November Flash Fiction: Before the Sun Rose by Denise Massingill

Before the Sun Rose
Denise Massingill

She found our first home the day before I was born, meeting the realtor out front of an old victorian house, then following behind to a smaller unit, pink with green trim. The woman’s eyes gazed down at my mother’s stomach.

“A girl?” she asked.

“Yes.”

The realtor nodded and looked toward the alleyway. In the distance, police sirens echoed off bricks.

“What would you think about getting a dog?” the realtor asked. “We don’t normally allow pets, but we could make an exception.”

“Dogs eat babies,” my mother said. And it was true, sometimes.

There wasn’t much to move in. My uncle drove over from San Pablo in the morning and helped my mother set up the crib in one corner of the bedroom.

“From Louise,” he said, laying a blue blanket over the crib mattress. “We have more, but she’s not ready . . .” His voice trailed off.

The stillborn. It was supposed to be Leon’s blanket.

At night, alone, my mother lay on a twin-sized mattress. The house was hot and the streetlamp lit up the bedroom window, casting shadows of bars across the floors. She pinned Leon’s blanket above the window. My blanket.

When her stomach began tightening, my mother turned on her side and cursed the name of the man who did this to her, or maybe a few names because she wasn’t ever sure. And somewhere between those screams, I emerged, purple and fat, screaming at her, relentlessly wanting milk, craving songs, needing that switch to click on when someone becomes a mother but it never did.

In the morning, the realtor returned and found a baby curled in a dog bowl on the front steps, howling. My mother was gone before the sun rose.

Denise is an Austrian-American writer, born in San Francisco, Ca. She received her BA in Creative Writing at San Francisco State University, where she was awarded the Frances Jaffer Poetry Prize in 2014. She currently lives in Vallejo, Ca, with her two young daughters and is a substitute teacher in low-income, urban high schools. 

October Flash Fiction: Poses by Ben Berman

Poses
Ben Berman

My wife is tired of running alone together and when she proposes signing me up for a trial pass at her yoga studio I know what’s really on trial, know every time the teacher comes over to gently correct one of my poses I better think of it as an exercise in flexibility.

***

But after a few weeks these early morning classes almost begin to feel like a centering practice. And though letting go of ego always poses a problem for me, I slowly find myself letting the teacher press one hand against my pelvis while the other adjusts my chin  recognize that this is stretching me in important ways.

 ***

Still, when the teacher comments one day on the strength of my focal points, I can’t help
but wonder if something special inside of me has manifested in my posture. And though I 
acknowledge his praise with the slightest lowering of my eyes  don’t even glance over at my wife to see if she heard  all that modesty is just a pose.

Ben Berman’s first collection of poems, Strange Borderlands, won the 2014 Peace Corps Writers Award for Best Book of Poetry and was a finalist for the Massachusetts Book Award. His second collection, Figuring in the Figure, came out this past spring from Able Muse Press. In addition, he has received honors and Fellowships from the New England Poetry Club, Massachusetts Cultural Council and Somerville Arts Council and currently serves as Poetry Editor of Solstice Magazine.

September Flash Fiction: A Thousand Words by Charles D. Tarlton

A Thousand Words
Charles D. Tarlton

They agreed on most things, just not on art. His favorite paintings were Hans Hofmann’s solid color abstractions, hers were Gustav Klimt’s combinations of shape and object. The question was merely theoretical for him, but vital to her, because she was a painter. She mixed up colored patterns and designs with portraits or sketches of trees. One day, he was having coffee and reading on the deck when she brought out her most recent painting and leaned it against the railing. It showed an array of geometrical colored patterns surrounding a careful representation of the old, carved wooden Buddha they’d bought in Oakland. “What do you think of it?” she asked, and waited for his answer. He lay his book down, pushed his reading glasses up onto his forehead, and studied the painting. He felt that familiar tension he felt whenever they disagreed and, though he knew it was stupid, he went ahead and said, “We have cameras, you know, if you wanted a snapshot of something.” He turned back to his book as she walked away, leaving the painting behind. She came back after a minute with a big brush and a pot of black paint, and painted out the figure of the Buddha. Then she said: “Does that make you feel any better?”

Charles D. Tarlton is a retired university teacher who has been writing poetry and flash fiction since 2006. He and his wife, Ann Knickerbocker, an abstract painter, live in Northampton, Massachusetts. He has had poetry published in: Jack Magazine, Shampoo, Review Americana, Tipton, Barnwood, Abramelin, among others. 

August Flash Fiction: The Senior War Correspondent by Douglas Koziol

The Senior War Correspondent
Douglas Koziol

Before she fled the rain of mortar fire that leveled Aleppo to ruins and left in its wake bands of flip-flopped teenagers, Kalashnikovs slung over their shoulders. Before the Second Intifada, when she was caught between a triad of IDF and a tattered boy armed with a stone, praying they wouldn’t shoot through her to get to him. And before the weeks of training on anti-personnel mines and how to get through a checkpoint without raising too many questions, she was a girl catching fireflies in a mason jar and crying the next morning when they wouldn’t shine.

Douglas Koziol is an MFA candidate in fiction at Emerson College. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Crack the Spine, Driftwood Press, and theEEEL, among other places.

July Flash Fiction: The Compass by Ree Venrick

The Compass
Ree Venrick

(On June 26, 1917, the first American troops landed at the port of Saint Nazare, France to begin military involvement in the First World War.)

Standing in the shadow of the red-tiled roof shading off the blazing Florida sun, father and mother in that spring of 1917;  they stood gazing after the army train rolling north out of Winterset station, until it evaporated into thermals at the corner of Old Haven Cemetery.

Mother had turned cranky when her son told them the news.
—Young man! Why didn’t you say something before! Why?
—Most of the guys from school are joining up!  I didn’t think that—
—Listen, your father has a torn rotator cuff and needs help in the grove.
—I won’t be long. I read the war’s done by Christmas.
—Oh really?  Why you think the French need American boys over there?
—Anyway, it won’t be long. Just like that war in Cuba was in dad’s day.
—You’re ready for a voyage on a troop ship? It’s rough on the Atlantic.
—I’m good on these Florida lakes, aren’t I? I don’t know what seasick means.

That was when father cleared his throat.
—You wouldn’t be just following the waves of the Brits, would ya?
—What’s that mean?
—Those cousins who don’t know when to quit gnawing on the settin’ sun.
—Well, Pa, we speak the same lingo, don’t we? We gotta help out.

Father rose, limped over to the window that looked down the rows of the valencia grove.
—What’s it matter to us who runs Europe? Germans? French?  It’s their continent!
—It’s a European fight. Let them fight it out, mother added. Not our business.

At the station,  mother couldn’t stop shaking her head, straw hat too large. Turning her graying head to see the conductor of the troop train blow a whistle, she said:
—Son, now listen, your father’s not getting any younger. He needs another hand.
—No, he’s 19, enough’s been said.

Lugging his duffle bag, father led his son to the fold-down stairs, and after handing him something, came limping back. They stood in silence, gazing after the train pulled into the thermals.

Finally father said:
—Ah hell, they say the government’s gonna end up drafting American boys anyhow.
—What was that you gave him when he got on the train?
—Was gonna give him a wrist-watch like I read those British boys have—
—Who needs to know the time of day when you’re a soldier in mud and—
—That orange grove he grew up in was planted to directions by that compass.
—Compass? You gave him your compass?
—Gave him my compass, sure did.
—You really think he’s gonna use a compass in the bloody trenches of France?
—No, but he might need that compass to bring him home.