Category: flash fiction

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.

 

 

Silent Communications – Anita Goveas

The flowering cherry tree outside Sarpana’s room in the pebble-dashed house in Wimbledon was a mistake. A dwarf ‘Pink Perfection’ tree that grew too big until its canopy shaded the front garden and its branches almost stretched to her window. The music of the wind in the leaves blew her to sleep most nights, as she lay awake counting her mistakes.

The eldest child is the leader, everyone knows that. The middle child is neglected and the youngest is spoilt by everyone. But what happens when the eldest is tone deaf and the middle child is a boy who’s born singing? When the eldest daughter has arms skinnier than the green shoots of over-shadowed crocuses, and the youngest daughter’s cri-du-chat means she only listens to people who can lift her over their heads?

No one ever asked anything of Sarpana but she felt silent expectation pool in the base of her neck. It wouldn’t rub away. She gave up going to the library to take Tarla to the park, and winced every time she ate dandelions. She stopped playing chess after school to take Jinesh shopping, and shrank every time he came home with pockets full of stolen CD’s. The only thing she knew for sure was sometimes the breeze sighing through cracked bark sounded like secret comfort. She whispered back in gasps in the dark and listened for changes in the code.

The cherry tree replied the day of the Great Storm. The wind intensified all day, swirled over the porch and ripped through the lavender. The tap-tap-tap on the window came at exactly midnight on her digital clock. Sarpana moved forward, pressed her face on the cool glass, blinked into the gloom.  The heavy branch crashed through the top of the window and spiked through her pillow. She slept on the floor as if stunned.

It split itself in half with the effort of communication, limbs still pointing. A hybrid, twisted thing. Crocuses grew back under the dead part, Tarla hugged the half that still flowered every morning. It never gave fruit again. The crowds who gathered to stare at the wreckage and point at the miracle girl made her mother bite her lip and her father rub the base of his neck. Sarpana pleaded for the tree every evening, but her passionate gasps dispersed like seeds sucked from a dandelion head.

They chopped it down the day she left home. The tap-tap-tap of the suitcase on the pavement told her not to go back.

Anita Goveas is British-Asian, based in London, and fueled by strong coffee and paneer jalfrezi. Her stories are published and forthcoming in the 2016 London Short Story Prize anthology, The Word Factory website, Dodging the Rain, Rigorous, Pocket Change, Haverthorn and Riggwelter Press. She tweets erratically @coffeeandpaneer.

Melina at the Movies – Sarah Valeika

I had an aunt Melina who wept during sad movies. There are plenty of people who review movies and attest to their gravity or appeal by saying things like,

“I cried like a baby!” or praise a film that induces both “laughter and tears,” but nobody cried at movies like Aunt Melina.

It was funny to most of us. To my father, for example, who had married Melina’s youngest sister, this 47-year-old woman with the long, auburn hair, big billowing scarf and mason jar of green tea was just a suburban vignette rife with city-dweller humor. Raised in Chicago himself, having seen a “hell of a lot of women,” he had “never seen anybody who looked more acutely miserable while being entertained as that Aunt Melina of yours.” I never really understood why being from the city made him so wont to laugh at those of us with hearts on streets named after trees, but he liked to think he was jaded, knowing and hardy, so we let him. There were times when he wanted to watch movies with my Aunt Melina simply to watch her reactions, as though they were infinitely more amusing than any fiction could be.

Take “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” He casually asked my mother one day if her sister had ever seen the movie.

“Don’t think so.”

“Don’t you think she should? It’s a classic.” He loosened a slice of pizza from a tupperware and shoved it in his mouth.

“Oh Rod,” Mom sighed, “leave Mel alone!” She snatched the slice out of his hands and finshed it.

“What?” he laughed, that little impish gleam in his eye. “It’s part of her cultural education.”

So, that Friday evening, she came over to watch “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” with us. I sat in a blanket on the floor with the book in my hands, to cross-compare. Mom spent most of the time in and out of the room going to the kitchen to refill Anthony’s water bottle or get Fossie some more popcorn. Fossie and Anthony flopped across their beanbag chairs, and Dad and Aunt Melina sat side by side on the purple sofa. (Funnily, my Aunt Melina had chosen the color—she thought it “suited” Mom’s eyes, so my mom picked it up in a heartbeat. Dad never really saw it that way; after all, he had separately suggested the color to fit the caramel walls, but I can tell even now from the way my mother talks about Melina that it was she, and not Dad, who changed Mom’s mind).

“Look at her eyes,” my aunt whispered, 67 minutes into the film. Audrey Hepburn was gazing at something or other, but I couldn’t see what, too occupied was I in trying to find the page I had lost in the novella.

“What?” my father asked.

“Her eyes, don’t they just look so childlike? So trusting?”

And thus did she proceed to loosen whatever restrained her eyes—faucet, duct tape, nails and screws—who knew what ever kept her composed at all? But with the flick of an eyelash, as it were, she began to cry. My father said nothing, only motioned with his hand as Mom returned to the room, and again he smirked to his wife.

“We may need a little more tea in here, doll… to soothe the nerves!”

 

There was also, of course, the time when my father decided to rent “A Year Without Santa Claus” to show at the family Christmas Eve dinner. After roast beef was served, the family with children groggily headed home, parents a little wine-liberated and children sipping the sweet nectar of anticipation. Those who stayed: Granny, (who was dwindling in the head), Uncle John (passed out) and Aunt Melina.

“Prepare yourself,” Dad said solemnly to the 47-year-old woman with the long auburn hair and the trigger-ready tear ducts and the shallow blue eyes. “This is not a movie easily forgotten.”

“Rod,” my mom chided demurely, picking lint off the floor, “come on now.”

“I think this one is going to bring us closer, even through the pain.”

Fire munched away at itself in the fireplace, and Aunt Melina only smiled that thin, closed-mouth smile of hers.

“Rod,” my mother repeated.

“It’s a movie that speaks to me,” he began, and clapped me on the shoulder, under the weight of which I shuddered (having inherited my mother’s weak frame). “I think I first saw this one with the kids. Maybe Fossie first? The poor little lamb was waiting for smiles on snowmen, I could see it in her eyes, but no such smiles come in the year without Santa. How could they? Without the enchantment of a dream to sustain their feeble little hearts, what are they to do, I ask you?”

Hunkering down beneath our front porch, I could hear the local stray whining, braying at whoever was passing the house. A shadow skipped. A music note, single and sustained, was being played somewhere, I could feel it.

“Just shush,” Mom said quietly, a gentle in-and-up of the chest suggesting some attempt at a laugh.

“C’mon Mel, you’n’I will get through this together,” and he grasped my aunt’s hand and pressed it to his chest. As he did, Melina just sat there and lowered her eyes to the carpet. A single, sustained note was being played somewhere, I did not know where. Not once did anybody cry that night which, in retrospect, was a sad sort of funny.

 

I always wondered how infidelity worked—whether it had to be physical, or whether it was suspected or proven, or whether it was a matter of blame or just bad timing, mutually bad timing. By the age of fourteen, I had learned that it was just a matter of movies. Sad movies, and whether or not you let yourself cry.

Sarah Valeika is a writer whose works have been featured in Eunoia Review, Fem Fiction, Poetry Breakfast, Navigating the Maze and other print and e-journals.

Dying Dahlia Review: Summer 2017

It’s finally here! We are so happy to present the Summer 2017 edition of Dying Dahlia Review!  We are featuring some amazing flash fiction and poetry by some awesome women writers!  And check out that beautiful cover art by Ashley Parker Owens!  Make sure to snag yourself a copy today! Follow the links below to purchase the ebook at your retailer of choice.

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