamited the fountain. The granite pelican on top hurtled skywards and landed on her toe. The rest of the structure remained intact.
‘Let’s leave the fountain alone,’ I suggested, replacing the pelican.
The mayor agreed and limped away.
You awake to the sound of your mobile – an unknown caller. Without a name, you will not answer. Probably another telemarketer, you surmise, or the alumnae association soliciting funds.
Later, while getting dressed for the nightshift, you recall those eighties songs that you grew up with as a kid. Songs about memorizing a girl’s number or waiting by the phone after a bad break-up. How antiquated they now seem in the age of facebook and texting. Like women playing rugby in skirts.
Before leaving home, you finally pause and listen to the voicemail: Daddy, I need help. Please come. NOW!
These damn apartment walls are so infuriatingly thin, I think I could tear straight through them with my fingernails.
Consequently, I can hear her next door, and her lover, with a crystal-clear clarity.
Their shared roaring guffaws, drowning out the canned laughter of some Seventies sitcom re-run. The crash of shattering glass that accompanies each wine-fuelled argument. Even worse, the bellowing make-up sex that inevitably follows, reverberating in excruciating detail.
Jesus Christ, I miss my ex-wife so much. But it’s obvious that she doesn’t miss me.
I wonder if the sound of sobbing ever bothers them.
Perhaps my screaming will.
Whisps of fog twirl in the night, dancing across the grassy field. The moon hangs low in the sky, a lidless white eye. A figure is chained to a cracking wooden post. He looks to the heavens. Flesh bubbles. Brown eyes turn yellow. Fur bursts from skin, talons from shoes.
A woman watches. She did not believe her lover; she thought him crazy. She aims her rifle, holds his gaze. The chains strain. The post begins to break. She pulls the trigger — click.
She closes her eyes awaiting death. The beast thumps past — rank breath. It howls. She is alone.
I hate flying, but I must do it for my job. My doctor gives me a sedative to help me get through it. Usually, I sleep through the whole flight, but not this time, I awaken and must relieve myself. As I walk out of the bathroom and head back to my seat, I notice all the other passengers are looking at me, no, they are watching me. Do I have toilet paper stuck to my shoe? Then I start to recognize the other passengers, and they are members of my family and friends that have passed away.
Even on holiday, I'm thinking about Friday Flash Fiction. Watching the clock at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, an idea came to me for this updated version of the Greek legend about the guy condemned to push a boulder up a hill for evermore. Sorry about the shaky iPhone camerawork, but this is worth studying carefully if you've never seen it before.
Zeus stared angrily at King Dealios.
"Dealios, it seems that you haven't learned from your father Sisyphus."
King Dealios stood before Zeus, in chains but unbowed, chin jutting proudly, bleach-blond hair cemented across to cover his baldness.
"Don't waste my time. Sisyphus was a loser. Like you."
Now Zeus was truly furious: lightning flashed all around. "You're just like him – a lying, bullying, womanising, self-aggrandising fool! Who's the loser here?"
Dealios quaked in fear. "Look Zee, I'll cut you a deal – "
"Please, Zee, don't make me push a boulder – "
"Enough, Dealios. Your time has come. For ever."
People view her as a religious person because she goes to mass every week. But she perceives the meditative structure as a balm against her battle with inner demons.
When asked by a waiter in Paris if she was Catholic, she replied “not so much.” Prayers are said out of necessity during CAT scans and MRIs and surgical procedures.
She lights candles for her dead dogs every week but doesn’t put money in the box. And she wonders if God will grant her wishes if she doesn’t pay up front.
I was thirteen the last time he talked to me. Like most youth at that age, I wanted to be anywhere but listening to an old man. He would talk about days gone by, days to come, and how there was no place he could smoke cigars anymore. And how Jack Johnson was the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time. Always with peppermint buttercream candies and whiskey on his breath.
He has not talked to me in over twenty years. I would give anything to have my grandpa talk to me and to smell whiskey and peppermint on his breath.
Date of birth?
Again and again, they ask Tracy her name and when she was born.
From electrocardiogram technicians to nurses to surgeons, all insist on the information. Hospital regulations require patients identify themselves for every procedure.
Tracy eagerly complies, no matter how often. Everyone’s eyes are so friendly, their smiles reassuring. And they all show an interest in her well-being.
Concerned nurses begin asking the young teen if her repeat injuries are from abuse at home.
No. Tracy doesn’t tell them that her parents disappeared years ago.
Or how they disappeared.
I'm a big kid now but I remember. I was always cozy, warm and snug as a bug in a rug. I was never hungry and most times mommy fed me yummy food. She sang to me a lot which was nice because I was bored a lot, I had nobody to play with. One day something grabbed my leg. It pulled and pulled and then everything was so bright. When my eyes could see again I saw my mommy. She was just as beautiful as I imagined. She held me and smiled, her new baby girl.
I write stories about drunk mothers. There’s something raw in unfurled weariness, in anger that drinking births.
Real mother moves with grace, fallen ballerina. Hugs and nicknames overwhelm me, so many goodnights, silhouette in my spaces.
Yet, she gives, world takes. Ballet, Dad.
I should burn drunk mothers.
Just one more.
‘What have they done to you?’ he asked rhetorically.
She didn’t reply, it was obvious she’d been in an accident. She was the victim here, she hadn’t stood a chance. Sadness washed over him as he looked at her, barely recognisable from the impact.
They said she was supposed to be at home, so why was she there?
‘Was there any hope? Would she ever be the same?’
Preparing himself for the procedure, he put on his gloves and surveyed the tray of instruments.
The Mechanic smiled at the mangled sports car.
‘Don’t worry beautiful.’ he said. ‘I’ll fix you.’