Short & Sweet Flash Fiction
Stories by Aimee Mepham, Cedrick Mendoza-Tolentino, Jennifer Sears, Jane Hertenstein, Gus Ginsburg, Wendy Russ, Christopher Green, Navid Saedi, Jeanette Topar, and Ingrid Jendrzejewski - performed by actors Kate Chadwick, Basil Rodericks, Tiffany May McRrae, Heather Lee Rogers, and Jeff Wills. Hosted by Andrew Lloyd-Jones at KGB Bar, NYC on Wednesday, 5th August 2015.
On Thursdays, you have art class after lunch. The teacher sends you, one by one, to a parent volunteer waiting in the hallway by the south wing doors. Rolls of paper are wheeled out on a metal contraption. You’ve seen something like it before, in department stores, at Christmas gift wrap stations. The paper catches air like crisp white sails along Grand Traverse Bay in June. The mother of the twins instructs you to lie down and traces with magic marker the outline of a girl.
In preparation for your summer job at Six Flags Great Adventure as one of the many tasked with wandering the grounds dressed as a superhero or cartoon character, you decide to rent a Batman costume and wander New York to get “in character.” It is an exercise inspired by Mr. Greenberg, your eleventh grade math teacher and director of the annual school play, who asks all of his performers to do the same.
My husband Jess knows thighs. He accents curves and highlights skin tone. He deepens shadows between quadriceps and groin. He believes in aesthetics, in the play of proportion. We’ve returned to the Romantic Ideal, he’ll say if asked for his philosophy.
Her dream and mine met on a patio at dusk, sitting in chairs opposite each other. Her dream lit a cigarette and mine downed the last sip of a tasteless bitter ale which didn’t even wet my dream’s lips. I wish I could taste my dreaming, thought my dream, ah the delightful weird and random flavors I’d experience, if only I could taste, but I suppose it could be all wrong—this beer might taste like chicken or penguin piss, no…on second thought, tasteless is best. My dream interrupted this musing to face her dream, but her dream wouldn’t look mine in the eye.
He will find himself, at age 70, past it all.It will occur to him suddenly over a cup of tea in a café during the 2 o’clock lull between the lunch rush and the dinner crowd. It will occur to him as he flirts with the pretty waitress with no expectation of anything but the pure joy of still living and breathing, of still having his mental clarity, of the sound of the young woman’s coy laughter that reminds him of a girl he knew long ago.
The woman sits down next to me at Canal, right about the time I’m thinking of dying.
I’m not thinking about it in any intentional way. Just—exploratory. Tracing the Rube Goldberg effects of my sudden and self-inflicted passing. Who would miss me, who would not. Who would be sad, and who would only be stunned. Would anyone think back to the last terrible thing they said to me, and feel remorse swell up in their throat like a balloon. Would Daniel, the guy who broke up with me three years ago, hop a redeye from Atlanta in a fit of belated devotion just to help carry my casket. This is how you know that things are bad: when your best chance at cheering yourself up is in fantasies of being mourned.
My father finished out his days except he wasn’t ready to finish out anything. In fact, that’s something his ex-girlfriend told me when I ran into her at a gas station in Corvallis. No, maybe it wasn’t Corvallis. It could have been Arizona or someplace more dry than that. I’m not sure.
The point is that he finished out his days except I wasn’t there to hear it or see it or feel his hand as the life leaked out of him like water from a dripping faucet. And what a horrible analogy that is. But that’s what he was and he was broken.
Arlen stood in the kitchen running his tongue over his gums and wondering what he could cook himself for dinner, something that didn’t require chewing. He hadn’t put his teeth in for weeks. Maybe they were in a glass in the upstairs bathroom or else right there in one of the kitchen cabinets. He hadn’t put on a shirt for a while either—he was a big bear of a man and sweated too much in the July heat to bother. He stared at the coffee can on the windowsill filled to the rim with grease. The bottom of the can had at least a few layers that Bea had poured from hamburgers, bacon, or scrapple she’d once made for him, and he’d continued the routine after her. The very next thing he fried was sure to cause an overflow. He carried the can to the back door and slid the congealed, gray cylinder onto the lawn.
They’re all lined up, one next to the other: the bodies of seven mice, all nestled gently in straw padding. They’ve been placed on their backs, paws beckoning upwards, as if they had frozen in the middle of a merry dance. There is something about the way they’d been positioned that made me think it had been done with, if nothing else, care. But still, there’s something unnerving about discovering such a thing under a loose floorboard. I don’t like the idea of spending my nights above a mouse mausoleum, however delicately it’s been prepared.