Flash fiction is a style of fictional literature or fiction of extreme brevity.
Bugs! Everywhere you look there's another kind of bug
Makes you want to get a club and clout'em
Yes everybody's talking bout the worrysome bugs
But ain't nobody doing nothing about 'em. Bobbie Gentry
“These scones are lovely, Harriet, just lovely,” Mildred said. “And it is thrilling to be asked to co-chair the centerpiece committee. My head is abuzz with ideas. Satin flowers and silver beads and…”
“One of your children on phone, Miss Mildred. She say come home right away.”
“That would be Anne. My drama queen,” Mildred chuckled fondly. “Rosita, Tell her I’m on my way.”
“But she say…”
“Do you think it would be too outrageous to add silk butterflies,” she held up her hand, not wanting to be interrupted again. “Just as a nod to the seasonal theme?”
When Mildred finally did head home, there was no getting anywhere near her house for the cordoned off street and jumble of fire trucks..
With her maelstrom of frizzled bleached hair and her lithe long legs the German girl had looked like an alien among the thirty other Outward Bound teenagers. It was beyond any wet dream imaginable when she slipped naked into Matthew’s sleeping bag. He would always remember her hoarse guttural whispers, her hands playing his skinny body like an Alabama banjo, her mouth everywhere at once; the desert heavens imploding with stars. Just before sunrise she slid out of his sleeping bag, a snake shedding her skin.
Hours later Matthew was still dazzled and grateful in a newly colored world. The cliff face he scaled was an orange slab set against brilliant blue. An iridescent bird circled the sky like a halo. Silvery ridge grass, as fine as a girl’s hair, rippled just above the rock rim. The high thin air filled Matthew’s chest, cooling and calming him. He felt strong and deeply sure of himself. All of which added to his bafflement as he grasped for the ridge top and felt the girl’s flicks against his flexed fingers before he somersaulted backwards into crystal slivers of light.
Donuts and soda pop! Ice cream and candy corn! Bon bons and peppermint! Cake, cookies and cracker jacks! For you, for you, all for you!
Now, honey, tuck your many chins to your dimpled knees and roll on down The Big Rock Candy Mountain. Roll, baby, roll.
For two years, every Tuesday and Thursday, she has walked to her violin lesson down this tree-canopied street. The first Tuesday of September she notices the man sitting on his front steps reading Paradise Lost. Which Janice’s seventh grade English class studied and she reread over the summer. Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” drifts out the open window. On Thursday the man reads Pride and Prejudice. As she walks, Janice tilts her head to make out the title. Chopin is blaring. For two more weeks he is always there. One rainy day she sees him leaned in his doorway reading a thick book with a faded cover. She pauses on the pretext of adjusting her umbrella. The man is oblivious. On the last Thursday he holds Wuthering Heights. “La Mar” is playing. She decides to speak to him.
“Did you know that she and Charlotte were sisters?”
“Who?” His voice is friendly, interested.
“Maybe next Tuesday you can leave for your lesson earlier?” He looks up from his book. “We’ll have tea.”
Janice thinks about this for the next four days. She has never been invited to tea.
“What do you do?” she asks glancing around the man’s bare front room. “Don’t you have a job?” She puts her violin down on the room’s one chair.
“I paint.” She knew he would be an artist! “While I find the tea kettle, you can look around my studio. It’s there, down the stairs.” He presses The Collected Poems of Emily Dickerson against his chest as he flicks on the light switch.
She is half way down the stairs before she sees the photographs. Not paintings, but horrible photographs. The door lock clicks quietly. Only then does Janice realize there is no music playing.
The neighbors warn that she needs to lock her doors, be careful. Smilers never lose, frowners never win, is Irma’s motto. The bank wants her house. There’s no money for heating oil and winter is coming. Her bills pile up. Irma bakes cookies for her neighbors and whistles a happy tune. One day, when she is at Kroger’s spending her last five dollars on flour and chocolate chips, a bank robber hides a bag filled with ten million dollars in Irma’s refrigerator. Fifteen minutes later, and a mile away, he is gunned down by the police. On the first day of November Irma moves to Palm Springs for the winter.
“Not again!” Sissy pulled the sheet over her head.
The dense hot night resonated with the grunts of mating alligators, the rustle of humping possum, and the frantic back and forth courting cries of long-necked birds.
What else had Sissy expected from her tryst in the Everglades?
“I need some sleep, Jimmy.” She tucked her knees to her chest under the damp tangle of sweaty sheets. “Is one night of sleep too much to ask?”
Loneliness settled over him like a faraway train whistle, like a whip-o-will’s call, like a second pillow with no indentation.
“I can’t do winter in these mountains.” It was true, she had warned him.
Seeds set to earth, and the calf already steady on the hoof, when she and her children arrived. It was during the final fading of the apple blossoms, with the green full in the creek willows. He had helped her pull suitcases and neatly tied bundles from her van. He remembered looking out and seeing that the meadow grass had already become high enough to fold before the wind.
After Fourth of July supper, with the dishes cleared, they had sipped wine on the screened porch; watching the children, with their sparklers, scatter stars over the lawn.
He thought he could convince her, change her mind with the promise of autumn fruit, the neighbors gathering with pies and jam; the crops all brought in and quiet evenings before the hearth. But, by the time those events transpired, she was long gone.
“Once upon a time there was a very bad King who caused immense suffering by empting the coffers of his people, taking away their rights, and waging unjust wars."
“How did such a bad man get to be King, grandfather?”
“He was appointed by the highest Judges in the land.”
“Because they belonged to his Club and they admired the King for buying the votes of voters with their own money. Though that was not the idea of the King, who had no ideas. The King had a heavy low brow, close-set eyes, and never read books or newspapers.”
“Where did he get his ideas?”
“From an evil Brain that fed on oil and slobbered fake religion.”
“So the people rose up against the bad King, right?”
“Wrong. When the King’s reign was to have ended the kingdom was in such trouble that the people were afraid. So, this time, the very people he had robbed made him King again.”
“Were they in the Club, too, grandfather?”
“No, Jessie. None of them would ever be in the Club. The King went on to reign for as long as the law allowed. And then a new order was declared.”
“Unfortunately, though the bad King was gone, the evil Brain remained. And when the new order tried to crush it, a terrible smell covered the land. The smell was even more powerful than the Brain they meant to destroy.”
“Instead of a new order, they got a new odor?”
“Well said, little one.”
“Honestly. I give you an inch—you take a mile!”
“OK, OK. You can use the car while I’m gone.”
“You’re the best!”
“Just be careful.”
“Alright if I have the fellas over for pizza and a movie?”
“You have to promise me no drugs or alcohol.”
“Absolutely. Think about it, Ma, I coulda just had them over. How would you know?”
“That’s true dear. I’m sorry.”
“Last thing. Seems a good idea to tell me where you keep your checkbook. In case something comes up.”
John was obese, more like a blob than a man. But he wanted to change. He went into the wilderness for two years, his only sustenance nuts and berries, small creatures dipped from streams. Time dragged on.
Late one afternoon he is startled by his stick-like reflection flickering on the surface of a pond. Thin at last! When John raises his arms in triumph, the low slung sun glistens through wings of loose flesh.