Sunday, August 4, 2013

Flash Fiction by Jim Harrington

Waiting for the Storm to Pass

"What's that?"  Angle said, pointing at the man's arm.

"What's what?"

"That thing on your sleeve."

The man looked at his arm, a frown on his face. "My heart. What the hell do you think it is?"

"It's beating," Angle said.

"I sure as hell hope so. Wouldn't need to worry about the tornado if it wasn't, would I."

Angle looked around the storm shelter. None of the other fifty or so occupants seemed to notice anything unusual. Most were huddled with family members, keeping an eye on the stairs leading to the exit.

He stared at the beating appendage, as it's pulse quickened, and idly raked bony fingers through his beard, not sure what to say. "What's your name?" he asked.

"Harold, but most people call me Hank." A honed edge remained on the man's voice, like he didn't want to be bothered. "What's yours?  Not that it matters. I'll be continuing on my way to Kansas City once the storm passes. That's assuming the bus is still upright."

Angle thought about that, and decided the man was right—that it didn't matter. He told him his name anyway. "Angle."

"Angle?" Hank scratched his heart.

"That's my name."

"What the hell kind of name is that? You Greek or something? Shortening your name so people can say it?"

"The person who filled out my birth certificate misspelled angel. My dad was so pissed when he found out he went to a bar and drank an entire bottle of Jack Daniels."

"Can't blame him," Hank said. "I would'a been pissed, too."

Angle nodded and smiled. "I don't think I would've killed the parrot, though."

"He killed a parrot? Did the bird make some wisecrack about your name?" Hank put his fists in his pits and flapped his arms, the heart beat faster with each movement. "Polly wants an Angle. Polly wants an Angle. Waaak!" Hank laughed so hard he nearly fell off his chair.

Angle reached out to steady the old man but pulled his hand back, not wanting to touch the beating heart. "Some other drunk challenged him to a game of darts. Dad threw the first one about thirty feet right of the target into the bird's cage." A loud bang from outside the storm shelter interrupted his story. Everybody in the room jumped. A woman Angle couldn't see screamed and prayed to Jesus to save her. Just her. No one else. "The owner tried to have my dad charged with murder."

"This just keeps getting better," Hank said, as he started to cough.

Angle patted Hank on the back until the barking stopped and the heart slowed its pace.

"Hey, folks." It was a high-pitched male voice coming from across the room. "I think the storm's passed. We're going to open the door."

Angle and Hank and everyone else sat still while a large man in a Chicago Cubs t-shirt, his bloated belly uncovered, a tattoo of a hot dog in a bun with cole slaw under his belly button expanding and contracting with each breath, opened the hatch. Sunshine brightened the dim room. A breeze carried fresh air into the dank rectangle.

"Well," Hank said. "I don't know what we're going to find out there, but it was nice talking to you." Angle noticed Hank's voice had calmed to normal, so had his heartbeat.

"Same here," Angle said. "Hey, you going to get that fixed?" Angle asked, pointing at the man's heart.

"Not sure." Hank cupped it in his hand, like it was a baby's head. "It kinda fits there don't you think?"

Angle watched Hank's fingers caress the organ as they climbed the stairs. "Yea. I think it does."
Jim Harrington began writing fiction in 2007 and has agonized over the form ever since. Jim's Six Questions For . . . blog ( provides editors and publishers a place to “tell it like it is.” You can read more of his stories at

1 comment:

  1. This is a clever literalization, and it works nicely as flash. Thanks for publishing it.