Friday, August 30, 2013

Flash Fiction by Rich Hartwell

The Brooch
I remember the brooch my grandmother gave me when I was about twelve, before she died. It had been given to her by her husband on their wedding day and obviously meant a great deal to her. It was of filigreed silver, about an inch and a half long and tapered to a point on each end, and maybe an eighth of an inch wide. There were minute vines and leaves and five small diamonds of greater worth than I will ever know. I was too young and she died too soon; so I carried this gift until I foolishly gave it away, along with my heart to a young girl, when I was sixteen. When that summer-love ended, that girl returned the brooch, but not my heart. I learned from that experience.
Three short years later I married, too young, too soon. It was the sixties and I designed a ring for my “natural” bride to display the diamonds plucked from my grandmother’s brooch. The filigree and the antiqued silver were lost, but not the memories. The story was passed on to my first wife.
When she and I passed away from each other and entered other lives, she kept this ring from our life together. She passed this on to our son along with the story that he verified with me. When he too married, he had the ring resized and bestowed it on his wife in turn. She also has been told the story, which has touched four generations now. He and his wife are now expecting their first child and I expect, as well, the story will be delivered to another generation waiting in the wings.
*   *   *
So much were my early thoughts, early in their disregard for earlier lives and changing times. My son’s wife, his first, had two children, both boys, and eventually she will be faced with a decision upon which son to bestow the ring. Perhaps she will have it dismantled, much as she did her marriage, and provide each child with a piece of her former love, her former life, and four generations of history.

Meanwhile the man who placed the ring upon her finger, my son, had met and wed another bride. If this were a jeweled life, his new bride would have received the ring and carried it forward, perhaps to a fifth generation, whole with love rather than halved with hate. But such was not to be and this is not a small gem of literary beauty, but rather a story of reality. This marriage, too, died when the new bride’s husband, my son, gave up his life to disease and despair and his bride was left to carry on, bereft of children, husband, ring, and history.
Rick Hartwell is a retired middle school (remember the hormonally-challenged?) English teacher living in Moreno Valley, California. He believes in the succinct, that the small becomes large; and, like the Transcendentalists and William Blake, that the instant contains eternity. Given his “druthers,” if he’s not writing, Rick would rather be still tailing plywood in a mill in Oregon. He can be reached at

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Flash Fiction by Stephen V. Ramey

When I listen to him, all things are possible. His voice, so throaty-rich, so pure. I think of Jesus on the cross. Life becomes smeared light, death a dark-blink interlude. Dear God, I think. Dear, sweet God, make us better, make us free of the blame that holds us back, take from us the violence that squeezed us from the womb. Dear God, I think, dear sweet God.
A final strum on the battered guitar, and his song is finished. I reach out. Notes tremble on the breeze. I want to hold them to my face. I want to make them real. Dust falls from my fingers into the slanted light.
He picks up a beret holding a few dollars and coins. His skin is dusky. "You like?" he says. He jingles the hat. His fingers are callused, half-moon fingernails stained.
I turn my pockets out. Coins spill onto pavement, a key ring, a pack of gum. Quarters bounce and roll through tight spirals.
His expression does not change. I take my wallet out, and dump it too. Bills flutter down, credit cards and business cards. The sidewalk litters with my life.
Still, his face remains impassive.
Tears come into my eyes. "Is that not enough?"
He watches.
"It's all I have," I plead, "all that I have with me. Please, tell me it's enough."
He pulls a cigarette from his shirt pocket, and presses it to his mouth. "Do you have a match?"
I pat my shirt, squeeze the cloth ballooning from my pockets. "No, no I don't."
He leans the guitar against the building. "Come back when you do, okay? I play again."
"Yeah," I say. "Sure." It's never enough. I never have what I need. I start walking. A breeze pushes from the north. I shiver. I look back.
A crowd has gathered around him. They jostle for position. I want to understand that they're after the money, but in my heart I know it's more than that. They're cleaning the ground of my residue, preparing for someone more worthy.

Stephen V. Ramey lives in beautiful New Castle, Pennsylvania, which used to rival Pittsburgh in industry. His work has appeared in various places, most recently Cease, Cows, Lucid Play's Glass Eye Chandelier anthology, and the Catherine Refracted anthology from Pure Slush Books. His collection of very short fictions, Glass Animals, was published in January by Pure Slush. Find him at

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