Category: flash fiction

What She Knew – Sue Powers

She had a birthday, became thirty, became morbid and suffering and told her husband she would bear no more children, that inherent in birth is the sentence of death, that all childbearing is selfish, an illusion of immorally and how well she knew that she would die soon (what is thirty, forty more years compared to eternity?), that she was powerless, that her only life was moving along a path she could not remember freely choosing and she would not know all experience, live all the lives, reach all the corners that she might, but if nothing else, she said, she wished better for her unborn offspring than this anguish, this knowledge of nothingness-after-life.   

Take an aspirin, he said. Not unkindly.

Sue Powers has an array of publishing credits, among them Saturday Evening Post. She’s the recipient of a fellowship & grant from the Illinois Arts Council in Prose and two of her stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She has 21 fiction publications.

 

 

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

Feed Me – Carrie Mumford

Once a guy took me to Point Pleasant Park in the rain and sat me on the rocks overlooking the ocean and fed me spaghetti he’d cooked from a Tupperware and told me he wanted to drop out of school and buy a boat and sail around the world with me. The spaghetti was dry and the next summer he fell in love with a boy at the yacht club.

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Once a guy made me lobster and lasagna. He called his adopted nonna and she coached him over the phone on how to melt the butter, when to take the noodles out, how to rub the spices between his hands. We slept in dog-dirty sheets and he told me about his brother’s time in jail and how he himself had stolen a register full of cash once but that was okay because it was the guy’s own fault for leaving it open when he went in the back to get the pizza.

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Once a guy cooked me plantains and showed me how to choose the perfect mango, how the sweetest meat was closest to the pit. He recited a poem he’d written for his ex about kissing on a bridge in the rain and told me she’d left of her own accord and that it was her fault and her fault alone. He told me to be good be sweet be kind when I left him a few months later, of my own accord.

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Once a guy made me baloney sandwiches with mustard on brown and he’d doubled in size overnight. He told me about his new girlfriend, how her hair was curlier than mine and her bum bigger and how we were so different because she was a cheerleader and I was a point guard but he liked that about her. And then we went upstairs to his dad’s camera room. Antique cameras stared at us on the single bed with baby-blue sheets. His feet hung off the end and we had perfunctory sex because we had to. 

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Once a guy ate snowflakes off my eyelashes. He rolled on top of me and my snowmobile suit from the seventies, waited for the snow to fall, licked it from my eyelids, my cheeks, my lashes. He told me the stars always made him think of the Tragically Hip and the tobogganing hill made him think of weed. He drove me home in his crappy car and told me my mom was bad for me, as if she were something I could quit, like cigarettes.

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Once I made a guy shepherd’s pie because his dad had a heart attack. I borrowed a cookbook from my mom and spent four hours boiling and mashing and frying and baking, and then I dropped it off at his house. He answered the door in an open housecoat and boxers and wouldn’t let me come inside. Behind him, his ex said, “Who’s that?” and I still handed him the pie and he still took it. I never got my dish back.

Carrie Mumford has lived on both the East and West coasts of Canada, and many places in between. Currently, she lives in Calgary, Alberta with her husband, three naughty cats, and one rambunctious dog. Her first novel, All But What’s Left, is forthcoming in June 2018.

First Week of First Grade – Natalie DeVaull-Robichaud

“He has trouble with transitions,” I explain to the social worker in her air-conditioned office. Two hours before, in class, he yelled out “I want to kill myself! I don’t belong in this school!” because (he later explained) he didn’t want to write anymore. They are wondering what is wrong. I ache in the cool plastic chair. There is a mirror on the wall where there should be a clock. There is my son who is different. I am glad there is organic milk in his snack bag that day as he shapes the magnetic toys on the table into an elaborate sculpture of triangles on triangles. The magnets are balls and sticks. He points to the silver magnetic ball in the center of the sculpture and says, “This is the atom of my mommy’s heart.”

Natalie DeVaull-Robichaud lives with her husband and son in Connecticut, where she teaches writing.

Relative – Jacinta Nandi

Whenever Lydia talks about how she was abused as a child, she says “relative.”

“My relative, who abused me,” she says.

So nobody ever knows: Was it her uncle or her stepfather or maybe an older brother or a brother-in-law? She has a million older brothers and sisters, like ten of them, something ridiculous like that, something really over the top. 

“Sometimes,” Lydia says, “I have these fantasies about how when my mum dies and my relative phones me up to plan the funeral, how I’m going to go to them, ‘Now my mum is dead, I don’t need to protect her anymore, did you think I was protecting you? You’re an idiot then, I was just protecting her. And now she’s dead, I’m gonna tell everyone what you did to me and I just totally will as well! I’m going to write books, short stories, novels, plays – I am going to write a one-woman-play about what you did to me – I am going to tell the world.’” 

“Yeah,” I say. 

It’s a nice plan. I imagine Lydia on the bus, on the phone, spitting into her phone, the words tumbling out, all the pain tumbling out, it’s a nice plan, I think. It’s good to have a plan. And it’s even better to have a nice one.

“And my relative, they’ll be so scared, yeah? And then I’ll say it, I’ll fucking say it. Maybe I’ll even go to the police. Maybe I’m gonna go to the police.”

I laugh. It’s such a beautiful sentence. Plus, I’m drunk.

“That’s a beautiful sentence,” I say. “Maybe I’m going to the police.”

“It’s a gorgeous sentence,” Lydia says.

“Yeah,” I say.

“I’m never gonna do it, I’d never do it. But just saying that sentence just once. I’d fucking love that.”

“Yeah.” 

“But not while my mum’s alive, it’d fucking kill her.”

“That’s the problem with being a survivor of childhood sex abuse,” I say. “You spend your whole life waiting for your mum to die before you can actually start properly living, it’s like being Prince Charles or someone.” 

Lydia sighs, she stands up and sits down on the sofa by the kitchen window, curls up her legs, looks out the window. She totally has this Little Women vibe going on.

“Imagine how normal we would be, how happy and normal, if we’d never been raped, never been abused. I would be so normal.” 

“We’d be so normal. We’d just lead these incredibly normal lives! We’d be able to drive,” I say, although I am not sure if this is true. I’m very bad at driving games on the X-Box, sometimes my son makes me join in with him and I end up going backwards. 

“I’d live by the sea and do ceramics,” Lydia says.

“I’d also live by the sea, but I wouldn’t do ceramics. But I would have lots of turquoise lampshades and pink candles. And I’d have cute teapots. Possibly with turtles on them? Not Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, cute ones. And I’d have lots of cushions. And I’d have a husband called Alan and we’d have two kids and I’d write kids’ books and I’d be fairly successful. I’d teach refugee teenagers English twice a week.”

Lydia yawns.

“What would your books be about?” She asks.

“Maybe a cheeky mermaid who doesn’t know any manners?” I say. “And zoo animals. And like, a lost unicorn and the adventures it has on its way back to the unicorn farm.”

“You’d probably win loads of book awards and everyone in the book industry would know who you were but you wouldn’t be totally famous. Only damaged people want to be totally famous.”

“We need more wine,” I say. I read the logo on my phone backwards: SONY i.e. YNOS i.e. WHINOS. Fuck, I think, it’s a sign! Lydia smiles sleepily, she looks like a sleepy lioness and a bit like Alicia Keys.

“No we don’t,” she says. “I got two bottles of Eierlikör in my room. I stole them from the supermarket.”

“Oh, you shouldn’t steal stuff,” I say. “We might be fucked up, but we’re not that fucked up. We’re basically coping.”

Still, I have to admit, it will be nice to drink the Eierlikör.

“If we could just meet Oprah once, we would be normal,” I say, pouring the Eierlikör Lydia hands me down my throat as quickly as possible. God, it’s delicious. It’s like drinking custard.

“If we could’ve met Princess Diana,” says Lydia. “If she hadn’t died and we had met her and she’d meet us and we could text her! It would all be fine. We wouldn’t just be normal. We’d be fucking amazing.”

I don’t say anything because I secretly think Princess Diana wouldn’t even like us that much if she hadn’t died. I think she’d think we were a bit dumpy and rubbish. But I don’t say this out loud.

“The bad news is, though,” Lydia says.

“What,” I say. I suddenly notice how drunk I am. Being drunk on Eierlikör is my favourite feeling in the world, you go fuzzy and numb and warm and it’s all so sudden.

“I think my relative’s going to die first. Before my mum does.”

“Oh,” I say.

“Yeah,” she says. “They’re ill. They’re pretty old and they’re ill. So you know what that means? I’ll never get my revenge.”

“Oh,” I say.

“Still,” she says. “I must admit. I’m looking forward to the funeral.”

“Oh,” I say.

“I’ve already bought the hat.”

I pour her some more Eierlikör.

“I have to admit. This stuff tastes even better when it’s stolen.” I say.

Okay, so we might never get our revenge, I think, but in the meantime, we can get drunk on stolen Eierlikör. And I guess it’ll do.

Jacinta Nandi was born in East London in 1980 and moved to Berlin aged 20. She writes in both German and English and has a political column in Germany’s youngest and newest feminist magazine, Missy, as well as the riotmama blog at the taz. In 2015, she published an autobiographical novel, nichts gegen blasen, with Ullstein.

 

Claudette – Kate LaDew

Claudette

In 1955, nine months prior to Rosa Parks, 15 year-old Claudette Colvin was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing to give up her seat on a bus. When the federal court case Browder v. Gayle, which aimed to prove state and local laws requiring bus segregation were unconstitutional, went to the Supreme Court, Colvin was the last to testify.  Three days later the Supreme Court issued an order to the state of Alabama to end bus segregation.

She remembered the little white boy her entire life.  Cutting in front of her and her mother at the general store.  Chanting ‘let me see, let me see,’  holding up his hands.  Her palms were the same color as his.  If they had taken off their shoes, the soles of their feet would be the same, too.  She noted this but didn’t dwell.  If it did not matter to him it could not matter to her.  When the other little white boys and white girls laughed, her mother turned and slapped her across the face in one motion.  ‘Don’t you know you’re not supposed to touch them?’ The little white boy’s mother agreed.

Every year, she and her mother drew outlines of their feet on brown paper bags and handed it to the white shoe salesmen.  Every year, he took the brown paper bags by their corner with his thumb and index finger, letting no other part of him touch where her mother’s thumb might have touched.  Where her index finger might have touched.  Where the sole of her foot was diagrammed like a bad luck charm.  A broken mirror, a hanging picture falling from the wall, spilling salt, opening an umbrella indoors, a cat the same color as her crossing your path.

Every year they watched from the front of the store by the window.  Waiting as the white mothers with their little white boys and little white girls all wiggled their little white toes, sliding little white feet into black patent shoes.  She and her mother waited until every white face left the store.  Waited until her mother was late for work, left to explain that this was ‘shoe day’ as the white lady her mother worked for nodded sympathetically and took two dollars from her wages.  Every year when the white shoe salesman walked out and noticed them still waiting, he slowly walked back and removed two boxes from a stack by the exit.  The shoes always fit.  That’s what her mother told her.  But the shoes always fit.

Every year the imprint of her mother’s slap grew darker.  She could see it even if no one else could.  It grew darker and spread, making her darker.  She went alone now to buy her shoes, holding out the brown paper bag to the white shoe salesman, watching as his white palms almost touched her white palms.  Almost, but not quite.  She was now darker than the brown paper bag and wondered if that was the difference.  A hanging picture falling from the wall, a black cat crossing your path.  Something dangerous.  Claudette watched and waited.  The white shoe salesman held the brown paper bag as if it were alive.  It was empty and she had a whole world inside her, but it didn’t matter.  Not now.  Not yet.

Kate LaDew is a graduate from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a BA in Studio Art.  She resides in Graham, NC with her cats, Charlie Chaplin and Janis Joplin.