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.

June Flash Fiction: Doors Indoors and Watermelon Bread by Faith Fulbright

Doors Indoors and Watermelon Bread

Faith Fulbright

After the show we go to a high-end grocery store. I go in alone. I try to find the bathroom but am already carrying the front of a bathroom stall: two narrow panels with a door between. I have to go through the swing door sideways, and once I am inside, to the largest stall where it is most likely to fit. I lock the door and start smoking. I remember the grounds with the hill, the bleachers, and the arena, the rail and the crowds where I’d get a leg up. I remember Rosa, the slick black saddle and long reins — never on the buckle — keeping a finger on her bob and drive. Yanepsi comes in. I let her into the stall. She worries that the length of my stay has made me suspicious. We agree to go but can’t get the stall-front back through the swing door. We leave it in the next-to-last stall, not visible from the entrance. We walk quickly through the store; we don’t need anything. A cashier says, “Aren’t you going to get anything?” “Watermelon bread,” I exclaim as though just having remembered it. It’s a cake really, Bundt shaped, and when cut, profiles laughably: it is three-quarters crisp golden brown, the lower left quadrant is green.

Faith Fulbright is a recent graduate of the Hoger Instituut voor Wijsbegeerte at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, in Leuven, Belgium, where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in continental philosophy. She has since taken a break in the mountains of North Carolina to read, write, and pursue the visual arts. In addition to philosophical papers in Leuven, Canterbury, and the states, her artistic works include a reading with the Leuven Writing Collective, four poems in London’s Disclaimer magazine, and an avant garde piece with Bombay Gin (forthcoming).

May Flash Fiction: How to Roll a Cigarette by Jake Pritchett

How to Roll a Cigarette
Jake Pritchett
Meet a friend in the broken lot of Overland Foods. Get into his car and give him the money and thank him. Wait while he’s in the store. He’ll return with a bag of Bugler Tobacco and an extra stick of gummed Zig Zag rolling paper. He’ll give you the change. It’s cheaper than the two of you would’ve thought. Six for the Bugler two for the rolling paper. 

Go to the elementary school the two of you were at not a decade ago and the playground you grew up on by measure of scraped knees and bruised elbow and stand under the street light and struggle. Stand and smoke and feel that rush and be thankful you’re feeling.

You and he will laugh and say things like: “Shit olboy.”

Thank him again. He’ll start to say his sorrys or his condolences. Brush it off. Go home. Roll a few in that empty house and your sister is gone and that’s good because you still don’t know what to say to her.

Walk far from the house even though it’s cold. Smoke and watch the bright moon above scraggy sage brush and the translucent paper with the dark tobacco under it. The bright orange and towards the end red moving towards an ever present finish. Don’t think of how mom’d scream at you for it and despite it how she’d appreciate this art in its own right, but how she no longer can because that’s what death is. 

Jake Pritchett lives in Fort Collins, Colorado and has a short story forthcoming in the next issue of DoveTales: An International Journal of the Arts, as well as in Fewerthan500.

April Flash Fiction: The One by Robert Penick

The One

Robert Penick

They talked about how ashes from Marlboro cigarettes smelled better than those of generic smokes.       

“You wake up next to a coffee cup full of Doral butts. You feel like God took a leak on you while you slept.  It’s the cheap additives.  Marlboro makes you want to go on, somehow.”

They had met outside the liquor store.  She was coming out with a six-pack of beer as he went in.  “You want to help me drink these?” were the first words she spoke.  He bought another twelve and they walked back to his apartment.  Listened to the radio and sipped at the beer.  After it was gone, they took a shower together, steadying their tipsy bodies against the wall.  She had a tattoo, “Jim,” on her arm and told him it was her brother’s name.  She noticed that the tip of his left index finger was missing.       

“I tried to put my finger where my face wouldn’t go,” he explained.     

In bed, they made love clumsily, like high school kids.  He bonked his head against the headboard and they laughed, but it hurt, it really did.  After a time, her whole body tensed, and he felt proud of himself for her orgasm.     

“I’m not gonna make it.”      

“Whiskey dick,” she laughed.  “It happens.  Maybe you shouldn’t have drunk those last seven beers.”     

They slept, fitting into one another like two cats in a box.       

In the morning, he drove her home.  Jim’s car was in front of the house, so he let her out
around the corner.  She tucked his phone number into her jeans.  And that was that.     

He still thought of her years later, even after the name of her tattoo was forgotten.

Robert Penick’s work has appeared in over 100 different literary journals, including The Hudson Review, North American Review, Plainsongs, and Gambling the Aisle. He lives in Louisville, KY, USA, with his free-range box turtle, Sheldon. More of his work can be found at www.theartofmercy.net