Saturday, December 20, 2014

Flash Fiction by Cathy Ulrich

The Ghost Haunting You
The ghost is only a little boy. He’s told you he was hit by a car while running across the street after his ball.
Statistically speaking, do you know how many children are killed chasing after balls? you say, while I rinse leftover oatmeal from my breakfast dishes. It’s more than you’d think.
Before we moved here, you never really thought about ghosts. All your family was long-lived and died without regrets. You hadn’t even seen Poltergeist.
Didn’t the little girl die of cancer? you asked me after we watched it. I heard she died of cancer.
You thought how tragic it was for someone to die like that, unfulfilled, young. You began setting goals. We’d be married by the end of the year. In our own house by spring. You’d cut your hair. You’d get a promotion. We’d have a nice car.
Still, you didn’t think about ghosts until we came here.
Now you think about them all the time.
The creaking on the stairs is the little boy going up and down, you tell me. He had a happy childhood, just like you did. Death came for him so quickly, a blue sedan’s brakes squealing, his head striking the pavement, his ball rolling into the gutter.
You have conversations with the ghost of the little boy while I brush my teeth for bed.
Oh, I see, you say. Oh, I see.
The ghost of the little boy never speaks to me. You say it’s because I don’t believe in him. It’s true that I’ve asked around the neighborhood and nobody’s ever heard of any little boys getting hit by cars and dying.
People don’t talk about that sort of thing, is all, you say. No one wants to talk about a little boy who got hit by a car and died.
Except you. You want to talk about him all the time. That’s all you ever talk about anymore.
Don’t you believe in ghosts? you say, and I roll away from the cold space beside me, where you used to sleep.
Cathy Ulrich writes when she can and works at a funeral home. There are no ghosts there, but she always says good night to the dead people, so they don't feel lonely.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Flash Fiction by Cristine A. Gruber

Give Me a Sign 
Boy meets girl. Boy wants girl. Boy gets girl. And thus a life is made…
The sign on the lecture hall could be seen from across campus. It was six feet high, twenty-two feet across. The glowing sentiment could be read, word for word, from anywhere in the quad. It was a glorious and utterly over-the-top expression of undying love. And it worked. The boy got the girl and they were married less than six months later. They had two children in as many years and became the proverbial family of four by the time they were both twenty years old. Young but mature, they did just fine, better than most. They raised their children well, one destined to be an artist, the other bound to be an attorney. Life was varied and interesting.
The boy went into the I.T. field and did quite well for himself. The girl went into banking and did just as well in her own right. But career successes took a back seat to family life. Days were filled with softball games and karate tournaments, Girl Scout outings and PTA meetings. The children thrived. The oldest, a son, grew up kind and sensitive and full of heart. He married young, as his folks had, and settled down in the same town. The second child, a daughter, left home at seventeen to attend college. She did well, as expected, and later went on to Law School, getting accepted at a prestigious university clear across the country.
Empty Nest Syndrome is a misnomer at best, for it’s not a syndrome, but rather a dark, vacuous virus that eats one’s soul and leaves a person a walking shell of his former self. The day they got back from taking their daughter to Columbia, the boy, now a pseudo-man, spent most of the day rearranging the garage. By the end of the day, he was moving half the stuff from the garage to a storage unit across town. By the following weekend, he moved out. Married twenty-five years, over, just like that.
The girl never saw the signs.
Their son did reasonably well as an artist, but as is common with creative types, he had eclectic tastes that eventually led to his undoing. Late one Friday night, while visiting a bar on the questionable side of town, he struck up a conversation with the wrong sort of fellow. A crushing right fist and a broken beer bottle later, and the son’s body was removed from the premises on a stretcher, sheet drawn over his face. The family never recovered. The daughter excelled in her profession as well. She prosecuted the bad guys and put them away. The media called her The Eliminator, single-handedly removing the scum from the streets. She was in a parking garage when the shots rang out. Hit from behind, she never saw the bullet coming. The family sunk deeper into the pit.
Boy met girl. Boy wanted girl. Boy got girl. And thus a life was made…
The boy died of a heart attack at 63. The girl outlived him by another 30 years. She never remarried. At the age of 93, alone and delirious with dementia, the one thing she kept asking for was a sign; give me a sign, she kept saying. The nurses thought she was asking for a sign from God. But no, she wanted her sign, the one that had started it all, saved all those years, tucked away in a box under the hospital bed. They never figured out what she wanted. She died, alone, asking for a sign.
Cristine A. Gruber has had work featured in numerous magazines, including: North American Review, Writer’s Digest, California Quarterly, Dead Snakes, The Endicott Review, The Homestead Review, Iodine Poetry Journal, Miller’s Pond, Napalm and Novocain, The Penwood Review, Pound of Flash, Pyrokinection, Red River Review,  The Tule Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, and The Write Place at the Write Time. In 2014, her short stories, "Imprisoned," and "Stash," both received an Honorable Mention in the Writers Weekly 24-Hour Short Story Competition. Cristine's first full-length collection, Lifeline, is available from

Monday, December 15, 2014

Flash Fiction by Heather Heyns

The Chicken Dance
When it came down to it, I slept with him because Mom made a dead chicken dance. She hefted it up under its wings as if presenting a child. A trail of pink slime dripped on the counter as it kicked and shimmied its way across. A dead thing, a used-up thing, a pitiable thing, but for two minutes it danced and soaked up a little admiration.
I met him at the park, behind a line of shrubs, when my friends and I shared a single cigarette I'd stolen from Mom. I tried to smoke the one he gave me without coughing as he played with the strap of my dress. His skin cracked over his knuckles, like a road map of a hard life. His hair had started to recede, and lines creased the corners of his lips. The years that sat behind his eyes doubled my own, but the way he watched me made me forget to care.
He drove me to the end of a dirt road. I stared at the frayed hem of my dress, pulling at a wayward thread when I couldn't bring myself to look at him. The shadows cast by the light of the dashboard made his face dangerous. The anticipation eluded me as it always had. Shame scrubbed away any excitement, leaving me covered in welts like road rash.
The weight of the night smothered me like his body did. His calloused hands felt rough and his shadow of a beard scratched my neck. I felt no pleasure, and swallowed down the complaints and refusals that always crawled up my throat like bile. Instead, I closed my eyes and clung to his shoulders as he made me dance, a dead and used up and pitiable thing soaking up a little admiration.
Heather Heyns is a freelancer writer from Southern California. Her work can be found in Howl Literary Magazine and upcoming issues of Literary Orphans, Thick Jam, and Yellow Mama.