Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Flash Fiction by Stephen V. Ramey

A Moment When I Was Young

Lisa was my roommate's girlfriend.  Pretty, perky, quick to quip, she would have been perfect for me.  But, of course, we would never have met if not for Felix.  And Felix was my friend.

I ran into her at a Kappa Sigma party, a start-of-Fall mixer where would-be pledges drool over the seeming ease with which members take down their drunken prey.  She stood by the wall, swaying to the flow of some mysterious melody hidden within the pounding percussion coming from oversized speakers at the other end of the room.  Drunk freshmen gathered around a keg on ice awaiting their turn to show off.  I had my own buzz on, but nothing like theirs.

"Hey," I said, and Lisa's gaze pulled into focus.

"Jeffrey!" she said with a grin.  She was the only person who called me that, and it connected us somehow.

"Where's Fel--"

"Studying.  I didn't want to distract him."  She lifted a plastic glass, nearly empty.

"Want me to get you another beer?"  I said.

That crooked smile.  "Always the gentleman."

"That's me," I said.  "Gentleman Jeff."  I reached for her glass, but she pulled it back and slipped her other arm around my waist.

"Dance with me."  She leaned until my arm went around her, hand pressed flat to her back.  I felt the delicious curve of her spine, the movement of her hips, that deep softness in her soul.  It was too much, too fast.

"I don't dance."  I stepped back; she came with me.

"You're dancing now."

I glanced at my feet trying to escape.  That's not dancing, I started to say.  Our eyes met.  I wanted to look away.  I wanted to kiss her.

And then she was laughing again.  Her arm dropped, and we stood in place, alone in the cacophony.

"Unknown forces," she said, and the smile faded.  "Vast, unknowable forces at work in the world."

"What do you --"

"Do you want to know how Jesus walked on water?  Would you like to understand that miracle?"

I nodded, too perplexed not to.

Lisa tipped her glass until beer trickled.  There wasn't much, but enough to make a splatter.  She stepped onto the puddle and an image flashed through me of Jesus -- the long-haired Caucasian Jesus of my childhood indoctrination -- stepping from the boat, Peter watching with such wonderful wonder that I felt it seeping into me too.

"See?" Lisa said.  She dropped the cup and gazed into my eyes.  "Sometimes we make it too complicated."

Stephen V. Ramey lives in beautiful New Castle, Pennsylvania.  His work has appeared in many places, including prior Kind of a Hurricane Press anthologies, and his first collection of (very) short fiction, Glass Animals, is available where fine books are e-sold.  For more literary adventure, see www.stephenvramey.com

Friday, June 26, 2015

Flash Fiction from April Salzano

Merry Maids

I remember singing a jingle I made up for whatever cleaning product I was using, something about hard water being no match for me.  Hard water, hard water, hard water, was the refrain.  I don't recall the rest.  I was eleven, the same age one of my boys is now.  It seemed old at the time.  Maybe in the 80's we were more mature than kids are today.  I scrubbed my father's bathroom till it sparkled.

It was the first time he had invited us over since the divorce.  My mom dropped my two sisters and me off without breaking the new barrier of the front door.  That must have been weird since she used to live there.  I am divorced myself and setting up boundaries was no easy task.  My ex would come over to visit the boys and walk back to the bathroom, or open the refrigerator like he owned the place and it would always make me feel uneasy.  I never did figure out a good way to tell him he should ask first.

Dad asked me what we wanted to clean and I think bathroom was my first choice, but I don't remember for sure.  I may have just as easily said vacuum or kitchen floor.  Thinking back, I can't come up with a reason I would want to clean his toilet.  I was still working on that rust-colored streak from the tub when Dad asked did I want something to drink.

"Yeah, I'll have a beer," I said.  I didn't think he'd say yes, so when he did I had no choice but to feign indifference, which at eleven isn't easy to do.  I worked on the beer while I touched up the fixtures, watching myself drink it in the mirror, considering what kind of commercial I could make for drinking and cleaning before I started on the linoleum.  Dad said he had to go meet his new girlfriend.  He said he wouldn't leave if she didn't have such a sweet ass.  She was nineteen and had gotten him a kitten so I imagined he felt indebted.  He said we could have one more beer before Mom cane to pick us up.  When implicated, he later said he meant one more total, to split between the three of us, but I'm pretty sure he would have known that would never work out.

We were totally shitfaced at 5 p.m. when Mom arrived to take us to grandma's for Christmas Eve dinner.  Just before dinner she noticed we were not acting stupid in our usual way, but on a whole new level of stupid.  "You're drunk!" she said, more revelation than accusation.

I lifted my grandma's burning cigarette from its resting place in the ashtray, tapped off the long, lacy ash and put it to my lips.  "We were cleaning for Dad and he said we could have a beer," I said with my newfound maturity.  "No biggie."

My mom called my father.  I don't remember what happened beyond that.  I may have passed out or thrown up.  Or both.  But since that Christmas, I have never cleaned my bathroom without cracking open a cold one and singing a hard water jingle to pass the time.

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 of Kind of a Hurricane Press (www.kindofahurricanepress.com).

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Flash Fiction by Lorette C. Luzajic

August, and Everything Before

"Dad might love mushrooms, you never know," you said.  We'd been talking about psilocybin.  "We could just lay in the canoe or something and talk about the Psalms."

I had missed you so much until this moment.  For now, the chasm seemed far away.  I carried this empty weight of missing you with nonchalance, but it was a fumbling performance.

"Well?" you asked.  "What do you think?"  One of your gifts was to create ridiculous juxtapositions.  You paired unexpected elements together, and you saw possibilities.  These were mischievous, exuberant moments when random ideas flashed through your mind.  This picture of our father tripping on psychedelics was unforgettable.  We hadn't spoken this freely to one another for a long time.

When I was small and you were still in the bassinet, I had night terrors where you would be decapitated or suspended by quivering arrows to a tree or smothered in a spider's web.  They were gruesome tableaus.  I was choked by panic.  The ferocity of my fear of losing you was disturbing.  I was too small to analyze my primitive fears, to see how I saw that you would be swallowed and taken from me.  I would find out later that losing someone sometimes happens in increments.

"Awake, harp and lyre!" you said.  Then, "I will awaken the dark . . . Do you think Jim Morrison was referencing this Psalm in her song?"

Awake . . . shake the dreams . . . my pretty child . . . choose the day . . . I knew instantly what you meant; thought of how we sailed across the desert in our pick-up years ago.  How we almost got away.

I was about to say I doubted it, but wondered whether I was underestimating the rock star.  Jim.  With age I had become repulsed by details about pony leather and pissing on stage.  Once a god, now dust.  Still, his poetry did have something of the Old Testament in it, after all.

"And you?" I said.  "Where do you stand?"

"I stand on a house of sand," you said and shrugged.  You smiled that broken smile.

You went over to your turntable and flipped a record into place.  The Stones.

"I don't know," you said.  "Dad would have to give up his assumptions and prepare himself for the trip, you know?"  It took me a moment to remember what we were talking about.  "The trip couldn't be spontaneous if it was going to work.  He'd have to go about it carefully and read up and stuff.  But I really think once he wrapped his mind around the idea, he could really do it, he could go inside."

"He'd have to pray about it first," I said, and we both laughed.  The moment was easygoing and I tried to cling to it, fearing slippery hands.

All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll . . . 

I picture you and our father in the dark, paddles sluicing deep water, the psilocybin swirling through you like stars.

And so I asked, since tonight we weren't quite the hesitant strangers time had made us.  I asked about our mother.  You seized up a bit, you started to turn back inward.

"She's okay," you said finally, and something dark and oily flickered in your eyes.  But then it was gone.

Deliver me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of evil and cruel men.  For you alone have been my hope, O my God, my confidence since my youth.

"Forget it," I said then.  There wasn't really much to say.  I've forgiven her and moved on.  You haven't moved on, and have not forgiven her.  You cannot.  One can only forgive things that are past.

To change the topic, I went back to where we'd started.  "So what do you believe now?" I asked.

"Oh, I still believe," you said, and you didn't hesitate.  I'd always admired your certainty.  "It's different from how church described it, but it's powerful stuff."

I picture the two of us drifting through the dark, tossed by choppy waters.  I pictured how it was, you the only one who could calm her, and how she used that like a leash.

It was amazing, really, how the storm of her, so intense, would abate whenever you came when she called.

Look, I remember thinking, with bitterness and a little envy, look, even the wind and the waves obey him.

Lorette C. Luzajic is a writer, artist and photographer living in Toronto, Ontario.  Her poetry and fiction has been published in over 100 journals, magazines, and anthologies, including Modern Poetry, Poetry Canada, Every Day Fiction, Grain, Rattle, the Fiddlehead, Quarry Magazine, and more.  She is the author of several books of poetry, fiction and essays, including The Astronaut's Wife:  Poems of Eros and Thanatos, Solace Funny Stories bout Depression, and Fascinating People.  For more information, and to see her mixed media collage paintings and photos, visit her at www.ideafountain.ca.