Archive for the Flash Fiction Category

Mud Luscious

Posted in December 2009, Flash Fiction on December 28, 2009 by Black Coffee Press LIMITED

“It’s time, ladies,” Esther announced, tapping a spoon against her coffee cup. “Time for the exchange.”

The women seated at the three canasta tables grew quiet, smiling with anticipation as Dolores walked over and stood beside her cousin. Around her long neck gleamed the white diamond necklace, as stark and bright as an icicle. It was crusted with 239 diamonds and looked like something a princess would wear.

“Leah,” Esther nodded at the redhead at the corner table, “if you will join us, please.”

Shyly the slight woman got up, dusting some bread crumbs from her left sleeve, and joined the two cousins in the middle of the party room. She appeared quite nervous, as if called upon to deliver a speech she was unprepared to give.

“You look as if you’re going to cry,” Esther remarked to her frail cousin.
Dolores smiled palely. “I already am in my heart.”

Esther then removed the necklace and fastened it around Leah’s neck. “How does that feel?” she asked, smiling broadly.

“Like I’ve won something.”

“You have,” Ruth, always boisterous, bellowed from the front table. “You look like one of those people on that survivor show who are awarded an immunity necklace after they’ve won some crazy challenge.”

“Immunity from what?” Dolores asked, puzzled by the analogy.

“From ordinariness, woman.”

“Certainly anyone would have to feel special with a necklace like this around her neck,” Esther said, grazing one of the diamonds with her left thumb.

“Even the plainest of Janes.”

The $30,000 necklace was much too expensive for any of the dozen friends to afford so together they chipped in $2,500 to make the purchase. Esther was the one who first came up with the idea of buying something someone could be seen wearing on a red carpet. It was an extravagance, to be sure, but one she was able to convince the others to indulge in so they could experience what it felt like to be very glamorous, if only for a short while. The arrangement was that each woman got to keep the necklace for a month and could wear it wherever she pleased.

They chose their months out of a hat, and Leah picked June, which pleased her because she was a teacher and school would be out so she would have plenty of spare time then. Four women already had their month with the necklace, and all had interesting stories about the different places they wore the expensive piece of jewelry. By far, the most unusual place was a volcano in Hawaii, which Allison climbed with the necklace around her neck along with a Christopher medal. Jen, too, wore it in the clouds, seated in a glider piloted by her latest man friend who was old enough to be her uncle.

“So do you have any special place where you want to wear the necklace?” Hazel asked Leah shortly after Esther put it around her neck.

“I don’t.”

“You don’t?” she said, surprised. “But you’ve had four months to think about it.”

She nodded, in silence, unable to take her eyes off the diamonds.

“I won’t be getting to wear it for another two months but I know the first place I’m going to wear it.”

“Where’s that?” Dolores asked, overhearing her remark.

“To bed with my husband,” she said, smiling wickedly. “And that’s all I’ll be wearing too.”

*
Later that evening, after she got home from the exchange party, Leah sat at her dresser and stared for several minutes at what Esther always referred to as the “luscious” necklace now gleaming around her neck. Idly tracing a fingertip across a couple of the diamonds, she thought of it more as “mud luscious” because it was so heavy and thick. Like a coil of rope, she imagined. She knew she couldn’t afford such an exquisite item but agreed to chip in on its purchase because she was feeling so low at the time Esther approached her with the proposition. Only a few weeks earlier Vince, her husband of eight and a half years, informed her he had fallen in love with someone else and wanted a divorce. She was devastated, not having any idea he was seeing another woman, thought for a moment he was pulling her leg. But he was serious; assuring her he had come to his decision after considerable thought.

She was mistaken, she realized now, the necklace didn’t make her feel any better about herself. Not for a moment. Indeed, even after Vince left, she still felt as if his foot was planted squarely on her neck. She really couldn’t think of any place where she could wear the necklace, where she wanted to see anyone she wanted to impress with diamonds around her crushed neck.

Squeezing her eyes shut, squeezing them until they throbbed, she removed the necklace and placed it in the bottom drawer where she kept her handkerchiefs and scarves, suspecting it would remain there until the next exchange party.

T.R. Healy was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, and his stories have appeared in such publications as The Boston Literary Review, Callused Hands, Superstition Review, and Tulip.

Twin Girls

Posted in December 2009, Flash Fiction on December 23, 2009 by Black Coffee Press LIMITED

THE CHILD came out of nowhere. Beyond the small desert town the sun made waves, and she seemed to float out of the mirage. For weeks, months, he had been on duty, staring out,  but had reported nothing suspicious. Some big birds circling overhead, though most of the birds were gone now, very quiet, just the flag hanging straight down like a dead duck. His orders were to hold the position, stand guard on the cache of munitions: WMDs,  MREs, whatever;  not a plain soldier’s job to know. He was alone; they were stretched thin, fighting on so many fronts now. Iraq had gone bad, then Syria; that had triggered it. 

Not a bad job. Three days and nights straight, then his relief, a fat white marine called, he thought, Bubba. He preferred the nights, wired on the pills they issued him, everything dancing, sparkling green phantoms. His only hobby was collecting scorpions in a jar, but they were scarce now.

As the child approached he could see she was a small skinny girl with fair hair. Jeans, white T-shirt with a big heart on it. Holding up something now… a white teddy bear, as if a gift for him, a peace offering.  When she was close enough to see him clearly, she smiled, a nice friendly  smile, and he aimed carefully and shot it out of her hand.

But it did not blow. The girl dropped to her knees, frozen with fear. For a moment he panicked—Christ! Am I in trouble? But no, the briefings had made it clear: anyone who looks innocent is a potential threat. Shoot first, answer questions afterwards. Anyone, anything that looks friendly: dogs, cats, puppies—they could all be packing explosives. The Enemy is getting smarter day by day; we have to beat them at their own game.

… And here comes her Number Two, her twin sister! Running, arms flapping, same heart T-shirt. This must be the game plan: distract and move in. She had seen the other one go down. She stumbled but kept coming, so thin—where could she be hiding explosives? He thought of that old Life Magazine photo of the Vietnamese girl, on fire with Napalm, running towards the camera, naked. No bomb belt on her, but those were the old days. The second girl halted to crouch by the one on the ground, trembling, shaking her head. He’d only fired a single shot, and surely he’d made his point. The signs were clear. She tried to get her up but failed.

She stood and waved, frantic now—and here she comes! Oldest trick in the book. He can hear her screams now as she nears his station, “Help! Help! Do something!” and he does. “You fucking stop right fucking there!” he yells, but she keeps coming. He shoots her in the midriff. The explosion is red, colossal. Something bone-white flies towards him and nicks his face. “Fuck!” he yells, “Medic! Medic!”  He goes down, eyes full of sand.

Already he can hear the chopper landing.  It’s burying him in sand, but all his limbs feel OK. Thank God we’re back home in the U. S. of A, , he thinks, not still in that hell-hole of Iraq.

 Simon Leigh, Toronto Ca

Spin Cycle

Posted in Flash Fiction, November 2009 on November 17, 2009 by Black Coffee Press LIMITED

At the sink, Mrs. Bonfig is brushing a tomato stain from the lapel of some synthetic blend jacket, humming the way she does. “Out! Out damn spot!” she mutters and chuckles to herself. She looks at Louisa with a hint of smile, but Louisa looks away. She gets the reference. It’s just that she knows Mrs. Bonfig has a full scale washer and dryer in the basement of her Rambler over in the Oaks. Mrs. Bonfig doesn’t like that Louisa spends her days in the Laundromat. Just because she knew her mother way back when, she has ideas for Louisa. Today she pulls a book from her pocket, “ Little Women- Louisa May Alcott- You were named for her, you know.”

Louisa knows. She keeps the tattered copy her mother gave her safe between her mattress and box-spring. Sometimes she contemplates the clean alabaster lines of her name, how it burns clean her skin, like detergent flakes. Her mother is dead. And her skin is rubbed red and raw in the places she has covered. She does not have sisters. Though on Tuesdays, if she can get away, Tiffy joins her. Sprawled on the old orange folding tables, they paint their nails, long tanned legs in front of them. Tiffy is as sister as anyone. They laugh with the men who come in; especially the out-of-towners, who can be easily talked out of their last few cigarettes or quarters to buy the girls grape sodas from the machine. Louisa likes the way the men look at her. She can feel her flesh becoming visible around her ghost-soft bones. She is pretty, long-legged and curved. She likes Ralph from South Dakota best. He’s in town visiting his mother, but when he pops the tab of her grape soda, he tells her how she can ride with him through the Badlands where the sun goes down red as blood.

Mrs. Bonfig means well. But when she nudges the book toward Louisa, Louisa shrugs. “Not really my kind of story, thanks.”

Louisa can barely hear her voice above the washers. While Mrs. Bonfig purses her lips, Louisa stirs spirals into some detergent spilled on the tables. She hates the way Mrs. Bonfig looks at her. Outside the Laundromat, where Mrs. Bonfig steps out for some air, Louisa hears her talking to Hank. Hank is not Louisa’s father, though no one remembers the difference anymore. She likes the air-con, she hears him say. We don’t keep it on in the apartment. And the customers like her. Good for business. Truth is, as long as he can’t see her in the afternoon light, when her hair, the storms that shadow across her eyes are most like her mother’s, he is not concerned with what she does with her time. They better tread the space between them out of the light. Hank leaves her be. While Mrs. Bonfig stands looking in, Louisa turns the radio loud, then turns it down, dials Tiffy’s number on the phone. Tiffy’s voice is soft. Her mother won’t let her go to the Laundromat again, It’s not a good idea, she says. She’ll see her when school starts next week. And then she is gone, and the line is muted tone. It plays like a symphony against the spin-cycle percussion, the tumble-dry bass.

Louisa will be damned if she cries. Mrs. Bonfig comes in to retrieve her clothes from the dryer. That little bell above the door dings. She puts her arm around Louisa’s shoulders, but Louisa shrugs her off. The soft weight of Mrs. Bonfig’s arm makes her want to vomit. The look in her eyes is all soft and searching. She hates the way she looks at her. Louisa feels the flesh returning to her ghost bones, but her skin is gray and heavy like draining wash water, save for the scars on her arms which stretch and roll like some South Dakota hills. Mrs. Bonfig smells of White Linen perfume, the same her mother wore. Louisa’s stomach turns at the scent of her own skin- summer sweat, detergent flakes, something dark.

“Come, dear.” Mrs Bonfig says, “Let’s get you something to eat.” But Louisa can’t bear the way she reappears under Mrs. Bonfig’s gaze. She is growing scales, it seems, cold and sharp.

“Don’t think I am hungry,” she says.

The water is rushing in from the top. Louisa does not admit she is spinning until wrung. She is none of those things. Or she is all of them. She hears a rusty old F150 pull up out front, with South Dakota plates. She knows he was never serious, but when Ralph walks in, Louisa looks Mrs. Bonfig square in the eye stretches her arms towards Ralph and says, “You come to take me to the Badlands, sport?” Her mother is dead. She belongs where the sun bleeds. She gives Ralph a smile, she knows he won’t refuse. What does it matter if she drowns? All around her the murky water spins. Her eyes are burning. Like detergent against her razored skin. Ralph watches her as she climbs into the passenger side of his truck, a blush creeps up his neck. She is spinning faster, then faster still. She knows this is how to save herself. The only way to come clean.

Leah Mooney is a poet and writer. Her work has most recently appeared at LiteraryMama.com and Smoky Trudeau’s Left Brained, Write Brained.