Category Archives: FLASH FICTION

Flash Fiction: Tarik

This is the Rope;

30 feet long, the length of five good-sized men, 3/4″- 1″ diameter, thick, heavy manila hemp rope, boiled and stretched, taut, no give, waxed, soaped or greased

In the morning

His unheated cell

A hole in the floor

Years in prison

The beady eyes watch as the guards place him in the glass enclosure. That’s when he sees his children.

 

This is the noose;

A slipknot, coiled 13 times, thick, placed under the left ear to slide up easy against the flesh

The former prime minister

vanquished

How they’ve grown, he marvels, seeing them, his feet cuffed, his fight gone, the great mystery upon him. He wants to reach out to them.

 

This is the human neck;

Jugular veins, arteries, a portion of esophagus, vocal cords or larynx, cervical spine, muscles interlaced with seven cervical vertebrae and eight pairs of nerves

As he steadies himself, sharp pains run through his scrotum where for months they zap him day in and day out. When he shifts his weight, left to right, heat zings through his legs up and through the left side of his neck and, like a lasso, around to his right shoulder.

 

This is the Long Drop;

The prisoner’s body weight multiplied by the length of fall and the force of gravity (approximately 1,100 ft lbs), coupled with the slip knot against the left ear, jerks the head backwards and sideways violently with a cracking sound and fractures/dislocates the upper neck vertebrae, between C2 & C3, crushes and severs the spinal cord.

“Daddy,” Marseilles calls to him.

“My little M,” Tarik answers with lightness that surprises him. “My little M, you’re so handsome.”

 

In

khaki shorts

a belt

a freshly ironed

white shirt

 

His older sister, Bennie they call her, towers over him. She’s flowered, too.

 

Her

black hair long

to her

waist

her skin

bright

shining

her silky blouse

white

She studies her father. Anxiety lines her face.

The Drop

The compounded force severs the carotid arteries and the jugular veins and the neck constricts by as much as five inches. In the extreme, decapitation rips the head from the body which flops to the floor, twitching like a freshly caught fish.

The guards, his people, not the invaders who come everyday, who jeer and zap, step back, recede professionally. He gets to know them and they are all right. They have a job and he respects and understands their responsibilities.

“Daddy, when will you come home?” Marseilles says.

Bennie turns away, grabbing Marseilles, whispers something in his ear.

 

Resist or

assimilate

Tarik whispers

to himself

 

My boy who

Resisted

 

Marseilles

My girl who

Fled not

The bombs

 

Bennie

 

My girl who

Would not assimilate

 

Unlike the guards

who

live

 

Option# 1

Hood – when witnesses prefer not to see the faces and the eyes of those about to die and after hanging, their bodies suspended, the same eyes enlarged, popped out of the skull or in their heads separated from the body

The oppressed assimilate. Those who refuse, die.

We can’t

understand

who

we become

until

the end

 

Option #2

Pinioning – strapping or handcuffing hands and feet prevents the condemned from latching onto protuberances and/or straddling trap doors

“Can I touch them?” he asks the guards and reaches into emptiness, his wrists bound.

Marseilles hesitates, looks at his sister, who shakes her head. Tarik realizes the awkwardness.

One

of the guards

turns his head

Tarik rolls his shoulders.

“Sometimes,” he says to Marseilles, “I have to take one step and move my arm like this and then I feel better,” forcing a smile through the lightning pain.

Bennie bites her lip, presses her hand against her neck and the lower part of her jaw, traces a line under her left ear.

“I think we have to go,” she announces, tapping Marseilles on the shoulder. “We should go. We will wait for you.”

“Thank you for coming,” Tarik says to them as one of the guards steps forward.

Option # 3

Clothing – prison jumpsuit or white shirt

As they begin to dissolve, as Tarik loses sight of them, as the mystery approaches, the other guard comes alongside him.

“Your shirt, he says. “I will button to the top for you.”

Tarik listens.

“It is a white shirt” he asks, “isn’t it?

Marseilles and

Bennie

fade

become

wisps

as they slip

the black hood

over his face

as they button

the white shirt

against his neck

under the

slip knot

as he drops

as his body

flops hard

twitching onto

the concrete

The beady eyes gloat. As Tarik appears, Marseilles and Bennie shimmer with excitement.

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Flash Fiction: Lanky

you get crazy away from people, we make you crazy in this world

~ ~ ~

In the deep summer, everything dries out and the wood fear the fire.

With so much to tell, Lanky Everett hurries into town. A good six foot five, Lanky runs, half coobles up the small rise, thoughts a thousand miles a minute.

“Gotta tell ’em,” he reminds himself as images pour through his brain.

Lanky is country, born and raised northern Alabama, believes in the confederacy, flies a confederate flag over his mobile. Lives deep in the woods. Goes into town ever now and then to hear the old men tell stories at the pavilion near the courthouse.

Where they ain’t watching for him. Where they ain’t listening to him.

When it gets too hot, and this is one them days, there’s no cloud cover, they got to go inside to tell their stories at the lunch hour.

And they can tell stories. The best stories that people can ever want to hear. About the ol’ days and ol’ glory. Don’t let anybody tell you different about the South. Those were glory days.

Well now, he has something to tell. And when he tells, everbody will want to hear. Everbody will remember ol’ Lanky always wanted to do good.

“Gotta tell ‘em,” he says, breaking into a jog.

Lanky is all athlete growing up. But for one thing.

Throws a football spot-on, shoots basketballs all day, through the net with that sweet swishing sound, fires fastballs, curves, sliders, changes wherever his catcher wants and hits bottle tops, rusty nails or deer heads with any gun, rifle or knife.

Till that day the fastball came out of his hand crazy-like, like it had a mind all its own and went for Tommy Cryder’s head.

Even then, Lanky could never run worth a lick.

After Tommy went down and couldn’t get up, from home plates to first bases, from dugouts to pitchers’ mounds, from benches to center jumps, Lanky’s legs would get stiff like concrete like when he stood on the mound looking at Tommy Cryder’s bleeding head, until he could run no more, till he never wanted to throw or shoot anything ever again.

But today’s gonna be different. He’s not gonna be the Lanky none of ‘em sees, none of ‘em hears, anymore. Maybe, jus’ maybe, Tommy’s watching down on him. Maybe Tommy sees him.

He moves

He skedaddles

Keep the pictures and sounds exactly right, that’s what he’s gonna do. They’ll listen to him. They’ll listen to Lanky because he wants to do good.

Stars

so far away

telescopes

probes

They don’t come in peace. And they ain’t big and monstrous, that’s not what they are. That part makes him wild with wanting to tell.

All your life you live in the country, away from city lights and electricity, you see night things.

Floating

Darting

Hovering

Tommy’s eyes

That fastball

Eating up

On him

Outside his trailer, when they come out of the woods, he thinks they’re a trio of weird-looking, fatheaded June bugs, almost like round bloody baseballs on little insect bodies.

1

2

3

Strikes

 

You

Shouda

Been

Out

Tommy Cryder

 

Almost

Like that

Not

Bleedin

All

Over

The

White

Chalked

Batter’s

Box

 

But when

They

Lower themselves

Into the grass

Stand there

Upright

Wings flickering

He knows

These ain’t no bugs

 

These are

Tommy Cryder

Past

Present

And Future

Talkin’

Right

Out

Of

The

Grave

 

Not

Letting up

On Lanky

“Little fellers,” he says, twitching his head, bending his knees, salvation coming.

Like a heavenly choir, the sounds. The little one, there are the three of them, puffs up and the sound comes. First like a choir and then a terrible burning sound, like a forest on fire, trees crying, people dying, the other two puffing, getting big like.

Like they’re telling him something.

Like they’re telling ‘em

They come

to burn the earth

to get back

at all

the meanness

 

Lanky is

first

to know

knows first

 

Run

Lanky

 

Tell ‘em

You gotta

Tell ‘em

He hears himself

Say

Over and over

 

 

All his work

Done

 

As he nears

The

Courthouse

Like he’ll be somebody again. Before the crazy fastball. Before he digs the torches into the ground, before he soaks ‘em in gasoline and makes ‘em into a circle ‘round the courthouse, in the near dry forest. If they don’t listen, he’ll just have to lock the doors when they all go inside to tell their stories.

If they don’t know Lanky wants to do good, he’ll just have to make a couple of lines out the powder in his pocket and connect those powdery arms into the nearness of the forest whose dry, leafy limbs hover like birds over the courthouse, close’n to those fiery torches he’ll have to light.

That way, they’ll know Lanky wants to do good. If they don’t listen to what he’s got to tell em.

Run, Lanky, run. You gotta tell ‘em. Tommy Cryder knows you mean to do good.


Flash Fiction: Hollow Point

Too much and you know you’ve had too much, done too much, and you know you’re going to be sick. You hear yourself saying stop.

~ ~ ~

But sometimes you can’t. Especially if you fear you’ll never see her again, never touch her, never hear her voice because you carry that happening to you and now, when she comes close, you never want to lose her, never want to experience that again, not that kind of losing, again.

You’re on your back. Your head is heavy, your legs like lead. Someone nailed you to the floor, your shirt wet and sticky and something warm drips into your throat.

“Kiss him one more time,” you hear Gregorio say and you wish your head would clear and you could do something.

Everything comes back at you, piece by piece.

You followed her. You know you shouldn’t have. You know she is dangerous but you couldn’t stop.

The stars move, the earth moves, constellations move and you moved, went too far, kissed her deeply and couldn’t stop.

In the backwaters, time should be slow, rural and agrarian, not mules and jets, not DEA, not politicos, not black ops, not cartels and not you.

“There’s this one,” they tell you, “a million dollar mama. Stay away from her. She belongs to him. Remember this, she’s bored and she wants to play. Stay away. Go over that ledge and you will freefall. You’ll fall deeper than the Rio Grande.”

You go in, on guard. Play the fool, do the deal. Gregorio watches. You know he watches. You do the deal and the next and he relaxes. You plug his brother, his cousin. You ride in armor-plated limos, in his jet copter. You move up.

Until, he lets you have her. One time only, he says and then relents.

“Do this next one,” he says, “and you can keep her.”

Mountains shake, rivers run and she knocks you out. She blazes like the desert. Heat waves engulf you.

Watching him, this you do as you press the trigger, ripping through time and space, a hollow point that enters, expands and blows out his head. You kill the banker whose plans do not include Gregorio, who thinks with muscle and dollars, he can take.

You’ve gone too far. You know that. Gregorio smiles, says, “You’re my boy, now. You can have her. She’s yours.”

Days and nights blend, merge, become a single moment, never-ending. Somewhere in your head, you know she becomes bored, will want more.

When she does, when she does, you have a plan.

“Million dollar mama, you will be mine,” you echo.

You gather muscle, you gather dollars. Gregorio will fall.

Flies and ants gather, spiders spin webs.

You can never know, never in your wildest dreams that Gregorio is spider, that you are ant, that you are fly. Wings seek flames.

You make your move, take your cut and turn on him. “You’re finished,” you say. “She is mine and yours is mine.”

But muscle turns on you. In an instant, you know you’re in too deep, that the part you play he writes. All for shit. All for play. They warned you.

“Kiss him one more time,” you hear Gregorio say, and you know they were wrong, that this is why you played and lost, this last kiss, with you nailed to the floor, is why you played.

She kneels next to you. You cough up blood and wonder if there’s enough time.

In your head, the bullet expands, grows wider, presses tissue outward. You can feel the insides of your skull expand, push out.

She whispers. “Again,” she says but not to you.


Flash Fiction: My Father When He Dies

we’ll separate you so you lose yourself, lose your bearings, never find your way back

~ ~ ~

My father could never be who he was. Never could take what was really inside him and be that. Faker, he faked his life.

You get off track early, you build something that isn’t you, that becomes bigger than you, that opposes you, that confuses you, the real part of you gets left behind.

I’m at the funeral home. Stillness. In the back, a tall man and woman approach the Guest Book. I’m not surprised by the minuscule turnout. When the funeral director forwards the options, I take the smallest room.

In my business, I cut words and rearrange thoughts. To get a book into print, I watch costs. No, I’m not surprised by the turnout. Costs matter. My father matters little.

People avoided him, did not want to be around him, did not want what he was to come back at them. Why would death be different?

Heaviness permeates the air. Not like a metaphor.

When I attempt to move, something weighs against me, anchors me.

This heaviness is real, the result of a life that doesn’t fit. Of waste, of things made heavy that won’t budge.

Me and dad? Here we are, alone with one another. In death, he looks metallic.

I wonder if we don’t all become anchored beings. Routine and compromised, surrounded by things that hunt us down. Like a book that falls short, mangled by budgets, by fate, by inabilities.

For those of us that find our place, are we any better?

Why do we remember trips to the country? Why do we remember trees and woods, small streams?

Does something unknowable, something we’ve forgotten, call us?

My father felt that kind of heaviness. Lost in a blurry childhood, alcoholic parents. Not a day safe. Not a day without booze, without fallen bodies, purple bruises, broken bones.

He became a part-time novelist, day laborer, Ph.D. dropout, prof for hire, boxer, long-distance hiker, abuser, indigent, failed actor, unknown writer, small-time activist, misfit father.

Careening through life, discarding friends, families, being discarded, dying alone, his uneven accomplishment.

To have always needed help from others for the most basic, to eat, to feed himself, to keep a house, an apartment, a room, his failures. He could never earn.

To have provided for strangers, given to causes, loved animals, plants and flowers, to have walked off jobs out of principle, ditched tenure and to have worshipped women in the face of life-long failure, his disciplined character defect.

How many times did he invent himself? How many times did disappoint rap on his door, curl his lips?

The part of him that was real surfaced in small blocks, maybe in half days, mornings, in the dark of night, in the thinnest of veils between worlds. That part of him must have been unbearably small, must have pained him when the monster appeared.

I hate to think he thought of himself as small, that the part of him that loved me disappeared, even from himself.

He was like a cosmic current. Wispy apparitions hovered around him, upwards like steam. As a child, I could literally feel him float away. As an adult, I hated what he did to himself.

He was not a small person! My dad did not belong here, did not fit.

To him, the country was a company town, a corporate entity privately gained. In his eyes, The Stockholm Syndrome, prisoners in league with captors.

Crazy. At the end, paranoid.

Those things I promised I would leave behind. His craziness. That poor, pitiful side of him, my father. I would move on.

I think these thoughts when I feel a nudge.

“You must be his daughter,” the tall man says. He pulls on his sleeve, lowers his head, continues. “The New York daughter, the poet.”

I haven’t returned in years. Grandma and grandpa are gone. How would anyone know me?

“Early on, in my early days in New York, I wrote poetry. Years ago.” Uncomfortable, stepping away.

“And then you became an editor,” he counters, drawing me back.

“You knew my father.”

His wife approaches.

“Carla,” he says, “this is Duncan’s daughter. From New York.”

“The poet,” she says.

“No, I am an editor, not a writer,” I repeat.

My protest means nothing. “Duncan loved your poetry,” she continues.

“When he stayed with us, he read your poetry.”

“He stayed with you?” I ask.

“Only for a while,” her husband answers. “When your grandparents died.”

She takes my hand, draws me close.

“We lived across the way.”

The Horvills, I think. These are the Horvills. Drinking buddies with grandpa and grandma. They were there. They smashed bottles against the walls, they climbed backyard fences to get at each other, they wrecked cars.

I instantly want to pull my hand away. My father started his wandering to get away. Turned his back on early tenure, the start of his career. All to get away from the crazy drinking, from these crazy people.

“You ought to know something, sweetie,” she says, holding firmly. “You need to know this.”

I wait. Pain circles, approaches, crawls up inside me.

When she begins to tear, her husband wraps his arm around her.

“What she’s trying to say,” he starts, squeezes her, comforts her. “What we’re trying to say is your father never had much of chance. We know that.” He sighs, his face contorted.

“Things got tangled up and he spent his life running, trying to get away from all of us. We gave it up, the drinking. You need to know that.”

We huddle, my father’s body in front of us, shining in the late afternoon.

“And we want you to know that when he came, when your grandparents failed, he came and he read your poetry to them, your first books, as if there wasn’t any trouble between them. Not any trouble at all. And he called you a poet. And that’s why we call you a poet. You wrote true words. Everything changed when they died. The party died. The war ended. Your father was with them. You can let go of things you believed.”

He holds his wife and she nods.

Good things about my father flood my brain. I remember being in the woods with him and how he loved the trees and the colors of the leaves in fall and the space between us, between the Horvills and me, grows very small and evaporates and I sense the unexpected.

And I remember being a poet and realize that what is inside of me disentangles. Instead of floating away, instead of drifting away like a stream of vapor, instead of running and wanting, of oh so wanting in this instant to be small, of wanting to edit and to chop words, in such smallness that I tower over others, I see the steady, sure gaze of the Horvills and verse begins to form and I feel free.