Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Flash Fiction by Jim Meirose

As It Is                                                                               

 The door closes and the round mirror holds her image a moment before she turns away. She looks over the room he has just left. She gets her black suitcase from the closet and puts it on the bed, and begins to pack. She bites her lip.
Well now, she thinks—that is done—
Her hands tremble as she moves the clothes from the drawer to the suitcase.
—and I am glad that it is over.
Outside, he gets into his car and turns the key. The car powers to life. What should I do now, he thinks; what should I do where should I go.
Upstairs, inside, the phone interrupts her. She picks it up.
She holds the phone to her ear, but there is no one there. It’s funny how phone calls come like that sometimes. They click hanging up. It is just as well. Listening is impossible; she hangs up and resumes her packing. Two tickets are lying on top of the dresser. They were to have gone together but now that’s just a ridiculous memory. She thinks what to do with the extra ticket. She takes it and tears it up and throws it in the trash can. One ticket means one person. There is no turning back. She resumes packing.
Outside, in the car he thinks he should have brought his ticket down with him and he half-thinks to go up to get it, but no, that would mean seeing her again. He is done seeing her; he never can see her again. The car backs out of the lot and he drives off into the dark. The street lamps on the poles cast down circular beams of overlapping brightness into the night. It is late and the streets are deserted.  Headlights appear in the distance and approach. The black car pulls up before the apartment building’s door.  It sits idling. Waiting.
She closes her suitcase and puts on her coat. It is cool outside; not cold, but cool. She leaves the room after looking in the mirror again and turning off the light. Outside, she gets into the waiting car. It leaves. It turns off onto the ramp to the Interstate and in a moment is up to seventy, eighty; she sits in the back seat reveling in the speed of it. She reaches two fingers into her purse and the ticket is there. Her ticket.
He drives randomly. He passes Steck’s bar—then Solly’s—then Mijo’s. He wants a drink badly, but is in no mood for company. He cannot speak to anyone tonight. He will go home to drink. It is twelve-thirty.
She is nearing the airport. The black car pulls up the departing flights ramp. The driver helps her with her bag and briskly she walks toward the revolving door of the terminal building after having tipped him, and he drives away. She goes through security—there is hardly anyone there. She goes to the gate; the red-eye flight to Newark is boarding. She has just made it; thank God she had not spent too much time with him before. Thank God it had been quick, and easy.
He gets home and goes in. He takes off his jacket, throws it on the couch, and rips off his tie. The vodka comes down from the shelf. It pours into the glass. It is pure, clear, and honest.  He looks through the bottle; everything is distorted. He puts down the bottle and picks up the glass.
She boards the plane after checking her bag at the gate. She enters, finds her seat in first class, sits, wipes her hand down her cheek and after they have rolled and are in flight, she asks the attendant for a drink.
Vodka, she says.   
He takes his glass into the living room. He sits in his chair. He drinks one, then another.
She drinks; one, two. She puts her glass in the holder.
Their hands reach out gripping the chair arms as the liquor does its work. With eyes closed, they squeeze the chair arms; it feels as if they are sitting side by side, hands clasped together, as they used to; as if that were not now forever impossible; impossible, as it is.
Jim Meirose's work has appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including Collier's Magazine, the Fiddlehead, Witness, Alaska Quarterly review, and Xavier Review, and has been nominated for several awards. Two collections of his short work have been published and his novels, "Claire","Monkey", and "Freddie Mason's Wake" are available from Amazon.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Flash Fiction from Daniel Clausen


On a quiet evening in my upscale apartment in Tokyo, I start typing these words. I pour myself a cup of green tea, take off my suit, and without even understanding why, I sit down and begin to type something. Not sure what these words are at first, I suddenly realize that they are memories of my arrival in Nagasaki four years ago.

As thoughts work their way through tiny neurons, electrical pulses turn into movements and I find myself punching away at my laptop keys. I begin to see myself as I was: twenty-two, I might as well have been some kid on the verge of puberty―pimples, awkwardness, and all―except that my face had the ornery expression of a coal miner, or no, maybe a tired insurance salesman.

At the age of twenty-two, I was traveling across the world for reasons only half-understood, or not understood at all―my insurance salesman face took care not to register this fact too loudly. I was convinced that an English language school was bringing me there, some company, branded and marketed, active and thriving with power and money behind it, when really it was her.

Jet-lagged and hung-over, I came by bullet train to the steep slopes and regenerative soil of Nagasaki. Nagasaki―the not-birthplace of atomic warfare, but instead its brother, second cousin―was a radioactively peace-loving city. Though I was a foreigner, in a foreign land, I had not come alone. The vague presence of a disgruntled girl gnawed at the deep well where my heart had been. Not yet aware of the ghosts surrounding me or of the perils of my situation, I was compelled to think of it all in terms of a great adventure, like a Hemingway or Fitzgerald expatriate story. But she and the others were deceptively close, waiting for the romance to wear off.

In retrospect, I came to Nagasaki for the regenerative properties. The second atomic bomb blast so many years ago, which had swept up most of the city in a plutonium cloud, had made the city radioactively peace-loving. Reversing the usual cycle that turns victim into perpetrator, the people who stepped from the rubble filled their hearts with a fervent devotion to peace in all its forms.

In my mind’s eye I see them: wounded and dying, their lungs filled with ash and smoke. The ash sits there for some time, and when they exhale, miraculously, something akin to love comes out. From all those bitter seeds that usually grow hate, something emerged in Nagasaki’s soil-spirit that could heal and grow hearts. Beyond scientific innovation, beyond administrative decision making, the power of a city to heal itself and others lay in something less tangible than the splitting of an atom. And there I was: awkward, tired, a nasty emptiness in my center that was filling itself with something unbearably sad and heavy.

I look on, and I see part of me, perhaps the part of me that is dying or perhaps the part that drinks and practices business analysis and dances with Apollo and Dionysus on the mountain top with the spirits. Or maybe it’s the part of me that died the day I left her.


In my Tokyo apartment, these observations pour out and exhaust me. I get up and stretch. Tea? What am I thinking? I need coffee. My mind wanders, I check my email, surf the Internet, look over some papers for work. As someone who has lived a great deal of his life in the pages of biography and autobiography, I know that self-revelation can be both the cure and the disease.

These memoirs. These bad news memoirs. They stand in the way of the serious work of beating back the past. Best to let the past lie, if it’s willing. And the spirits that brought me to Nagasaki so many years ago? They were gone. They vanished the moment I left her. I should leave them where they rest. In the soil of half-formed hearts, buried in history books, in the collective consciousness of the Japanese spirit―waiting for another historian-novelist to find.

Daniel Clausen’s fiction has been published in Slipstream Magazine, Zygote in my Coffee, Leading Edge Magazine, and Spindrift, among other literary journals. You can learn more about his newest novel, The Ghosts of Nagasaki, at: ghostsofnagasaki.com

Monday, April 7, 2014

Flash Fiction by Alan Catlin

            The stillness of the bar after last call.  All the bodies at rest.  Some with their arms tilting back that last frothing pint.  Others holding their hands about the glass, considering what lies inside: the dissolving head, the melting ice, the dregs, the hours lost.
Above the bar, tract lightings reclusive glow amid dissipating clouds of cigarette smoke, blackening ashes spread across the dulled sheen of the bar top, so many times resurfaced by forgotten butts rolled from their glass moorings onto the wood.  Or scratched by ashtrays sliding across scuffed surfaces pushed by a careless,  drunken hand. Or gouged by broken bottles, glassware struck against wood in anger, jagged ends thrust in fury into an unsuspecting face, an equally as aggressive drinker, bearing his own weapon.  Blood stains no longer visible beneath the daily wear and tear, the cursory repair.
But the impact scars remain.
The ghosts of wars fought, contained in the very stillness of the colored by pollutants, air, wrapping the drinkers tightly into a hypnotic state where dreaming, and living and drinking are all one frozen motion; a thought about to be blinked away into nothingness, drained away in the stainless wash sinks or the spill plates where the loose beer taps leak and the dead soldiers spit there, thick as mucous, remains.
Neon beer signs harsh bright lights reflected in the tarnished backbar mirrors, their unnatural red and green aura a glowing pit in the eyes of the drinkers, a flash of artificial life covered by a patina of not yet completely dry, tears.  Gradually hardening, sealing the heat source, the heliotropic bouquet of plastic flowers tight against the ungiving surface where light meets tissue leaving only the bright afterimage of the killing tracer rounds inside.
The immovable clock hands pinned against the worn-to-almost-nothing, facing; glass front panel scratched and grime encrusted, shellacked with an impenetrable coating of nicotine; years of chemical infusions, a useless ornamentation at last call and beyond.
All the spaces between the sound of incessant, dripping faucets. The dull metallic ring of water on stainless steel, once shiny, now a collective of black mold, indeterminate growths: fading grey on a mound of black, on a living surface where the once rinsed glasses wait.
Hands collected in their individual suspensions: pressed against the dull shine of the smeared jukebox facing, liver spotted, ravaged, arthritic, not part of the selective process of sound but propping up the misused, diseased body of man in his formal, last decline.  Others used for propping up the all-too-heavy head, paused in the futile signaling for what may never be delivered after the end, others reaching out in the night for what will never be there, still others grasping at the invisible fabric that separates them from what lies beyond, the evanescent place, the not to be avoided, compelling call that summons all to bars for the reckoning; to be fulfilled or denied in turn.
As the spirit wills.
As the silence fills stilled lives, the picture window facing the deserted street, the trees burdened with a weight of dark leaves and spread shadows, as the false dawn reconfigures the pavement and the glass and what lies within and without; a smear of light on glass disfigured by elective signs, the stillness more alive, more animated than the bar life trapped inside.
Last call an unnecessary formality, nothing is moving.
Nothing at all.
Alan Catlin has been been publishing since the seventies earning him the  title Venerable Bard, not toe be confused with the Venerable Bede, an entirely different kind of writer.  He has published a number of chapbooks and full length book including a chapbook of surreal poems illustrated by collage artist Michael Shores titled, “The Insomniac’s Gift”, which was nominated for a Bram Stoker Book Award.