Thursday, November 13, 2014

Flash Fiction by John W. Sexton

Mouth to the Sky

The speckled thrush stepped onto the sunlight conveyer-belt to the hedge-depth and was gone into shadow.  Somewhere in there the thrush became a cat, or was eaten by a cat, or killed the cat and wore it as a coat; but out the far perimeter of the hedge emerged the cat.  The cat approached the opened door of the car, the car shining black like a soul, a soul of darkness so pure that the sun turned it white as a flash.  Out the other side of the car stepped a woman in black coat, a coat so black it absorbed the sun.  She opened her mouth to the sky and out came the song of the speckled thrush.

John W. Sexton lives in the Republic of Ireland and is the author of five poetry collections, the most recent being The Offspring of the Moon (Salmon Poetry, 2013).  He also created and wrote The Ivory Tower for RTE radio, which ran to over one hundred half-hour episodes from 1999 to 2002.  Two novels based on the characters from this series have been published by the O'Brien Press:  The Johnny Coffin Diaries and Johnny Coffin School-Dazed, which have been translated into both Italian and Servian.  He is a past nominee for The Hennessy Literary Award and his poem "The Green Owl" won the Listowel Poetry Prize 2007.  Also in 2007, he was awarded a Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship in Poetry.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Flash Fiction by April Salzano


In truth, she did not bubble OMG! or spit like totally when, in medias res, the teacher skipped into the meeting being held to discuss my autistic son, his progress, inclusion in a regular first grade classroom, but this is how I will retell the story of how the twenty-something teacher paralleled my son to her dog.  Again.

My son had begun wearing a weighted vest at school, a replacement for inappropriate touching, which sounds much worse than it is.  Neck, face, smooth undersides of arms of classmates, teachers, support staff.  Extra feels copped for baggy, dysfunctional skin, deformities.  The vest is designed to help by applying constant pressure, to deliver a hug of sorts.  The weights bring him down from the ceiling where he is not hovering, but zipping above his peers in wingless glory, laughing the kind of laugh that makes everyone want to be that happy, able to forget fact families and bar graphs, the meaning of dipthongs and consonant blends.  The vest had been working, progress noted.

"So," and here I will always insert the word like, "when I first saw this vest, my question was, how long can he leave it on?  I had all these questions about [like] how this device worked and I had to laugh at myself for asking because, well, we got one for our dog" (emphasis mine, mostly).

No, she didn't just say that.

Yes, she did, and she went on to describe how this garment "like, calms the dog," that though it was meant for thunderstorms, they knew, the just knew Fido or Fifi didn't want them to take it off.  "What's even funnier," she went on (and on and on), "was how we decided to order one (no it isn't) and if you tell anyone, my husband will just die" (does that apply to you as well?), "but, [like], we put a Christmas dress on her and she was so, y'know, like happy!  So this vest just made sense . . . "  Wait, it gets better, or worse, depending on how you feel about your child, your dog, or both.

In a separate incident, my son had been sick and after missing three days of school, I emailed this teacher to giver her an update on his progress.  He had been weak and I had to carry him to the bathroom, when we made it at all.  Shit, piss, vomit, covered us for several days.  Toilet, tub, washing machine, an endless assembly line of cleaning.  My mistake was adding any detail to the email I decided to send her.  Simplicity would have been so much better.  This time, she actually did say, "oh my God!" adding praise for the strength it must have taken me to haul this stocky boy to the bathroom.  "I can't even pick up my dog!"  How that was relevant, I am still not sure.

When combined with the autistic support teacher labeling my son more a pet than a peer during an IEP meeting, I feel justified in saying I have had my fill of this metaphor rolling off everyone's tongue like thunder.  I feel justified in ridiculing her epic fail as a small token of a smaller act of revenge on behalf of my son, who knows none of this now, and probably never will, dog willing.

April Salzano teaches college writing in Pennsylvania where she lives with her husband and two sons.  She is currently working on a memoir on raising a child with autism and several collections of poetry.  Her work has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in journals such as Convergence, Ascent Aspirations, The Camel Saloon, Centrifugal Eye, Deadsnakes, Visceral Uterus, Salome, Poetry Quarterly, Writing Tomorrow and Rattle.  Her first chapbook, The Girl of My Dreams, is forthcoming in spring, 2015, from Dancing Girl Press.  The author serves as co-editor at Kind of a Hurricane Press (

Friday, November 7, 2014

Flash Fiction by Linda Casper


The young woman offering me water in an enamel mug was wearing a headscarf the colour of marigolds.  I accepted gratefully and gulped it down quickly while she nodded her head, smiling, revealing even, white teeth.  I thanked her both in English and French but she spoke in a language I couldn't understand.  She turned and went swiftly through the doorway into the dark interior and re-emerged with some wet muslin with which she dabbed my cheeks and forehead.  As she did so, I noticed the sleeves of her brightly coloured top were soaking wet and wondered if she had piped water or whether she had used some of her precious supply to attend to my needs.  Three young children wearing coloured beads round their necks and little else peeked out at me but disappeared when I said hello.  I tried to think if I had something in my bag I could offer in return for the hospitality she had shown me.  A crumpled notebook and a few pencils were all I could offer and they would be little recompense for quenching my thirst.  As I rummaged about my hand found a small oblong shape.  Perhaps the children would find a harmonica amusing.  I drew it out, put it to my lips and played one of the few tunes I could manage.  Three little faces appeared once more, hands covering their mouths as they tried to stifle their giggles.  Not for the first time, I thought children are children the world over.

Linda Casper hails from Yorkshire and, after a long career as a high school teacher, she has recently begun to write and has had many short stories, poems and travel articles published.  Linda has a keen interest in gardening and is a judge for Yorkshire in Bloom.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Flash Fiction by Joan McNerney

Where the Lost Gather

"Maintain your perspective just keep going" she thought while waiting for the bus.  The sky resembled an ink blotter drenched in grey and black.  People trekked along avenues attempting to cross over mounds of snow.  Teenagers ganged up huddling under broad awnings.  Their brightly colored jackets spread like rainbow clusters against brick buildings.  She twitched her umbrella awkwardly, its handle was cold.  Where were her gloves?  Would the bus ever come?

Stepping off the curb twisting her head fidgeting . . . "Stay optimistic.  Be brave.  Everything will work out eventually."  The familiar tape played over and over in her brain.  Another appointment, another pill pusher . . . another doctor as healthy as a horse.  How could he possibly understand?  Always the same questions.  What about her habits . . . smoking, drinking, taking street drugs, having an active sex life?  Was she anxious, depressed?  Prying into her life then offering no solutions.  A waste of money with so little cash left.  And a waste of time.  But time stood still now. . . heavy hours pressing down crushing her.

The doctor's office needed a paint job.  There was no coat closet or water fountain.  An old magazine minus its cover curled up next to the lamp.  Lorraine wished she had brought her crossword puzzle.  Increasingly annoyed by the long wait, she realized her turn was hours away.  Looking over the other patients, wondering what was wrong with them.  Finally the doctor had time to see her to listen to complaints about fatigue, shortness of breath, being dizzy.  Promising to run some tests, he left.  A nurse entered to draw her blood filling three vials with a long needle.  The results would be available next week.  Handing her check to the receptionist, that was that.

It was so great to get home, she felt so free, so happy after leaving the oppression of the doctor's office.  Home now:  beating a retreat under lumpy bedclothes where several paperbacks and her eyeglasses were hidden.

Many pages later windowpanes clatter like nervous teeth.  Zillions of icicles etch fine line portraits of frost.  Snow fell and kept falling.  Unleashed . . . storms overtake darkness . . . making all mute.  A storm of light covers the night as she slid to sleep.  Dream sliding to a house of mirrors where countless images surrounded her.  Where is she?  Reflections without number repeat her every gesture.  Somehow she must look for her real self.  Sifting within these icy sheets of glass, suddenly all her fingers began to burn.

Joan McNerney's poetry has been included in numerous literary magazines such as Seven Circle Press, Dinner with the Muse, Camel Saloon, Blueline, Vine Leaves, Spectrum, three Bright Hills Press Anthologies and several Kind of a Hurricane Press Publications.  Poet and Geek recognized her work as their best poem of 2013.  She has been nominated three times for Best of the Net.  Four of her books have been published by fine literary presses.  Three ebooks have also been produced.