Monday, April 22, 2013

Flash Fiction by Terence Thomas

Little Mary-Jane

"What the hell is this?" said Lieutenant Adams.
"What the hell is what?" replied officer James at the next desk.
"I can"t make any sense of this case."
He stood and walked over to the coffee maker and poured a cup. Then he took a sip and leaned against a desk with a confused look on his face.
"What's got you all bent out of shape Rick?"
"This case doesn't really make any sense."
They both stood there for a few minutes, officer James just coming on duty and anxious to help Lieutenant Adams in any way he could.
"What's the problem?"
"Some strange things...a little 9 year old girl was followed into a wooded area by a known child molester."
"Have you spoken to the child yet?" asked officer James.
"Yes." He replied. "She was frightened and crying so I tried to calm her down."
"Have you located her mother?"
"No, strangely enough, and the little girl wasn't hurt." he said with a confused look on his face. He reached for the coffee pot again and poured another cup and then started the pacing."
"What's bothering you?" asked the officer.
"Most little girls want to see their mothers when something like this happens but she hasn't once asked for her mother. And we have a witness."
"Someone saw the molestation?" asked officer James as he turned to face Lieutenant Adams.
"Not exactly."
"You know that junkie that's always hanging around fifth street?"
"Yea that's the one."
"What did he see?" asked officer James with growing interest.
"He said that he saw the little girl lured Ray Dauber through a hole in the fence to the junkyard."
"Ray Dauber, that scumbag? is he the suspect?
"Kinda." Lieutenant Adams replied.
"Kinda...What does that mean?"
"He's dead. When he went through the fence a refrigerator that was sitting on a washing machine, fell on him and he was killed."
"You mean natural justice was done for once?" said officer James with a smile on his face.
A knock on the door and officer Manning entered. "Lieutenant Adams, The mother of the little girl has arrived."
"Put officer Cooper on it, she'll add the needed feminine touch."
Officer Manning left the room and the two men poured more coffee and paced the room. Nothing was said for a few minutes and then officer James broke the silence was broken. "You didn't seem so convinced that justice had been done."
"I'm not. There are to many questions that remain un-answered."
"Questions like what?"
"Questions like why is this little girl so far from home, she lives ten miles away and why was her mother not near by? A surveillance camera seems to confirm Hubies testimony."
"What?" said officer James. "This sleazebag just got careless and knocked over a refrigerator that fell on him and fortunately for the little girl, justice found its own way."
"Not exactly." said lieutenant Adams to the amazement of officer James.
"What the hell does that mean?"
"There was a rope tied to the top of the refrigerator."
"What are you suggesting?" asked Officer James with an odd look on his face.
"The rope was laying on the ground and lead to where the little girl fell."
"Are you suggesting the little girl put a big refrigerator on top of a washing machine?"
"No...she just took advantage of the circumstance. She lured her victim through the hole in the fence and when he was in the right place she pulled the rope and the refrigerator fell on her pursuer"
"Now what makes you so sure that's what happened?"
"When I said she had no injuries I was not being totally honest. She had rope burns on the palms of her hands."
Officer James looked up quickly. He was clearly shocked and astounded. For a few minutes both men stood silent as if they couldn't believe what they said. Lieutenant Adams poured another cup of coffee as if to sober up from a night heavy drinking.
"I'll have another cup too lieutenant." said officer James. With the coffee pot still in his hand, he pour another cup for Officer James. Both perplexed, they stood looking into space like zombies and then officer James broke the silence. "What the hell are we going to do about this?"
"Do you think any one would even believe that a little girl planed and killed her stalker? I hardly believe it my self."
"It does sound far-fetched. I wouldn't want to be the DA on that case. No body would have the nerve to try to press charges on little Mary Jane." They looked at each other and smiled. 
"Molesters that pursue little miss Mary Jane Johnson are going to be in for a special surprise." said Lieutenant Adams. The two looked each other in the face again, smiled and left the room.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Flash Fiction by M.J. Iuppa

Reading, Closely

Late afternoon in the cafĂ©, an old man sat alone at a corner table with his back to a sunny window, reading the Times with a magnifying glass.  He held a page up & placed his lens over a story that made him shake his head & clear his throat three times. He leaned closer. Sunlight gleamed off his bald head as he lingered over each word, long enough for the page to catch on fire. His reaction to the smolder wasn’t surprise but annoyance.  He slapped the widening burn without a lot of fuss. Once bits of ash settled, he looked up at me watching him & shrugged a quick hand sign.

M.J.Iuppa lives on a small farm near the shores of Lake Ontario. Her most recent poems have appeared in Poetry East, The Chariton Review, Tar River Poetry, Blueline, The Prose Poem Project, and The Centrifugal Eye, among others. Recent chapbook is As the Crows Flies (Foothills Publishing, 2008) and second full length collection, Within Reach, (Cherry Grove Collections, 2010); Forthcoming prose chapbook Between Worlds (Foothills Publishing) She is Writer-in-Residence and Director of the Visual and Performing Arts Minor program at St. John Fisher College, Rochester, NY.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Flash Fiction by Rick Hartwell

End of the Line

I question what the phrase deathwatch truly means. I do not want to watch anything. I want to occupy my mind and hands in order not to focus on the suffering my mother, Tina, is going through.

This on-again off-again aspect of the life of a terminal patient is extremely taxing; obviously on her, but also on those around her. Poor Jaime, Tina’s granddaughter; she is so confused and constantly questions the when of her Bonnie’s death. I question it too, but more because I am not so certain it is as immanent as many think. I wonder who is correct?

My prominent experiences with death have been after-the-fact, when notified by a relative, or in Vietnam. There, at least, death was more abrupt, although certainly not cleaner. Here, in hospital, death is clean and antiseptic and neat, but it is anything but abrupt, except perhaps in the emergency room.

I find that I am turning very inward and I do not wish to appear cold or unfeeling to Sally, my wife. However, I truly do not know what my role is in all this. Sally has taken charge of the myriad details of apartment, mail, Social Security, Medicare, and all; so often seeming to be women’s work, as they do it better than us, men. I would probably let most of these aspects pass without due attention. All this is fine with me on another level; Tina and I have been estranged for countless years.

This would definitely not be the environment of choice for the end of my life. Most people would probably select to be surrounded by their family; but, why? Why inflict this prolongation on those you love and who, presumably in most cases, love you? Perhaps it would be more interesting and satisfying to be surrounded by one’s enemies and antagonists, some of who might be family anyway. Make them suffer as they wait, or perhaps allow them to gloat. At least in that manner someone is pleased by death.

I enter again into that tomb of acrid smells: the slightly pungent whiff of excrement and urine, mixed with antiseptics; and, the moldy mustiness of age and impending death. This concept of impending death continues to haunt me.

I recall Annie Dillard’s phrase, “this terminal bus,” and how well it captures the essence of the Rehabilitation Center to which Tina was moved. The smells and sounds and general attitude are, indeed, those of a bus and a bus depot. It would be easy to make the comparison with Dillard’s metaphor and this end of the line. There are so many stories buried within this emotional quagmire.

I was struck by the fact that Tina has spent most of her life cataloging, in one form or another, her displeasure of people. It has been one long, sustained put-down after another. Rarely, perhaps even never, have I heard from her a sustained praise of anyone, except, or course, her eldest brother. My mother has constantly and consistently played off one son against the other; regaling my with all of my brother’s faults and failures, and him with mine; comparing my two wives, unfavorable to Sally, whenever it suits her purpose of the moment. Even Jaime, her sole granddaughter (of all people!) has not escaped her sarcasm and vitriolic bitterness with life.

In her lucid moments, Tina seems to acknowledge that her life is culminating (or devolving?) to its current state, inevitably driven by the life she has led. And then, again, she seems to recant that by lashing out at those around her, even those who are striving hardest to assist or comfort her.

Am I defensive? I suppose so, and yet I wonder why? At what point is a parent, a parent? Or, to draw this even closer, at what point is a mother, a mother? Is it biology alone? Is it emotional attachment? Is it early, or even late, nurturing? In my case, is it the recollections of childhood, dimmed and warped by a hundred thousand million synapses over a lifetime, which may or may not have been accurate? All this, or course, begs the issue of reality. Are my memories the reality? Is reality lost due to the lack of an impartial observer? In Tina’s life, has there ever been an impartial observer? The concept of filial obeisance does not seem to take in me. My soil is not fertile for its seed, or perhaps the timing has always been wrong.

Two more rehab facilities and one hospice later, my mother died. Only her spurned daughter-in-law was by her side, which says much for Sally, nothing for Tina. Neither of her sons was there, which says much that I leave to others to translate. I made the obligatory phone calls to those family members who had not participated in my mother’s deathwatch.
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 still be tailing plywood in a mill in Oregon.