Literary as hell.

Tag: Flash fiction (Page 1 of 3)

“Avocado,” a flash fiction piece by John Brantingham

You try to steer Cyndi in her Hulk costume away from the house three doors down where the pediatrician lives. He opens the door and pulls an avocado and a toothbrush out of a basket and tosses them into her pillowcase. He says, “Happy Halloween.”

Cyndi thanks him, but you can’t help yourself. You say, “You know it takes a special kind of asshole to give a child a lecture instead of a piece of candy.” You point into his basket overflowing with the Earth’s bounty. “Is that a beet?”

He cocks his head. “What? Did you have a couple before you took your kid out trick or treating?”

Of course, you did, but only because you forgot it was Halloween, and anyway, you thought you’d mouthwashed the smell away. Apparently not. “Yes, madam,” you say, “but tomorrow, I’ll wake up sober, and you’ll still be a shithead.” The quotation is right on the top of your head because you’ve been teaching Churchill in your graduate seminar for the last two weeks. You know you got it wrong and the “madam” probably confused the guy a little, but it feels like a good retort, so you spin on the back heel and catch up with Cyndi who’s sitting on the front lawn.

By now, the guy’s slammed his door, so you say to her, “If you want, we can throw the produce through that fucker’s front window.”

“No, Dad, no. I’m the peaceful Hulk.” This is probably why she drew a Mercedes Benz symbol on the chest of her costume. She brings the avocado up to her nose and inhales and smiles and then lifts it up to you. 

You take it and breathe it in, and it fills you up. “You make a good point, Gumdrop, and besides there’s more loot to be taken on this street.”

She takes it back and smells it once more. “It’s so good,” she says. “It’s just so fucking good.”

Continue reading

“Friendly Flames,” a short story by Hugh Cartwright

Gran spreads out her knickers on the baking tray.  

I hardly dare peek: my mother says it’s a crime to stare at undies, especially those of old people. 

But Gran doesn’t care. 

Next, she reaches for the string that loops across the kitchen and tugs my undies off it. Laying them carefully beside her own, she slides the tray into the oven. 

Gran is weird – but a good sort of weird. She bakes bread in a flowerpot, and grows mustard and cress on wet facecloth. At Christmas, she sends me home-made fudge in a used can of chick peas, with a dollar coin taped to the bottom. The label is amended with black pen to Chuck Pea, her pet name for me. I’ve kept all the cans she has ever sent. 

There’s a pop as the gas ignites; Gran beams. “Friendly flames on a freezing morning; what could be better?” As I watch the flames, she stretches across and ruffles my hair. I duck away, though secretly I love the touch of those soft, wrinkled hands.  Continue reading

2021 Halloween contest finalist: “A Trick and a Treat” by Carl Herstedt

The small graveyard, tucked in, almost hidden, past the hills and meadows is nearly empty. I stop my car in the square of pebbles in front, take the plastic bag lying in the passenger seat and step out into the howling wind. 

The gate shuts on its own behind me with a thick thud. I make my way across the tombs that are spaced out seemingly haphazardly, and in a variety of sizes. For a moment, there are dim lights and laughter in the distance, then it’s gone just as quickly. Trick-or-treaters, perhaps, hunting for bounty in the residential are nearby.

Tilde brushes against my calf, sniffing into the wind at nothing. I can just barely see her tail wagging. I forgot to bring a lantern, so I use the screen of my phone to light my path forwards. The grass in here could use a trim. Long straws, still wet from the rain earlier today, sticks in chunks on my boots, but Tilde doesn’t mind it. Finally, I reach the tombstone I was searching, and pull the bouquet out of my plastic bag and place it in front of the stone.

“There,” I tell Tilde, “now we can play.”

The word ‘play’ seems to instantly switch on something in her mind, and she jumps around my feet as I dig in my jacket-pocket after a stick I picked up earlier before getting in the car. Playing with Tilde I lose all track of time – I exhaust myself physically, but mentally I’m in a pleasant, soothing lull of sorts. Tilde’s a bundle of energy, same as always. A man walks by, just a shadow against the fence and the trees, I don’t know if he even notices Tilde but he says nothing, just nods to me before strolling further into the graveyard.

I lay my plastic bag flat in the grass and sit down, and Tilde comes to rest by my lap. I scratch behind her ears and move my hand along her nape and back, and so we sit in silence until my wrist is tired and it’s time to part. 

“Sit,” I say and she winces, knowing it means our time is up, but looks a bit more eager when I put my hand in my pocket. She sits, and I put the bone-shaped little nugget in my hand on top of her tombstone. 

“Until next year,” I say and stand up, ready to rush back to my car, because I still can’t stand being left here alone. So when she turns around, I do, too. Much better to say good-bye like this, with a trick and a treat.

Flash Fiction by Ivan Jenson

“Park Avenue Paradise” by Ivan Jenson

 The suicide’s body landed only a foot away from where Jake and his old friend Eton stood. They had just stepped away from that very spot after lighting up their cigarettes.  Neither of them really smoked back then in the summer of 1998.  They were just messing around.  When they heard the thud, at first they didn’t know what it was until they saw him–a pale geeky-looking man in his thirties dressed in black slacks and a white button-down shirt, just laying there with his legs and arms splayed in a zig  zag position.  He had the bemused yet hopeless expression of a man who had truly run out of options. He lay half on the grass, half on the city sidewalk.  Jake looked up to the roof from where the man had jumped to his death.  It was approximately twelve-stories high.  Jake had a friend who lived in the building.  She was a Ford model who he had spent two years hanging out with until he broke it off because he wanted to be more than just platonic friends.  It was a building that represented heartbreak to Jake.

 A few people gathered on the sidewalk.  Somebody must have called the police because two cops arrived on the scene within minutes.

  Jake and Eton kept walking because they were headed for a party at a loft on 14th Street and Avenue A.  They were speechless about what they had just witnessed.  And the only way they expressed their shock was with nervous laughter.

 The vast loft was owned by a famous artist who was in his 70s and his raw, expressionist paintings were hanging in museums and worth tens of thousands of dollars. Yet the artist did not seem to mind that a bunch of strangers were getting trashed in his living space and art studio.

  Jake ended up in a conversation with the artist’s alluring daughter.  She lived with her father.  She was not an artist; rather, she worked on Wall Street in a sensible job and she had plans to leave the city as soon as she saved up enough money.

  “Where do you want to go?” Jake asked, already feeling abandoned.

 “I want to live in Alaska near my brother who’s a fisherman.”

  “Isn’t it really cold there?”

  “Not as cold as this city.  And I’m not talking about temperature.”

  Jake knew then she was a New York City hater.  You either loved or hated it–there was very little middle ground.  

 The artist’s daughter soon lost interest in Jake. Before she wandered off she said, “Sorry, I feel like a social butterfly tonight.”

 Eton had copped some cocaine and was busy talking with a small group who looked equally hyped-up and wide-eyed.

  “I’m going to get going,” Jake said to Eton.  Once his friend started doing blow, he was beyond reason, and Jake was not in the mood for chemical stimulants.

  “Are you sure? Think of the connections you could make here.  Shit, man. Stick around.”

  “Naw, I gotta go.”

Continue reading

“The Strange Hallway, by Mark Tulin

There was nothing more distressing for Lucas than walking the halls of the hospital. He shuffled his slippers in agonizing slowness while pulling an IV cart by his side as if it were an annoying friend that couldn’t take no for an answer.

He dreamt of being with Diane, walking along the Mesa of Santa Barbara that overlooked the beautiful ocean vista. They loved to lean against the wooden fence at the edge of the cliff and watch the speed boats cut across the Pacific, the hang gliders soaring so effortlessly in the sky, and the surfers balancing on their boards while riding the cresting waves.

Lucas labored alone down the hallway of the Pulmonary Care Unit with two defective lungs, a heart that was barely beating, and an IV cart joined at the hip. Continue reading

“Room and Board,” flash fiction by T.K. Lee

“Why’s it matter? Why’s it matter?” Shelda—she calls herself Shelda now that enough years have passed — is yelling and she’s in the living room and she knows better than to yell in the living room, but she’s yelling and she’s yelling, and repeating, “Why’s it matter?” but it’s as much a yell as it is a point-of-fact that she knows (that we all know) can’t be taken as fact if it ends in a period, so she makes it look like a question—it’s that same loud spoken yell the desperate do at the last minute, or no , it’s that sudden fact that dresses for the occasion, always in season, or is the—

“Shut up, Curtis.” From Shelda.

“I’m not talking to you.” From Curtis.

“Goddamn, he shit on the floor. He shit on the rug. Our father shit on the rug in the goddamn living room.” This is Denise talking.

And he had. Continue reading

Flash fiction by Michael Prihoda

The Year of Looking Up Friends on Our iPhones Only to Wonder Who We Actually Met

 

Chloe read the Magna Carta backward. I’m sure of it, whether you are or not. Please tell me we are not the last people on earth. Please tell me if I open the door I will find the mail in the box, maybe a couple bills we can pay on our meager salaries. There was a guy named Peter one of us knew from somewhere, not a support group, no, I never went to that one that met down the street from the place where somebody my parents used to know lived. People started dying long before we started living.

Freddy is not worth talking about.

Oh. Raquel is another story. Well, there was this one instance, and I only heard this from Cam, who happened to be with her at the party and eventually got her home completely without taking advantage of the situation whatsoever (considering Cam this is almost unbelievable and I don’t even need to include any euphemisms for you to know what sort of activity he refrained from that I find unbelievable yet enlightening because, perhaps, humanity has some baseline goodness left and since Cam was probably five to six rum and Cokes heavier than when he started the night that this story takes place on makes it all the more improbable yet uplifting/encouraging/inspiring). Anyway, Cam tells me stuff went down and Raquel happens to be lucky in that there is nothing worth remembering (in a good or bad sense) from the night because she definitely remembered zero of what transpired in perhaps the best possible way of not remembering zilch. Continue reading

2016 Halloween Contest Finalist: “The Neighborhood Association” by Ani King

Nobody does Halloween like Ginnie Farrow. Just ask the neighborhood.

Sheila Canterwell, beloved kindergarten teacher, used to take the ribbon with her Haunted Haus, and before that Reverend Jim McGee smugly won decades worth of praise with his carefully planned Zombie Garden. He spent hours in his garage hand painting fake rubber limbs to look terrifyingly real when strewn in haphazard rows. We all enjoyed the results of their friendly feud, ohhing and ahhhing at each new height they managed to reach.

The prizes have varied over time, from gift certificates, to lawn service, to cash on occasion, but really, it’s the awe and appreciation of the neighborhood that most seek to win.  And growing ghosts? Well, that’ll do it.

Thing is, no one in the neighborhood ever managed to grow a decent ghost. Some tried, including Jim and Sheila, but the soil didn’t cooperate, or the corpse seed didn’t take even if it was planted at the height of spring, under a full moon. We once saw them collaborate a bit, trying to get a few to come up in the community garden in town. Nothing doing, it just didn’t happen.
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“Politics,” flash fiction by Kelly Evans

Politics

by Kelly Evans

“I’ve decided to enter the cutthroat and unforgiving arena of political life,” Frederick announced.

Mother looked up from her book. “Whatever for, Freddie?”

“I’m a natural born leader and others should benefit from my vast life experience.”

“And how do you plan to enter this world?” Frederick’s younger sister Constance smiled wryly.

Frederick sat on the settee and swung a leg casually over the arm. “I’ve discovered our local school requires a new governor, a perfect place for me to cut my teeth, politically speaking.”

Continue reading

“The Worst Hangover,” flash fiction by Adam Kluger

The Worst Hangover

by Adam Kluger

 

Lady-in-a-Blue-DressHe was pretty hung over.

So bad that he was burping into a glass of water. He hadn’t noticed the waitress right away. She must have been new. It was wintertime. The morning after the Smart-TV Christmas Party.

Booger had secured the location for the station and he put together a very bad Christmas reel. The bureau chief cornered Booger at one point and asked what happened with the reel… why was it so lame? Booger was mortified and the only thing to do at that point was drink heavily. He ordered a shot of whiskey with a beer chaser and kept hitting the same number until the embarrassment gave way to stupor. He got home, smoked a bone, whacked off and went to sleep. When he woke up in the morning his mouth was full of cotton and his stomach was doing somersaults. He threw on a coat and went across the street to “My Most Terrific Dessert Company.” It was expensive but he could sit there order a soda and a croissant and feel a little better. The waitress moved across the floor like a ballerina. She was friendly too.

Very friendly, Booger thought. Continue reading

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