July Flash Fiction: Getting Through the Day by Robert Earle

 

Getting Through the Day
Robert Earle

Bored stiff, she pulled cartons of yogurt out of a shipping box and put them in the cooler while repeatedly pushing the cooler’s door off her bum when it swung closed on her. Frequently, she had to scooch out of shoppers’ ways, one pair a young man followed by his gaunt, gray-haired father who apparently needed schooling. Had to be father and son given their jaws and ears, ears her erotic obsession. And this was the son in charge, the limping father silently taking note of everything the son said and chose—Vermont sharp cheddar, scones, and then, one cooler over, a small white jar of Devon cream.

So now she was doing what she was doing while glancing over her shoulder at them, the father perhaps not Alzheimer’s, instead a recent widower. That would be it, the ring on his finger notwithstanding. Couldn’t bear to take it off. Holding himself together. Intent upon his son telling him why Devon cream was called clotted, even though she saw he didn’t care. He just forced himself to listen as he shifted his weight from one leg to another, easing his aching knee. Then her eyes and his eyes nicked each other like two bits of gravel tossed up by a car on a country road, and she had to look away and find someone else to help her get through the day.

With more than 100 stories in print and online literary journals, Robert Earle is one of the more widely published contemporary short fiction writers in America. Vine Leaves Press published his story collection, She Receives the Night, in May, 2017. He also has published three novels and two books of nonfiction. He lives in North Carolina after a diplomatic career that took him to Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East.

June Flash Fiction: A Clyfford Still Painting by William Doreski

 

A Clyfford Still Painting
William Doreski

Tattered as a Clyfford Still painting, my birthday unfolds on a snowdrift and settles there. I could use a glass of wine the color of starlight, but the murmur of competing voices keeps me sober. Maybe later in front of the TV I’ll cough up the stone in my throat. Maybe when I’m old and bankrupt I’ll find a stick of driftwood the color of bone and adopt it. When a friendly museum offers to frame and hang my birthday in a gallery I’ll blush with the honor and accept a handshake or two. Until then, I’ll try to keep a straight face while women repulsed by my wrinkles and sour expression insist I resemble Richard Gere. I don’t know Richard Gere well enough to spot him on the street, and have never sat through any of his movies. But I’m sure his birthday also resembles a Clyfford Still painting, maybe one of the white-on-white ones from the early fifties. Mine looks darker, more like the orange-on-black ones of the same era. Regardless, it’s the irregular forms, like rags after a bomb blast, that define me. Maybe every artist feels this tearing and ripping on their birthday. Maybe not. Maybe just the convergence of color and form excites and incites them to excel.

William Doreski’s work has appeared in various electronic and print journals and in several collections, most recently The Suburbs of Atlantis (AA Press, 2013).

 

May Flash Fiction: Good Morning Moon by Jim Bartruff

Good Morning Moon
Jim Bartruff

How much like a beginning it was here. Yesterday, the transformers tolled like cathedral bells all over town. The last auxiliary generators stopped around dawn. You could hear them cough. It is dark now: the black bowl came down, the one we’ve all known was there but never saw, and in it the white stars we always suspected were there but never met, there they were.

And with them, tonight, a young man after Alissa the last two years came to the door with his acapella doo-wop group. They sang her happy 16th birthday from the lawn. It was unbelievably moving from a Dad standpoint. They were all from the ‘hood’ and tolerated Peter as that rarest of creatures: an honest counter-tenor. A senior, six-two, curly blonde hair, twice state swimming champ, gregarious, the one girls offer anything he wants if he takes them to the prom.

Alissa is still a clone of a much younger Natalie Portman. She was sidelit by candlelight, in her bathrobe, holding the door a third open and not another inch. The coyness in her smile was unintentional—one can only wonder what it did to his heart.

There are miracles and miracles and I hope this reaches you on one of them.

Worse than trouble is coming.

But there was this.

Jim Bartruff’s work has appeared in Fat City Review, Gambling the Aisle, New Verse News, Two Hawks Quarterly, American Tanka, JAMA, Canto, Barney, Marilyn, and many others. He is a past winner of the William Carlos Williams prize while attending the University of Rochester School of Medicine, and Academy of American Poets prize as a UCLA undergraduate. A third-generation native of Los Angeles, he has been a print journalist, screenwriter, and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Oregon Health and Sciences University in Portland, Oregon.

April Flash Fiction: Audrey Hepburn by Joseph Reich

 

Audrey Hepburn
Joseph Reich

women are noble getting their outfits ready the night before

my wife with her audrey hepburn striped turtleneck

and cords draped over the hamper

for her lovely and holy job as a substitute teacher in the elementary school

for all those half-crazed delinquents and everyone knows her in the neighborhood

nobody knows me…

and i’d be lucky just to make it through a night of nightmares

having to fight back like a drunken bukowski against all the freakin’ phantoms

using tourette’s to my full advantage

as even the devils try to creep in there

like hitchcock’s infamous portly silhouette pushing me up against the passengers

and that very well-groomed, thin asian man with his

cattle prod to prove that i am the ultimate stranger

(when i went to social work school to get my masters

i had a full pile of dirty clothes and what i thought clean clothes

on the floor and would sniff each one before i headed to yeshiva.

there was a body punching bag hanging from the ceiling my fiancee

and present day wife would bump into before she relieved herself

practically every evening, and so cute would ritualistically throw jabs

at it expressing how it drove her crazy and what was it doing there)

women are so noble and will get their clothes ready the night before

like audrey hepburn’s striped turtleneck and cords draped over the hamper.

Joseph Reich is a social worker who lives with his wife and twelve year old son in the high-up mountains of Vermont. He has been published in a wide variety of eclectic literary journals both here and abroad, been nominated seven times for The Pushcart Prize, and his books in poetry and cultural studies include, “A Different Sort Of Distance” (Skive Magazine Press) “If I Told You To Jump Off The Brooklyn Bridge” (Flutter Press), “Pain Diary: Working Methadone & The Life & Times Of The Man Sawed In Half” (Brick Road Poetry Press), among others. 

March Flash Fiction: Ghost by Robert Penick

Ghost
Robert Penick

I open the windows, the patio doors, put the tortoise in the empty bathtub, run water for the mountain of dishes. The first teeth of fall are snapping: Cold rain, the wind an angry postcard from a distant hurricane. The house needs a good airing. We lived in these three rooms together, and your perfume and cooking and resentments hang in every fabric, from the shower curtain to the drapes to the pillows on our bed. My bed. Our previous bed. I cut up strawberries, put them in the bathtub. Your tortoise begins to eat, does not seem to miss you, and this somehow pleases me.

It’s been four months now, a blur of self-distraction and marking time. One week gone, then two, then a month. An entire summer missed due to grief and regret. A season lost in internet memes and Russian novels from the public library. Laying on the floor with the tortoise, waiting for her to blink.

The dishes are washed, then reassembled as a tower in the drainer. Laundry is sorted, floors are swept. A gallon of tea is made and I put my feet on the desk, look out the window at the neighbor’s yard. You could tell me what kind of tree sits between the houses, I think. I had never wondered before.

There are things we can only learn about in a vacuum. Mortality is one, divorce is another. Both involve being painfully alone and appreciating every new moment for its uniqueness. Grief is never boring. There is satisfaction in every small task: The laundry, the lawn, curing a sink full of dirty dishes. Getting up, I wipe the silverware clean, then shut it away. The perfection of a thing finished.

Robert Penick’s work has appeared in over 100 different literary journals, including The Hudson Review, North American Review, and The California Quarterly. He lives in Louisville, KY, USA, with his free-range box turtle, Sheldon, and edits Ristau, a tiny literary annual. More of his writing can be found at www.theartofmercy.net