Literary as hell.

Category: Flash Fiction (Page 2 of 3)

“Someone From Beirut,” a flash fiction piece by Carra Leah Hood

“Someone from Beirut searched for you on Google.”I receive this alert from Academia.edu in my inbox at least once a month. I usually click on the green button at the bottom of the email to view analytics; I’m always curious: what did he look at or download this time?

You see, I know it’s my ex-husband. He moved to Beirut a number of years ago to teach and to direct theater at a university there.

We’ve been divorced since the early 90s and have only made efforts to talk twice. In 1998, we ran into each other on line at Starbucks in LaGuardia airport; both of us were waiting for the same plane to Toronto, heading for the same academic conference, and as it ended up, staying in the same hotel. We drank coffee (he also ate a plain bagel with butter), sitting across from each other outside the gate. We chatted for an hour about Dino, our Siamese cat. The second time, we communicated by email. I wrote to let him know my father passed away. That was in April, 2006; “Give your mom and sisters my condolences,” he wrote back.

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2015 Halloween Contest Honorable Mention: “Accumulation” by Josh Sczykutowicz

Josh Sczykutowicz is one of our Halloween writing contest finalists for 2015. We’ll be publishing our contest finalists every day until Halloween, when we’ll announce our contest’s winner.

Accumulation

By Josh Sczykutowicz

The darkness spread out of me, something deeper than anything I had ever dreamt before. I had fallen into sleep’s jaws like that of some ancient predator searching through the blackest depths of the ocean before, something seeking anything that might sate its leviathan appetite once again, the sensation of fullness a dull memory that had faded, much like its eyes, as eons had stretched forward and backward, time eternal forevermore. But sleep had never been as deep as this, and I knew now that I was neither dreaming nor awake. There was a place between both realms, that of collective memory and that of accumulation, and in it I now stood.

Something had crawled out of my mouth, climbing up my throat, claws digging into soft red flesh within. The familiar taste of blood trickled into my stomach. It moved upward as I wrenched forward and crumpled like paper, clutching at the throat that bulged, skin stretching in directions it was never meant to go. Tears filled my eyes and I could not breathe, everything blocked as I choked and coughed and finally it came forth. It was something small; something bundled up, coated in saliva and bile like crude amniotic fluid. Warm rain fell onto the skin of neck and trickled down hair clumping in damp solidarity. The object moved, unfurled, rain drops on its head making black eyes rimmed in maroon red blink open, mouth stretching, teeth showing, soft pink mouth vulnerable, shaking around on the dark pavement of this road. The road seemed to stretch, not just backward and forward, but to my left and to my right eternal. I looked up at the bleeding moon and saw its reflection on the ground in a puddle beginning to form, potholes and cracks filling like bottles beneath faucets to be drunk by something greater than it would ever know. Continue reading

“A Hole You Fill With Money and Water,” flash fiction by Stephen Pisani

A Hole You Fill With Money and Water

by Stephen Pisani

Not long after her mother left us, Janie started running around the outside of the pool. Every night, after I got home from work and her, daycare, she took about fifteen laps around the rectangular hole sunk into the far left corner of our backyard. I had a tough time telling whether it was a coping mechanism or a seven-year-old’s idea of a good time. Probably a little bit of both.

“I’m looking for Mommy,” she’d say, as if she was going to find her hiding in one of the corners of the deep end. The water wasn’t exactly crystal clear—fallen pine needles and floating bugs formed a patchwork of various shades of black and brown on the surface—but still transparent enough for even a kid to realize the pool was full of only one thing: water. No sentient beings were lurking underneath.

“Catch me,” she’d say.

“Stop that before you hurt yourself,” I’d say.

A week went by, this activity still occupying the majority of Janie’s free time, and my words proved reluctantly prophetic. She tripped on one of the uneven bricks surrounding the pool. Her sweatpants tore straight through to reveal a clean break of skin. Blood turned her pants a darker shade of blue right around her knee.

“Owweeeee,” she screamed after dropping to the ground and clutching the compromised appendage.

I knelt beside her to inspect the cut. “What did I tell you about running around the pool?” I said, a directive I understood to be common and even required dad-speak in this type of situation. From my wife, I learned that every kid is supposed to receive a dose of “I told you so” from their parents. Really, all I wanted to do was ease Janie’s pain, so I quickly adopted a gentler tone.

“Are you OK?” I said.

She didn’t take well to the Bactine. “It stings,” she squealed.

“I know, honey,” I said. “Sorry.

“It hurts soooo bad.”

“I know.”

She sobbed in one continuous burst, a tactic in histrionics I was sure she picked up from her mother. “Mom would have never let this happen,” she said. She eyed me with a “fuck off” look that sort of gave me chills. I never considered that such a thing could be hereditary.

“I know.”

Truth is my wife didn’t even want a pool. She cringed at the mention of it, like just having to look at the thing would induce some sort of seizure or something.

What she said was, “It’s just a fucking a hole in the ground with water in it. And I’m sure it’ll cost a fucking fortune. It’s just a hole you throw water and money into.”

What she did was kick a small indent in the lawn next to where the pool was slated to go. Blades of grass scattered to reveal a patch of brown earth into which she poured a dab of Poland Spring. Then she dug a few nickels from her pocket. They let out a “plink” when they hit the muddied spring water.

“There,” she said. “Same thing.”

Kneeling next to Janie, watching her face writhe in child-agony, I decided I’d fill the pool in. With what I wasn’t entirely sure. But right then and there, as I patched the gap in Janie’s delicate skin, I finally agreed with the woman who had abandoned us: it was probably a good idea to fill a hole with something more substantive than money and water.

 

Stephen Pisani is a Long Island, New York native who received his MA in Writing from Coastal Carolina University. His writing has appeared in Blue Lake Review,Soundings Review, and The Furious Gazelle.

 

“What’s Left of the Crumbs,” flash fiction by Stephen Pisani

What’s Left of the Crumbs

by Stephen Pisani

Davey holds a fresh piece of copy paper in the middle of the den, standing halfway between his girlfriend and the muted television.

Elyse’s face contorts—it takes forty-two muscles to frown, he’s been told—and she angrily waves him away. “I’m on a call,” she mouths, ignoring his sign saying, “Come Play With Me” in dark, hastily-scribbled magic marker. Outside, snow smothers the roads, so Elyse is working from home. By Davey’s unscientific count, this is the fourth conference call she’s been on today, and it’s only five past noon.

He unplugs his phone from the charger on the kitchen counter. He turns the corner into the den, cell phone in hand, and says, “Excuse me, hun, can you get me on this call?”

She patronizes him with a labored chuckle. “Give me ten minutes, then we can play.” She winks, puts the phone back on speaker, mutes it on her end, and returns to the business of ignoring him.

“Get Mr. Howard on the line,” he says, holding his cell phone to his ear for emphasis. “Tell him I have some great ideas for the business.” She rolls her eyes without taking them off the computer screen in front of her. “I’ll be in my office downstairs, when you get a hold of him,” he continues. “I’ve got all my notes down there.”

Davey pretends to descend to the basement, but they both know he won’t. Instead he returns to the kitchen, opens the double-wide doors of the stainless steel fridge that she—mostly—paid for, grabs a package of turkey and another of ham, both of which she paid for, Boar’s Head, never the cheap stuff, and makes a sandwich on the store-brand bread he bought with a few of the dollars leftover from his pitiful severance.

Davey hears what sounds like the call ending in the other room. “We need milk,” Elyse says. She won’t drink her coffee without it, and she drinks a lot of coffee, a beverage working folk tend to enjoy. Davey won’t touch the stuff.

“Right now?” he says. He sets his sandwich down on the couch and sits between it and Elyse.

“Why don’t you go to the store? I forgot I have another call in a few minutes.”

Davey turns to look through the blinds Elyse insisted they needed a few weeks after they moved in. He can see the white flakes furiously falling between each handcrafted slat. “I’m not going out in that,” he says. “It’s too icy.”

“How about you shovel, then go out to get milk?”

He stands up, sandwich in hand—a good chunk of it in mouth—and says, “How bout I get you milk from downstairs?” He puts the sandwich down on the ottoman. Standing tall over Elyse, he gradually slinks behind the ottoman, like he’s going down a flight of stairs, the one-man show only finishing when he falls on his ass and starts cackling like a hyena in heat.

“You get that out of your system?” Elyse says. She is still planted in the spot Davey’s ass occupies most afternoons. Her phone rings. She puts it on speaker—again, muted on her end.

From his seat on the carpet Elyse wants to replace as soon as they can afford it, Davey reaches to the side. He pretends like he’s paddling a canoe out of the room. When he realizes Elyse isn’t paying him any more mind than the silenced talk show hosts on their forty-inch flat screen—a gift from her parents—he grabs his sandwich off the ottoman. The bread crumbles in his hand. Seagull-friendly specks fall to the floor. He walks away, figuring the dog will pounce on most of the mess. After Elyse leaves for work in the morning, he’ll vacuum what’s left of the crumbs.

 

Stephen Pisani is a Long Island, New York native who received his MA in Writing from Coastal Carolina University. His writing has appeared in Blue Lake Review,Soundings Review, and The Furious Gazelle.

 

Flash fiction by Michael Prihoda

Excerpts from “The Years,” a collection of interrelated flash fictions

by Michael Prihoda

 

The Year of Problems

Our parents have problems.

The man bagging groceries at the local Meijer has problems.
Steven has problems.
Gary has problems.
I think one time you mentioned how the dental hygienist attending the initial cleaning of your front molars referenced her recent, razor-edged divorce, which, I have to say, makes me think she has a host of nearly illimitable problems.
Joanna has problems.
The last barista I ordered a drink from (please, not Starbucks; whatever I am I am not that) didn’t pull the ristretto correctly and I tasted the off-ness in every sip, probably would have enjoyed the drink otherwise, but just knowing the mess-up, the goof, was enough to put me off from the whole coffee drinking enterprise but then again I didn’t go up and complain, realizing somewhere subconsciously that I should have ordered a Gibraltar or even a café miel because at least the honey would take the edge from whatever mistake could have been made (excepting, of course, an over-eager dusting of cinnamon, which definitely happened once, though I let it slide because the barista that time was cute and yeah, standing, waiting for my drink, I thought about how exactly I might tip her head just so to meet my lips and how much tongue I would use and if she wore chapstick/lip gloss what kind it might be and if that would somehow be a turn-on or else perversely anti-arousing because it magically reverberated with the same natural flavors in my body wash, purchased from the health store down the road from the coffee bar where they faulted my ristretto). All of this meaning the barista who served me my ristretto has, at least, a singular problem.
Vincent has problems.
You have problems.
I have problems. Lots of them. Since the year of my birth.

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Dadaism Revisited by Tina Garvin

Dadaism Revisited

Gobs of various colors have burned themselves into my retinas. So that red blinks white and white blinks black. I stood so long and stared the way children stare at light bulbs. Bespeckled everything I saw for hours afterward. Jackson Pollock, an egoist with an unnatural ability to paint feeling. The way colors feel. Like taking a beautiful natural rainbow, unraveling, mangling, cutting it into bits and throwing it into a blender. It’s the art that we are sure we had created in some fit of rage in kindergarten. When all you needed was a grey crayon for your elephant.

Angry at the injustice of it all, you scribbled frantically in every other color, especially red. Maybe you even went over to the other tables and scribbled on the other classmates drawings, no one could stop you. Or when you were painting the walls around the ceiling and the phone rang; a startled splatter of paint that made it beyond the masking tape barrier, you stared at it for a split second, you contemplated signing just under it: “Jackson Pollock was here” and the date but instead go out to buy a gallon of ceiling white. Continue reading

“Potential,” by Michele Markarian

Maya turned her key in the lock and stumbled through the door, tripping over a heavy object – backpack maybe? – that someone had placed in front of it.  “Shit,” she hissed involuntarily.

“Is that you?” she heard a voice say from the bedroom.

“Sorry I woke you,” she whispered, trying to make herself sound as if she weren’t both drunk and high, which she was.

“Thanks a lot!  You know I need to be up early for work!  I’ll never get back to sleep,” said Jim, her husband.

“Sorry!  Sorry.  Can you keep it down –“

“I might as well read,” said Jim, turning on the light.

“Jim , are you crazy?  It’s – it’s three in the morning!”  Maya looked at her watch, surprised.  She was starting to get a headache.  Why had she let Shauna talk her into smoking a joint at 12:30am?

“I know what time it is.  I assumed from your late arrival that you didn’t,” said Jim icily, picking up his copy of The Economist and flipping through it.

“I told you, we were celebrating Missy’s promotion.  Besides, I wouldn’t have woke you up if I didn’t trip on whatever it is someone left by the front door.”

“Your kids’ backpacks!”  snapped Jim.  “Remember your kids?  Peter and Connie?  Remember them?  Somebody’s gotta take care of them while you go off celebrating Missy’s big promotion.” He turned his back to her and started to read.  “I’m going to be useless at work tomorrow thanks to you and your little corporate friends.”

“Sorry,” mumbled Maya.  She couldn’t resist throwing in, “I think you’ll be able to rally for the hour.  You can always come home and crash.”

“At least I’m helping people” Jim retorted.  “How many lives has Stars of the Startups saved this month?”  Stars of the Startups was the magazine where Maya served as Editor-In-Chief.

Just four that I care about, thought Maya.  Yours.  Mine.  Peter’s.  Connie’s.

“Exactly”, said Peter.  “None, that’s how many.”

 

Maya’s alarm went off at six.  Ignoring the throbbing of her head, she went into the kids’ bedroom – an office, really – to wake them up.

“Mama, I don’t feel good,” whined Connie.  Maya put her hand to Connie’s forehead – it was warm.

“Crap,” she said.

“I don’t feel good either!” said Peter, who was seven years old to his sister’s five.

“You’re fine,” said Maya after briefly touching Peter’s forehead.  What the heck was the school’s policy on fevers?  It was bad to send a kid to school with a fever, wasn’t it?

“Go back to sleep, Connie.”  Maya pushed the hair back on Connie’s forehead.

“Will you stay home with me, Mama?” murmured Connie.

“Um –“

“Mama’s taking me to school!  Right, Mama?  You’re taking me to school, right?”  Peter jumped up and down on the bed.

“Let me talk to Daddy,” said Maya.  She went into the tiny birth canal of a kitchen and took some eggs out of the fridge.  “Jim?”

“What time is it?” Jim demanded from the bedroom.

“A little past six.  Connie’s sick.  Can you stay with her and I’ll take Peter to school?”

“Maya, you know I can’t miss work.”  Jim rolled over onto his back.  “You’re going to have to call in late.”

“Jim, I have a deadline.”

“Call in late.  Aren’t you supposed to be the boss over there?”  Jim got out of bed and stumbled into the bathroom.

 

Twenty minutes later, he came out, adjusting the strap of his crossing guard uniform.   Maya put a plate of scrambled eggs and toast in front of Peter, and tried, as she did every morning, to pretend that her husband, with his PhD in Semantics, was gainfully employed in an occupation worthy of his potential.  Potential has a shelf life.  Maya had read that in a Margaret Atwood novel once.   It rankled her still.

 

 

Michele Markarian’s plays have been produced across the United States and UK.  Michele’s short stories have appeared in anthologies by WisingUp Press, Mom’s Literary Magazine, yesteryearfiction.com, The Journal of Microliterature, and the anthology inherplace.org.  Her plays have been published by Dramatic Publishing, Heuer Publishing, Oxford University Press USA and Smith & Kraus. She has an anthology of plays, working title “The Unborn Children of America and Other Family Procedures” that will be published by Fomite Press this spring.  Michele is a member of the Dramatists Guild.

Flash Fiction by Andi Dobek

The Procedure

by Andi Dobek

4:12 a.m.

I clambered back into bed, feeling more awake than before, and the blue-white light of my clock radio cast a glow over the walls and a portion of my bed. I groaned and turned onto my side, facing the window. My shadow, discernible only as several lumps above the mattress, was projected on the sheer blinds that kept others from peering in.

I tried to bore myself to sleep with the monotony of my shadow, calmly rising and falling, my breathing nearly synced with the ocean waves from my sound machine. I heard the clock chime the half hour.

And then my shadow wasn’t mine anymore.

Like watching a plant grow with time-lapse photography, something bulbous, followed by two long appendages, extruded themselves from near my hip.

A head. Arms.

I looked over my shoulder, but there was nothing behind me to cast such a shadow. The light burnt my eyes, and I turned back towards my window, which had clearly become a canvas for my imagination.

As I squinted so my vision could adjust, the shadow became humanoid. The arms, not so gangly now, grew more refined. It stretched, tilting to face the ceiling. The creature conjured something, then pulled it up to its face. When I saw its long fingers fiddling at the back of its head, a single word floated into my mind.

Mask.

Then gloves. Pulled on quickly, efficiently.

I swallowed. Sleep was out of the question.

The humanoid being that was behind me…yet, not…whose shadow was projected upon my window shade, continued busying itself with things unseen. Then it turned, so I might see the silhouette of its back.

If I had attempted to move before, fear and revulsion now paralyzed me.

What I could not see in profile, I now made out clearly. Below the creature’s shoulders, formed by the two primary arms, protruded two more pairs of limbs. They stuck out only slightly from the torso, with a few too many joints, and hung limply at the sides, inferior with apparent disuse. Around the head, two angular extrusions jutted out from where its temples would be. Suddenly it turned back, its head bowed close over my shadow, clutching something in its hand.

Another mask. Delicate shadows of several tubes streamed from it, and the silhouette that held it leaned over, closer to the shadow of my head on the pillow.

The sound machine breathed for me now. Slow. Steady. Rhythmic. Calm.

It fastened the mask around my head.

After what felt like minutes, but may have been seconds, the giddy chirp of a bird trilled in my ears, and I reopened my eyes.

The world outside my window was beginning to glow gently with the dawn. More birds joined the first one’s song. I looked at the shade.

The outline of the humanoid shadow was barely discernible in the strengthening light, but before it disappeared completely, I saw it held something long and thin in one of its six hands.

Scalpel.

 

Andi Dobek (‘Andrea’ to her parents and strangers) rarely leaves the confines of her own head, finding the company there much more agreeable and easier to sway than those of the ‘real’ world. Long before she could walk, she began her writing career as soon as she could grip a pen, and hasn’t stopped mutilating innocent paper since. She holds a degree in Creative Writing from the University of Illinois, and another in Web Design and Development. Currently she is slaving over a novel conceived over ten years ago, and her greatest dream is that it will one day see the light.

Andi lives in the Midwest and works at a credit union to fund her next endeavor: an MFA in Screenwriting through Lindenwood University. If you’re socially inclined, you can follow her on Twitter (@andreadobek) and Instagram (@The_Cicatrix).

Flash Fiction by Joan McNerney

Another Small Death

Assured his references would be fine, two week’s notice was given, severance check guaranteed.  That would give him one month total to get a life.

Freakyfour years gone just like that.   Exiting in long strides through swinging doors, Gary walked to the elevator.   This whole building, all twenty six floors, would be there when he was gone.  His work was unimportant, in a few weeks nobody would remember him.

His hands hung in a gesture of hopelessness.  His tongue covered with thick crust leaving a bad taste in his mouth.  He sat down more numb than anything else.  Shuffling his options like broken glass through his mind…if only one thought could come out straight, one sliver of truth.  But truth could be hard to handle, like shards of glass, slashing your face.  The bleary sky was streaked by blood red rays from a setting sun.  Night approached deep and dark.

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Halloween Contest Finalist: Mureall Hébert

These flash pieces by Mureall Hébert are finalists of the Furious Gazelle’s Halloween contest. The contest’s winner will be announced Friday. View the rest of the finalists here.

The Side of the Road

I drove by without stopping as you stumbled down the side of the road because the rust-colored stains on your yellow dress alarmed me, and the way your head cracked at an angle didn’t compute, and the tormented scream on your face chilled my spine. I ignored the cries that wrenched at my car, pretending I didn’t hear you plead for help, or salvation, or revenge. I nudged the gas pedal harder when I glanced into the rear-view mirror and discovered you’d vanished, like you’d never existed. I raced faster when the temperature in the car plunged and the door locks clicked into place. And I refused to look at the passenger seat because I didn’t want to see you there or admit to the rawboned hand along my arm and the musty breath on my neck.

Why I Had To Bite You

I didn’t rip the head from the corpse,

tuck it into a bowling bag, and drop

it in your swimming pool. That was Igor.

He escaped his bell tower, got into the cider,

and was up to no good. Nor did I hang

the body-less hand from your car door

and hide in the woods to watch you scream.

That wasn’t me. My alibi swears I’m clean.

Most likely Poe or Norman Bates. I hear

they’re into that kind of thing. The face

in the mirror? The one dripping blood

from her eye-sockets? Not yours truly.

Don’t blame Bloody Mary either.

She’s in Tijuana, last I heard.

I suspect the gremlin in the basement

or maybe Tonto—I spotted a black dress in his closet.

Yes, I’ll admit, those puncture wounds on your neck

are my fault. Dracula’s converted to pacifism

and what’s Halloween without vampires?

Don’t thank me, really. The wounds will heal

and you were a night person anyway.

Call it my civic duty—

although I have to admit you tasted pretty good

even though I prefer iced tea.

Mureall’s fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Suddenly Lost in Words, Lunch Ticket, Crack the Spine, Stone Crowns MagazineBartleby Snopes>kill author, Short, Fast & DeadlyBacopa Literary Review, The Citron ReviewStereoOpticon, and WhidbeyAIR. Mureall is an MFA graduate from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts and a former editor of Soundings Review.

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