Welcome! Here is this week’s Flash, posted in the order received.
The theme is Cartography.
Lost by Susan Tepper
We always get lost on car trips. I’ve come to expect it. Ron does the guy thing— refuses to ask directions. We can go circles out of our way; miles without sleep is what I sometimes think, wondering if Robert Frost had similar problems on car trips.
So I go to AAA and buy a bunch of maps. That night I say to Ron, “Look what I got!”
He hardly looks. It’s his way of keeping the power. “Well at least we won’t get lost anymore,” I say.
“Who’s going to read them?” He’s dropping three lumps of sugar into his coffee one at a time. I listen to the plop plop plop.
“Whoever isn’t driving!”
Now isn’t that obvious? It’s obvious to me. I think it would be obvious to the world at large.
“Ceilia, I don’t believe your eyes are good enough to read the small print on a map.”
“My eyes are fine with my reading glasses.”
“Did you upgrade your prescription? Because you can’t read the dosage on your stomach pills bottle.”
Now I want to say: If I lived by myself I wouldn’t need stomach pills. I never needed stomach pills until you came into my life. I think a map is a beautiful thing to behold. It shows me all the places I can escape to.
I don’t say any of that. I look at him watching his three lumps of sugar dissolve, and know I’m too late to start a new route.
Susan Tepper is the author of “Deer & Other Stories” (Wilderness House Press, 2009) and the poetry chapbook “Blue Edge.” Over 100 of her stories and poems have been published in journals worldwide. Susan had been nominated five times for the Pushcart Prize. She curates the reading series FIZZ at KGB Bar in NYC, and is Assistant Editor of Istanbul Literary Review.
Mop & Bucket by cubehermit
They gave her an allegedly former broom closet in the back of the gallery for her installation.
Now, on opening night, people kept asking her how she found the inspiration for the mop and bucket in the corner.
“It is such an incredibly powerful comment on the mundane-ity of the post-relational human condition.”
“You have delivered a blow to the art world that will reverberate for years to come.”
“The juxtaposition of the morbid mop and vibrant bucket against the semi-art frou-frou in the rest of the installation just rebooted my mind.”
“I found the mop and bucket to be the most textured aspect of the experience.”
“I was excited beyond all rationality when I saw the wad of hair floating IN the filthy water IN the bucket – you are genius.”
Her installation (the semi-art frou-frou) was intended to be a map of her life.
She had destroyed every memento of her present and past (everything she owned, in fact) by a combination of smashing, painting over, drowning, and burning, and placed the pieces with extreme care in layers over walls and ceiling to create a topographic illustration of the landscapes of time she had lived to that point.
If she were to include tonight on the map, she thought, finding herself quietly asking the curator to arrange with the janitor for the mop and bucket to stay as-is, she would have to dig a hole in the wall, crawl in, and die.
Cubehermit is master of her 4×5 foot domain. Just as you do not mess with Texas, don’t mess with the cube. You can see more of cubehermit’s work at her website at Corporate Cog Poetry.
Topo Dreams by Gabriel Orgrease
Old fingers wrinkled soft
slide over creases, faded folds
in morning south light of breakfast nook.
Where feet and bones no longer travel
weary, eye searches circuitry of roads.
Stumbles over gray-haired swampland
blue image of river, stream,
small lakes where a love was resealed.
Avenues, interstate route numbers
an attraction to the place,
its reflection in name.
Of what was and where it moved over
to blending of triangles of field, forest —
where we are is a distant place
yearning will never satisfy to find.
Eroded, disfigured, revamped, renamed
the earth has erased your isolate trail.
Now there are only phantom landmarks
passed down in fading glimpse.
Your grandchildren will never know
magenta light of morning beneath that pine,
scorching of that sun lost forever
in peach blossom of a wild rose.
Gabriel Orgrease is the author of “Illuminations; without consent of anyone but the author” (Scintilla Sophia Salamander Press, 1975). He lives near to the Atlantic on the South Shore of Long Island halfway to Montauk where he tends to a colony of endangered marine moss. He has published invariably in pleasantly obscure places for a number of years. He blogs at Orgrease-Crankbait.
A Mountain So Lost by Sheldon Lee Compton
Maps are everywhere. On the palm of your hand, across the terrain of your heart. These are maps of hope and magic, emotion and muscle.
But these are not real maps, not those of a drafts man. Not the cartographic maps I make, the general progression from the cave wall to my fingers. The others, the tracks and cuts left on the heart, the spill of superstition poured over the heads of the desperate. These maps are not science. They have no more direction to offer than a wind-beaten cloud.
They call what I did a deliberate error, cartographic graffiti. I like that. It’s better than saying it was a prank or joke. It paints me less like a clown and more as a mischievous eccentric. Being different and clever is how I will be remembered.
In my design for the Rocky Mountains’ continental divide I added a fictitious peak called Mount Richard. It took two years before anyone realized there was no such peak, no mountain bearing my namesake. Two years I spent pointing out me, the mountain, to Heather in the diner in Niwot, to Jill at a bar in Arvada, Kim in Broomfield, Teresa in Wheat Ridge, at least four dozen or more across Colorado.
I should have just kept quiet, stood in silence against the skyline and let the majesty do the talking. I should have learned to be patient in my loneliness, still enough to watch a rosebud bloom.
Sheldon Lee Compton survives in Kentucky. His work has appeared in Keyhole, Monkeybicycle, Emprise Review, Dogzplot and elsewhere.
The Sleepwalker as Map, the Map as Sleepwalker by Darryl Price
It doesn’t matter what it was the middle of. It took each and every one by the nose away from where we were standing but it didn’t disappear us, except as one ink might disappear dissolving into another.We stained each other’s lives like squirting grape juice. Even the breakdown of the precious paper molecules appeared to be just another secretly written out chart to unknown locations just outside the present situation’s experience.Sometimes the map presents itself as you go. Look. All you had to do was to walk quietly deeper and deeper into the places that you dreamed until you arrived back in your own hometown, another summer come and gone.Suddenly we were colorful again.That made us both laugh.
Darryl Price was born in Kentucky and educated at Thomas More College. A founding member of Jack Roth’s Yellow Pages Poets, he has published dozens of chapbooks, including a dual chapbook with Jennifer Bosveld, founder of Pudding House (the largest literary small press in America), and had poems in journals including The Bitter Oleander, Cornfield Review, Allegheny Poetry, Wind, Out of Sight, Paper Radio, The West Conscious Review, Pudding, Metazen, Cap City Poets, Doing It, Prick of the Spindle, Olentangy Review, Fourpaperletters, LITSNACK and the Green Fuse.
PARTLY REVEALED by Linda Simoni-Wastila
If you look close enough
in the mirror
soft creases trample
from your eyes,
so many tired circuits
relaying books read,
Closer still, lines
surround your lips
carved canyons of past belly
laughs, false and true,
of smiles held too long,
of child’s play, of day lilies
before they spend themselves
in summer’s swelter.
If you dropped your robe
I could touch the crescent
under the clavicle
left from dog’s teeth;
the roughened skin
that failed to take
after the burn ran us
from the farm; the
indent too small to see
by the aureole but
certain to touch, souvenir
of the biopsy; the cleft
beneath once linked
to your mother,
where son, then daughter
The mirror reveals all,
map of your life, meager, full.
Linda Simoni-Wastila lives in Baltimore and blogs at LeftBrainWrite.
MENTAL CARTOGRAPHY by Catherine Russell
Lewis and Clark had nothing on Professor Charleston Hedgewig. While the explorers merely crossed a continent, the professor mapped minds.
“This will pinch a little,” he said, inserting the needle into her arm.
“Doctors always say that,” she said, wincing. “When do I get paid for this study anyway?”
“I should think you’ll get your check soon,” said the professor. “Have you made out your will?”
Her eyes widened. “Will? What… why?”
He fiddled with the monitor and made some notes. “Nothing. Just a joke. Please go through the questionnaire carefully. Be sure to read and answer aloud since I’m recording the data. And remember, be honest. This is for posterity, you know.”
She raised an eyebrow but obeyed his instructions to the letter. The doctor followed the images on the screen without comment, barely containing his excitement. The injections worked far better than even he imagined – mapping the neural pathways more precisely than ever before.
After the test was over, he instructed her to leave. “Please send in the next subject,” he said. She nodded, closing the door behind her.
The doctor reflected on the unfortunate side effects of the injections. If only the subjects survived longer, he could learn so much more. As things stood, he was pushing the field of neural research beyond anything achieved before. After all, sacrifices must be made in the name of science.
Catherine Russell is currently trying to publish her first novel. She writes short fiction, poetry, and learns more about the craft every day.
Resignation by Guy Yasko
It’s all lies. All of it. And not just in the laughable inadequacy
of school maps with the wheels of cheese, ears of grain, and heaps of
coal, not merely in the quaintness of old maps of now unconscious
empires and failed experiments. The lies are more fundamental than
the inherent falsehood of place names, pasted over and chosen over
other names, equally false. No. The lies are the lines themselves,
in the idea that the lines matter, that something stops here, on this
side, something else on the other side, that something of some
significance travels along a particular line. How do you draw a map
of a system of universal and nebulous fungibility? You don’t.
There is nothing noble in the attempt to sustain what is no longer
sustainable. That is itself a concealment, a lie. The mapmaker’s art
is dead, and it is our geography that has killed it.
He caps his pen, folds the paper in half and puts it between unused
pages of his notebook. Back to Sector R.
Guy Yasko makes a living in the intersection of Japan and the anglophone world, often as a translator.
Cartography by Barbara Lucy Hosken
Where the hell am I? I’ve been driving for hours and still can’t find a sign to anywhere. I must’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere. I thought it was a direct route to the motorway, so didn’t bother to take much notice but I know it wasn’t as far away as this. Oh bless him, there’s a police car. I’ll see if I can attract his attention and ask him. I wonder if I can get up enough speed. He’s going at a helluva pace. Oh shit! He’s put his siren on and he’s zooming away from me. That makes it worse. I’m not even on a main road now. This is a housing estate for god’s sake. If the police are here I doubt it’s a good place to be. I’ll try phoning the police and see if they can help me. Better pull in just in case the Police car comes back. Bugger! There’s no juice in my battery. Drive on and hope. That’s all I can do. Oh wonder of wonders there’s a phone booth! I bet it’s been vandalised. What luck! It’s OK. Now, I need the local police station but I don’t have a number. No use ringing any of the numbers scrawled all over the front here. I’ll just have to ring 999 and explain. What’s the point of looking at a map if you don’t know where you are in the first place!
Barbara Lucy Hosken was born in England, now lives in Whangarei NZ. Her first love was Creative Dance which she taught at University level but now, retired and ailing, she writes prose and poetry as an outlet for her creative talent and has recently published A Little Line Dancing, a book of poetry. She also enjoys clay modeling and is constantly searching for time but never seems to find any. She is busier now than ever and like many retired people wonders how she managed to fit ‘work’ into her daily schedule!
Afsham by Matthew A. Hamilton
Afshan met Mr. Lee at Times Square Mall. They dined at the Hunan Garden. He bought her a pair of $300 earrings at Chow Tai Fook. Compensated dating paid well.
He was very handsome. Sparks of silver in his hair gave him a divine aura. His body, erect and strong, ironed the folds in his well tailored suit. She was eager to intimately explore him.
They drove to the Kowloon Hotel.
“I reserved a room on the tenth floor,” Lee said.
“Sounds nice,” Afshan replied, giggling. Her face was warm and flushed. And the shaved topography between her legs was wet, eager to sketch seductive intersections in virgin white sheets.
He swiped the key card and they walked in. She removed her jacket as they headed for the bedroom. She unhooked her earrings, studied them for a moment, then placed them on the nightstand. She knew what he expected after giving her such an expensive gift. She pulled back the sheets and walked over to him, unbuttoned his coat and threw it on the floor. She gently poked his chest, backed him up toward the bed. He grabbed her hips and rolled her Kookai skirt up to her waist. She dangled her breasts above his awaiting tongue. He traced a slimy trail of circles around her chocolate colored areolas.
After an hour of heat and sweat, his balls stiffened and exploded in pleasure. She collapsed on his chest and began mapping out the details of her next date.
Matthew A. Hamilton is a US Peace Corps Volunteer serving in the Philippines. He has work in Metazen, Crows Nest Magazine, Long Story Short, and others. He has forthcoming working in Black Lantern Publishing and The Battered Suitcase. After service, Matthew will pursue an MFA in Creative Writing at Fairfield University.
Space by Damian Pullen
Didn’t even know she had a son, says Mum. Dad goes upstairs and looks through the binoculars. Says he looks a bit of a hobo, and not surprising really, given the mother.
He doesn’t do much, mostly just sits under a tree, and sleeps outside, in a tent with a little porch. His mother’s dying of cancer. Everyone knows. We hear her moaning and crying sometimes. He keeps a fire going day and night, and sometimes the smoke blows across the street and stinks us out.
Our dog Milly runs over to their place and Dad sends me to get her. She’s lying on her back while he rubs her tummy. He’s made some damper dough and we cook it on sticks, then dip it in honey, delicious. Milly sniffs around their place.
He’s never been to school or anything. He says he’s an explorer. He lives in a tent ‘cos he doesn’t like houses, they can’t come with you. Dad calls me back after a while. Place is a bloody mess, he says.
Mum thinks the old lady ought to go back to the hospice but the community nurse reckons they can’t force her. Some days she lies in the sun, wrapped in an old blanket. One night we saw them doing a dance round the fire. It can’t be much longer, Mum says.
He’s started building a raft out of bamboo. He’s going to take it down the river, all the way to the sea, when she’s gone.
Damian Pullen’s ambition is to be a hobo. He likes to live in things that float and roll. He wonders if he will ever be able to take life seriously.
Where he was by Bernard Heise
He knew exactly where he was and saw that as a failure. For the real trick was knowing where you weren’t. On good days he’d take bearings off islands, marks, headlands — anything he recognized — and plot his approximate position on the chart, mindful that heaving decks and magnetic variations made bearings imprecise, and that his vessel was always moving, rendering one bearing obsolete even before he could bend his eye to the compass for the next. He liked knowing that triangulation created not truth but extremely useful fictions. Thus he never put his finger on the chart and said: “Here I am.” No, he would point to symbols of submerged rocks, nasty shoals, lurking reefs and say: “Here I am not.” But today was a bad day, and the epiphany announced itself with a prolonged crash that shattered his complacency and tore the rudder from the boat. Grinding its keel, the vessel spun into the wind, sails flogging like tortured and vengeful spirits, already settling in the stern. The lurch made him spill his coffee as he steadied himself. And it also told him instantly — for he knew the chart by heart — that he was on Blighter’s Rock, a volcanic pinnacle that he’d often pointed to, always avoided, and never seen. It flashed through his sharpening mind that he quite enjoyed the uncertainties of life. And that his current awareness of his precise location might be one of the last things he’d know for sure, which wasn’t comforting at all.
Bernard Heise lives on a sailboat in the South Pacific. He monitors the sun as it rises and sets; he keeps a watchful eye on the tides. And when the spirit moves him, he animates the mummified corpse of 15th-century Anglo-Saxon bishop and mounts the pulpit at the Church of Rebar Jesus.
That Dark Spot by Maggie Sokolik
“Right there.” Doctor Hagedorn pointed. “That dark spot.”
Lina moved in closer, but didn’t see it. Her brain scan looked like a lotus slice.
The doctor continued, “Probably accounts for your symptoms.”
A week ago, Lina had felt a pain crack over her right eyebrow. It was there every day, creeping from her ear to the middle of her forehead.
“I’d like to do further tests…”
“No,” said Lina.
“You can’t ignore this.”
“Maybe next week.”
“Tomorrow.” The doctor started writing. Lina noticed the part in Dr. Hagedorn’s red hair was gray. This comforted her.
Lina sat quietly at dinner, not eating the potatoes she had mashed or the corn she had husked. She thought about the stroke that had crippled her mother, leaving her silent and drooling.
Aphasia. Lina’s mother could no longer speak, read, or write. She could move her left hand, so she would feebly gesture to Lina–a sad game of charades.
Lina drove to Morrow Manor, where her mother was probably already in bed, dreaming of the mad scene from Lucia di Lammermoor. Lina called it Sorrow Manor—just half in jest.
She drove away without going in, taking the freeway to the Ferry Terminal.
No one noticed her on the ferry. Not a soul on deck. She walked to the railing and looked over the edge. She couldn’t see the water below. No matter, she thought. She knew it was there.
She climbed over the rail and jumped into the mist.
Maggie Sokolik teaches writing at UC Berkeley. She is the author of several textbooks, and lots of stories in her head. She is originally from Olympia, Washington but now lives in the Bay Area.
Cartography by R.G. MacLeod
Who am I, Indiana Jones? Is there any possible means at my disposal to create a map that will help others find this place? More importantly; find their way back again?
I don’t even know where here is other than somewhere on the north coast of Antarctica. That doesn’t help much, it’s all north coast. I was blown off course halfway between Ascension and the Falklands, GPS fried by a lightning strike, sextant smashed in the same storm.
I know what it is. It’s a storehouse of treasure. Not just any treasure, a treasure that has been missing for seven hundred years. The symbols carved into the rock tell me who this mass of wealth and knowledge belonged to. No other group carved two knights riding tandem on a single horse.
It’s here, it’s really here, the Holy Grail of biblical archaeology. Most disciplines have some kind of Holy Grail, but this is the actual Holy Grail. It isn’t what I was expecting. I knew better than to expect a gaudy gold thing encrusted in jewels, but this is just too much, or maybe it’s just too little, I can’t decide. It’s just a plain earthenware cup with some symbols etched into the side. I immediately recognize Aramaic.
For once in my life, my college major has come in handy. People laughed when I told them I wanted to study dead languages. At first glance I couldn’t believe it. I had to laugh when I read it the second time.
R.G. MacLeod lives and writes on the Gulf Coast of Florida where he is hard at work creating a more interesting bio.
Not Drawn to Scale by Martin Brick
He says just get up, insisting the place is right around the corner.
She says, from her spot on the curb in dirty parking lot, that’s the third time he’s said that
He says the service station guy didn’t draw the map to scale, but now he’s got it figured out.
She says they should call a cab.
He says you’re kidding, for two blocks?
She says no, to take them out of this armpit where his car broke down and go somewhere nice for lunch.
He says don’t criticize the car. She wanted the used Lexus off his lot, even though the Honda was more dependable.
She says you’re one who says a car tells people who you want to be.
He says a used Lexus tells people you want to be a person with a new Lexus. But you’re not. So really you’re a person who risks costly breakdowns.
She says going to a pub the mechanic recommends risks heartburn or ptomaine.
He says they’re stranded; might as well enjoy themselves.
She says, then, cab.
He says walk two blocks.
She says you walk in these shoes.
He says the shoes are never a problem at the beech house her father owns. Only a problem somewhere she doesn’t want to be.
She says you can’t read anything right.
He thinks ain’t that the truth – not the map, not the hoses of a ’96 Lexus, not the look she gave him back when they met…
Martin Brick is an Assistant Professor of English at Ohio Dominican University. His publications include The Cortland Review, Vestal Review, Sou’Wester, Pindeldyboz, and other places. He is a past Pushcart nominee and a former editor of Wisconsin Review.
Special Powers by Christian Bell
One summer night, you say to her, come outside, bring the wine and food. The sky clear, full of stars, the moon full and close, ripe grapefruit waiting. The backyard chirps with crickets, rustles with windblown leaves. There’s a cannon-like contraption in the yard. You say, follow me, let’s take a trip. Where, she whispers, always your nighttime conspirator. To the moon, you say. From the contraption you launch grappling hook and rope upward, catch that low-hanging moon. She says, how, but you cover her mouth with your hand, say, no questions, we’ll put food and drink in my backpack and climb. She and you ascend. Don’t ask questions of science, you say. Time, distance, gravity, vacuums, breathable air. Don’t ask, how do you do this. Most importantly, you say, don’t look down.
In mere minutes you arrive. The surface powdery, wide field of impact craters. You point to where Neil Armstrong walked, show her the planets. Look, the Earth, you say. Her eyes become bewildered, spinning to re-grasp reality. Since I can’t ask, she says, tell me anything. I’m a cartographer of celestial bodies, you say, I’ve drawn maps of this desolate rock in dreams. In days and weeks that follow, you’ll tell her about your special powers. She’ll reveal to you hers. Together you’ll halt the world. For now, though, both of you sit, drink the wine, hold hands. Don’t worry about climbing down, you say, always conscious of her fears.
Stars twinkle. Glasses clink to a toast. To the universe, our maps waiting to be drawn.
Christian Bell lives near Baltimore, Maryland. He primarily writes flash fiction and his work has appeared online in various publications, including SmokeLong Quarterly, Wigleaf, Pindeldyboz, and JMWW Quarterly. He has a blog at imnotemilioestevez.blogspot.com.
Into the Wild Blue Yonder by doug bond
I’d been counting the time between mile markers when he grabbed it from her. Ma had been folding and refolding the map, trying to answer his question about the Skyway and the Dan Ryan. The car swerved, just a bit, not much, not the way she reacted. I knew he was really a good driver. He’d flown jets in Vietnam, back for good now, just as things getting bigger there too.
Then it got quiet again, the kind of quiet that fills a car even with the radio on and the highway ticking away and the corn flying past regimented and silk tasseled.
I remember Ma telling me they just needed some time to get used to each other again.
News came on the radio. Dad fiddled the dial then turned it up, “Third boxcar midnight train, destination Bangor, Maine.” I relaxed, looked out at the clouds rising in columns way to the south. He caught my eye in the mirror, smiled, “Thunder coming Billy. Big rollers.”
I stretched out sideways and tilted my head back so all I could see was blue sky and clouds, my chin sticking straight up. I tried not to blink. The clouds became mountains and long curvy beards and canoes skiffing through icebergs.
When we stopped for gas somewhere outside Portage, Dad went in to talk to the attendant. Ma handed me the bottle of soap bubbles from the glove compartment. I kept dipping and dipping and waved my arm into the warm air.
doug bond has endured life in Manhattan and along the Western fault lines, most recently in San Francisco in loving, creative partnership with his wife, daughter, Ben (a Lab), and assorted other hungry creatures. Doug has been in the habit recently of sharing a variety of Amuzementz including his own writing at http://dougbond.posterous.com/ and also at Fictionaut.
of time and mud by Peter Larsen
Mudflats of a distant shore
footsteps in a distant time
footprints no one will find
fossilized by pressing lime
of ground up shells and brackish surf,
moon attracts the ocean bulge
tide retreats and modern man
barefoot squelches in the mud.
We tread in footsteps of the dead
to feed upon the cockle bed.
Peter Larsen is a poet living in Whangarei, New Zealand.
Brave New World by Walter Bjorkman
Big brother was just short of twelve and this was his biggest job yet. “You are the man of the house now” they told him a year ago, in the weeks after the death of their father. Now he was entrusted to guide his younger brother across the Atlantic on a four-prop silver bird, with the occasional helping hand of an airline employee.
He was scared as shit. Sure subways, buses, even the last steam powered LIRR line had been in his past travels, but always with an adult watching carefully beside him.
The plane coughed. His younger brother, by only 19 months, had used both barf bags to perfection leaving Idlewild, and he felt as if he could use one right now. Young brother awoke as the plane buckled, swerved suddenly and started dropping. Big brother’s stomach rose over his head, and the eyes from the arm rest beside him, pillowed to sleep by Nordic stewardesses just a few hours before, awoke in confusion, fear and hurt never seen before that day a year past. Outside the window the far engine began to billow dark smoke. Anywhere but here, he thought anywhere but here.
“Allan, what’s happening?” the tiny tremelo voice asked, a voice once happy and strong.
“Looks like we are taking a side trip to Coney” Allan answererd with a laugh, his far hand’s fingernails tearing the stuffing out of the other arm rest, out of the sight of all, especially his brother.
Walter Bjorkman is a writer of sorts, meaning there is no sort he will not write about. He was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, but always had a taste for the wilderness, be it city, forest, beaches or desert. He is published in various editions of Poets and Artists (O&S), metazen, Blue Print Review and OCHO. He has spent the last what seems like forever as Co-founder and Editor of the website VOICES – Where Characters (flawed or not) have their say, and he’s just recently been promoted to Editor of 52|250.
Sometimes Errands Take Longer Than You Might Think by John Chapin
He glared at his sister before tossing his cigarette butt to the forest floor, grinding it into the pine needles with a well-worn shoe greatly in need of repair. “You stupid fucking twat,” he muttered.
“How is this my fault?” She dropped the bundle of faggots she had collected and spun around with her mouth open.
“Well, where the fuck are we? You said you’d take care of it this time, and here we are.”
“You have been suck a… a jerk lately.”
“We’re lost, it’ll be dark soon, and you want to have this discussion?” He rolled his eyes. “You’re worse than she is.”
“Oh, you asshole, can’t you see it? It’s true. You’ve lost weight, you’re short-tempered, you won’t talk to me or Dad. This all started when she moved in. Do you think no one notices?”
“I don’t care if anyone notices. I hate her.”
“I hate our alcoholic stepwitch, too, and if you want to blame anyone for us getting lost out here, blame her, not me.”
“Well, she’s not the one who stuffed a handful of breadcrumbs in her pockets on the way out the door instead of using her friggin’ brain.”
She held up her hand and sniffed. “Wait, wait! Do you smell that?”
“I smell pine.”
“No, it’s like… gingerbread. From over there. Trust me,” she said, pushing him toward the scent.
“You’re so naïve,” he sighed.
“I got us into this mess, and I’ll get us out,” she assured him.
John Wentworth Chapin teaches writing and runs the writing center at the University of Baltimore. He is an Editor of 52|250, but he knows who wears the virtual pants around here.
Patent Leather by Michelle Elvy
You usually don’t look past the sunshine face, moon mouth and neatly plaited hair. You usually don’t look past the pastel Polly Flinders dress, turned down bobbi-socks, and black patent-leather shoes.
You usually don’t look.
And if you don’t look, you miss the road map tracking the girl’s nine-year life across this earth: the sharp outline of square shoulders under puffy sleeves, the hard jaw offsetting apple blossom cheeks, the always alert irises behind baby-doll lashes.
If you don’t look, you might not see the girl at all.
Certainly Justin Prattle never looked.
And so, when he pushed the girl into the playground dirt one cold October morning, he could not have guessed what would happen next. He did not expect that she would gather her scattered books and pick herself up, rub away her snot and tears, and face him with a flash of fury and a precisely placed patent leather kick.
Some boys don’t know how to read maps.
Michelle Elvy lives and writes on a 43′ sailboat and is presently located in Whangarei, New Zealand. She is co-editor of 52|250, and she has published work at Metazen, Words With JAM, and 6S. When not flashing here, she’s writing at Glow Worm, listening at VOICES, or sailing on Momo.
Some of these stories and poems were not written specifically for the 52|250 Challenge but were submitted in the spirit of the theme this week, and we are honored to have them here.
52|250 thanks John Wentworth Chapin for his photograph this week.