Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Flash Fiction from your Editor, A.J. Huffman

Game of the Gods
Admiral Richards idly strolled the upper deck of the U.S.S. Guitarro.  The ship had been stationed off the Japanese coast for three months now.  He was beginning to miss his wife and daughter back in the states.  Maybe it’s time to request a transfer state side, he thought as he ran his white-gloved hand instinctively under the railing.  Satisfied that the fingertips remained clean, he prepared to return to his quarters.  He was intercepted by Lieutenant Commander Collins.
“Sir, the radar is picking up Japanese naval movement just beyond those cliffs,” Collins indicated the steep cliffs about 4500 yards out.
“Have the men established radio contact?”
“Yes and no, sir.  They have managed to isolate the ship’s transmitting frequency, but they aren’t getting any response.”
“I see,” Richards stared off towards  the ridge.  These situations were always difficult.  If one is not careful an international incident could start because a destroyer’s transmission officer had too much wine at dinner and fell asleep on the job.  “Tell the men to continue trying to establish contact.  I will put in a call to the base in Yokohama to see if they have any military movements in the area we need to be aware of.”
The lieutenant had barely finished his departure salute when the first explosion sounded.  The torpedo exploded about 1000 yards out, sending a pillar of water into the air that rained down on the admiral’s head.  “Sound the alarms,” he demanded, wiping the water from his eyes.  “Get the ship into attack position.  I want all men on deck -- NOW!”
In minutes, alarms all over the ship were buzzing.  Red warning lights flashed as another torpedo exploded -- only 500 yards out this time.  They were getting closer.  The admiral had visual on the ship now.  
The Japanese destroy had moved from behind the cover of the cliffs, and was alight in full battle glory:  flags raise; guns smoking.
“Red alert!  Red alert!”  the blow horn resonated across the deck.  “All men on deck!  Report to your stations immediately!  Red alert!”
The admiral could feel the ship rock as the men clambered up onto the deck to man their battle stations.  Collins had just returned when the third torpedo exploded.  The ship rocked violently as the torpedo finally found its mark.  “Damage report!  I want a damage report immediately,”  the admiral screamed over the din.  But Collins was already scrambling back up the bridge.
Collins returned within moments to report that the damage was minimal.  A small breach in the hull on the starboard side.  The damage was above the water line and was already under control.
“Are the men in position?”
“Yes, sire.”
“Fire when ready.”
The lieutenant disappeared back into the bridge.  And the blow horn sounded the order:  “Fire.”
The ship bolted from the thrust of pressure as the torpedo was ejected.  The admiral tracked its deadly path with his binoculars.  It swept silently through the water.  He saw the fire before he heard the explosion.  “Direct hit,” he whispered to himself and smiled. That transfer would be guaranteed now.
The lieutenant returned as a roar rose up from the men.  “Direct hit, sir.  She’s sinking.”  And as they watched, the flaming inferno that was once a vessel of death slowly disappeared beneath the waves.
* * * * *
The moon had just sunk below the cloud line when their game ended.  A frown creased Buddha’s brow as he slammed his fist down hard on the table.  “You sank my battleship!”
God just smiled. “What shall we play next?”
A.J. Huffman has published seven solo chapbooks and one joint chapbook through various small presses.  She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, and the winner of the 2012 Promise of Light Haiku Contest.  Her poetry, fiction, and haiku have appeared in hundreds of national and international journals, including Labletter, The James Dickey Review, Bone Orchard, EgoPHobia, Kritya, and Offerta Speciale, in which her work appeared in both English and Italian translation.  She is also the founding editor of Kind of a Hurricane Press.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Flash Fiction by Susan Dale

The Fisherman’s Journey
         Daily, but before sunset, the fisherman comes to the riverbank. And while the world is cradled within the gray arms of dawn, lost stars drift around the fringes of sunrise. The fisherman travels into the moments before daybreak; a time suspended in quiet, and moist with mist.
He sets his lantern down, and takes his bucket with him. He wades from the spongy riverbank, across the shallow river, over to a sandbar, then steps on the riverbank to gather his nets. Yesterday, in the late afternoon he laid them there to dry. Legs spread and steady, he swings the nets into the air with wide, stretching motions. He frees his nets into space to get the feel in his shoulders and arms, which tells him when it is time to launch them into the water. He watches his nets fall across the river to web it in luminosity, as the sun rises. With abiding rhythms, he will pull his nets in and out throughout the long day until dusk falls to end his fishing.
The fisherman seems suspended in his movements, so smooth and steady are they, like a water ballet of shoulders to nets, nets to the river. Bird songs bloom in the trees, intoxicated bees roll in the flowers’ pollen … and all are transferred into the totality of the moment. In the background, red mountains rise. Their granite seams hold tight secrets they’ve held since creation. Tall pines run up and down the mountainsides; they spread their arms and drop their green gowns.
These ballets are performed daily against wide horizons and the deep clouds that sigh into the skies. Flapping wide wings, white herons land to pick their way into the ballet; they lift their long legs, like stilts that they set down on the sandbar.
Starring in the ballet is the little fisherman of hard muscles, and motions of such grace that he becomes a part of the entirety; man as one with the elements ... the mossy riverbank, the arching skies, and the flowing waters endlessly rushing onwards.
Schools of trout stay to the edges of the shaded river; their tailfins propel their bodies. In unison, baby catfish swim through the sun-kissed river. The river splashes around smooth rocks and foams over beaver built dams.
Dazed afternoon is afloat in the air. The wind whispers; shadows lengthen and widen until sunset spills its flames into the sky.
The fisherman gathers up his nets to pull silver fish from their webbings. He drops the wiggling fish plop, plop into a water-filled bucket then he bends to lay his nets out to dry. Tomorrow he will gather them up again … as surely as time, as constant as the river’s flow.
Through the shallow waters he wavers back and forth to hold his balance; his fishing bucket he holds high. He climbs on shore to walk to his lantern. In one easy motion, he hunkers to light it.
Now he begins a homeward journey … down a path of fallen leaves and pastel seashells: jaunty his steps. In one hand he holds his bucket of fish: his lit lantern swings from the other. The glow of the lantern’s light falls across his path, and guides him to another light, that of an acetylene lamp that shines in the doorway of his thatched hut. There, lantern and lamp join to broaden into the enduring light of the fisherman’s homecoming.
Susan Dale’s poems and fiction are on Eastown Fiction, Ken *Again, Penman Review, Inner Art Journal, Feathered Flounder, and Hurricane Press. In 2007, she won the grand prize for poetry from Oneswan. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Flash Fiction by Rick Hartwell

It was a slap that could have been heard halfway across the island. As it was, Greg was only half a block away, on his bike, delivering the Newport News. His bike was a midnight blue, three-speed Bianchi Sport with handbrakes. It was a final gift from his grandmother and Greg treasured it. As he rode closer, he could also hear the arguing and the swearing.
 “ . . . and a two-bit bitch!” from the man.
 “I’d already told you to leave; so just get out and take your crap with you, you bastard!” from the woman.
Another slap from the man that connected more with Greg than it seemed to with the woman. Greg yelled at the man to stop. At the same time Greg kept accelerating. He jumped the curb with the bike, jerking on the handlebars and lunging his pudgy weight upward at the last instant, allowing the rear wheel to hit the curb and bounce over it and onto the sidewalk.
Just as Greg regained his precarious balance and started pedaling again, the man turned towards him, yelling, “Get out of here you little son of a bitch!”
Just before he rammed into the man, Greg responded, “Leave her alone!” Then screamed, “Stop hitting her!” It was at that moment that they connected.
Greg had aimed his bike straight into the man who, only at the final instant before impact, had turned half around. The man took the blow off to his right side, mostly on the back of his leg and buttocks. The momentum of the bike and Greg’s weight, a hefty one-fifty even at only thirteen, knocked the man into the Corvette parked at the curb. It was probably the man’s car, judging by the clothes thrown into the passenger seat. Greg fell off to his right, absorbing most of the fall with his right arm and shoulder. There would be bruises, bumps and abrasions he would come to appreciate only later with the sting of hot water and soap.
The woman was not hit at all, not anymore and not by Greg either, but she screamed the loudest all the same. Her voice was too shrill and anguished to make out the words, but her anxiety seemed sincere, although in Greg’s mind, misplaced. She ran over to the man, now pushing himself away from the car and kicking at the carcass of the bike that lay between Greg and him. The woman was asking him how he was and if he was all right, over and over.
It was obvious that he wanted to take out after Greg, even though he was a kid, but the woman was hanging onto the man’s left arm, guiding him across the sidewalk. They passed Greg, still prone and dazed, the woman not even wasting a look on Greg or his wounds. The couple walked through a small, white, picket gate and into the house where the door had been left open.
Greg finally gathered himself enough to stand and then to retrieve his bike. The handlebars were twisted and the front wheel was bent, the tire flat. Half of his paper route was scattered across the sidewalk and into the bushes on one side and off into the gutter on the other. It took about ten minutes to gather the copies of the News, replace a few broken rubber bands, and place them all back into the pack hanging off the rack over the rear wheel. He knew he couldn’t ride with the flat and the front wheel all twisted askew. It would be too clumsy walking the bike home like this, so Greg shifted the canvas bag to the front, over the handlebars. He straightened the bars as best as he could, straddling the crooked front wheel and leveraging his weight to realign the handlebars. One handbrake was broken.
After this Greg started walking the bike home, knowing that he would later have to finish his route on foot, crisscrossing Balboa Island more than a dozen times. As he turned the bike around and started backtracking towards the corner of Park Avenue and Onyx, Greg looked back over his shoulder at the house where the man and the woman had disappeared and not returned. The door was now closed. “Dumb bitch!” was Greg’s comment, said aloud as he violently bounced the bike down the curb and onto Park, which he crossed obliquely.
Didn’t she say she wanted the man to stop? Wasn’t that all that he, Greg, had done? These thoughts went unanswered then and, although Greg didn’t realize it at the time, they would trouble him for the rest of his life; much like women in general.
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

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Flash Fiction by Marianne Szlyk

“It’s For You”

is going through the aging pop star’s head as he pedals downhill and then across the village green,  doing his five miles of cardio in case the guys reunite one last time.  He imagines another life, one where he played guitar like Pat Metheny.   He’d be touring with friends who loved music, not the limelight, who were musicians, not actors too typecast for another show.

But jazz wasn’t for long-haired kids in jeans when he started out in the Village.   Jazz was standards, something played with horns and pianos, sung by a lady in a satin sheath dress, something performed in night clubs for men who could not cry or laugh or love. 

He still can’t get over Mark’s fingers stumbling, slowing down the beginning of their most famous song.  He nearly grabbed the guitar from him then and there.  From that night on, he played lead.

Taking off his helmet and locking his bike up in front of the library, he pictures himself like Metheny on stage, not looking up, bent over his guitar, playing what comes, playing with his band, building the song together with his friends, while the audience is with them, listening.

Marianne Szlyk is an associate professor of English at Montgomery College.  She and her husband have far too many CDs, especially jazz and '60s pop.  Her poems have appeared in Kind of a Hurricane Press' print anthologies beginning with Of Sun and Sand as well as in online venues such as Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Aberration Labyrinth, and The Blue Hour.