Welcome! Here is this week’s Flash, posted in the order received.
The theme is Corrected Vision.
Oh happy happy happy! (How happy am I to-day?) by Kaston Griffin
I’m so happy!
The sun shines and the flowers bloom!
The Lord be praised for there’s nothing happier than
to-day’s happy day.
Press a gun to my temple and let petals
burst from the warm barrel and
with smiles and roasted marshmallows!
O, how I giggle at the men of the past:
Neanderthals, Victorians, Bohemians, and, too,
the muslims, buddhists, atheists, and
jews and blacks on this happiest of happy
My insides float in warm strawberry jam.
O, happy day! Is there no end to the good
that glides over the world like peach syrup?
Thailand is blooming!
Louisiana is singing!
Koreans are holding hands!
Ethiopia is laughing!
Who could tear through my impenetrable, faith-full
ballistic vest of happiness?
Who could wring the happy perspiration
from the bright underpants of life to-day?
Together, let’s walk unafraid
through the flowering minefields of happy.
Ex-Mongol archer and con man, Kaston Griffin can be found jumping his motorcycle roof-to-roof, putting together a new A-team, or high fiving Conan O’Brien. Whenever he finishes a daring escapade, the public knows as he celebrates each successful caper by publishing a fictional story with undertones of extreme personal danger.
Skinnydippers by cubehermit
We were expressly told “No skinnydipping” at the end-of-camp staff party. Because of this, and despite having drunk more beer than ever, my heart races and my mouth dries as I drop my shorts on the sand. I pull my shirt over my head, set my glasses on top of the pile. I turn toward my swimming partner: already naked, knee-deep in the water, watching me undress. In the half-light, I can see the creamy color of her skin, the blob that is her dyed-black hair, her awkward lanky limbs, a spot which must be the patch between her legs. But no detail! My glasses! The first time a girl shows me her naked body and I can’t see it! But I can’t wear them if I am to go into the water, where touching might be possible. “Damn,” I swear aloud. She takes it as a compliment, asking, “Is this the first time you’ve seen a girl naked?” She turns and half-runs/half-dives into the dark water. I follow, swim up to her. “What are we supposed to do next?,” I ask. “What do you want to do next?” she asks back, brushing against my hip with hers. My fear of the camp director leaves me and I am faced with a new fear: of everything I ever wanted being laid out in front of me for the taking.
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 Corporate Cog Poetry.
Spent by Linda Simoni-Wastila
Stars pepper the sky. The solemn swells of the orchestra fuse with the crowd’s low drone and the gentle slap of water against the boats. A breeze passes over the darkened river and stirs in the flaccid sails. I lace my fingers through Phoebe’s, and wait. A light flickers on the picnic table and levitates towards us. Althea cradles the sparkling cupcake, singing “happy birthday” in her breathy voice. She totters over the boat, holding the cake for Phoebe.
“Make a wish, girlfriend!”
Phoebe concentrates, and blows; the flame splutters out.
“Happy birthday, Phoebe.” Althea weaves on the dock’s edge.
“I’m glad you’re with Ben, he’s good folk, deserves the best. And you’re the best too, girl, cuz you make him happy, keep him outta trouble. He’s one crazy guy, but good as gold as long as he takes his lith–”
“Shut up, Al.” The boat pitches when I stand. My hands draw into tight fists.
“Just shut the fuck up. You’re drunk.”
“Oh shit.” She covers her face, her giggles. “So sorry.”
A low whistle screams overhead. The sky erupts in orange, incandescent streamers shower into the river, fizzing into smoke. In the light-splattered night, Phoebe’s eyes glitter, questioning me.
“She’s toasted,” I say. Her fingers squeeze mine, seeking more, but I look away, into the shivering sky, and breathe, just breathe, until the only noise is my pulse thumping through my brain and all I see are smoky-white trails of spent fireworks echoing against my closed eyelids.
Linda Simoni-Wastila lives in Baltimore and blogs at LeftBrainWrite.
Power Company by Susan Tepper
The little girl couldn’t look up from the ground. The sunshine hurt her eyes. She kept her face down and got to know all the cracks in the sidewalks, the white lines marked at the street crossings, tiny pebbly rocks in the cement curbs, the strange red zig-zags that looked like writing on the Chinese restaurant menu, but that her father said were markers painted on the road by the power company.
The power company, thought the little girl. It sounded like a good place to go. Like a hospital, or a house where you could get cookies and milk after school and nothing bad would happen.
The little girl thought often about the power company. Her father kept insisting she look up.
“I can’t,” she told him. He insisted anyway. He smacked the back of her head and still she kept it down. Chicken neck, he called her.
Finally, one day she began looking up. And when she was able to do that, her shoulders moved up, too, almost at her ears. “Put your shoulders down,” her father said.
“I can’t,” the little girl told him. He called her Frankenstein and said she would end up deformed. That no one would want her.
Then I’ll keep them up forever thought the little girl.
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. You can find her online at www.susantepper.com.
Obstacles by Damian Pullen
Everything has gone: my clothes, phone, wallet, wristwatch, passport. I stare at my bare feet, soft and white. They took my shoes, even my socks. Probably just kids. You crash out, dead drunk, and in the night they strip you. No mercy. Not that I deserve it. I remember nothing, not even the name of the town, but here I am, on a park bench in my underwear, the morning sun already burning.
People walking past glance at me, the empty bottle, then away. Some come back the other way, laughing. I stagger blindly across the grass and vomit in the flowerbed. This time yesterday we were together, on the first day of our make-or-break holiday, in a luxury campervan. Now I’m alone, nearly naked, puking in a public place, in a foreign country, and I stink of piss. Yes, I pissed myself. I was that drunk. I needed to be. She drove off and left me, like you abandon a dog.
I see what she’s doing. I know I’m going to have to beg. I gasp, spit, retch again. Nothing’s left now except white pain throbbing behind the eyes. I need a drink of water and a shower, clean clothes, a coffee, food, money, a bed. Most of all, water. I want to crawl into the bushes and hide for a while, but the bark chips dig into my hands and knees, so I stumble back into the merciless sunlight, collapse and curl up on the spiky grass, crying.
Because of an accident which affected the part of my brain which controls emotions, my terrestrial existence is extremely inconvenient, and I prefer to make my mistakes online. Thanks to 52/250 for supporting me. My avatar in Second Life, called Demeon Darkfury, would like to have sex, but I’m too incompetent to organise it. There are lots of attractive women but they don’t reply to Demeon’s pickup lines. They just keep asking him to give them money he doesn’t have.
Forgery by Martin Brick
Angie smelled alcohol when she entered. Odd because it didn’t mix with Byron’s meds, but also, he never seemed like the drinking sort. He didn’t answer when she called. The placed looked like the secret police went looking for microfiche.Byron sat by the window, not really looking out or at the dust in the light. Somewhere in-between.
“Are you okay?” No answer. Photographs and papers littered the bed. And the big plastic magnifying glass that made him believe he could still see things.
“What are you looking for?”
“Who. From the war.”
Angie knew about his time in the Army. When she volunteered through church to read to the blind, he said his preferences were artists’ biographies and histories of WWII. Often they stopped reading and he told long tales of the liberation. But never mentioned a woman. Something too private, Angie gathered, but the alcohol coaxed it out.
“I had a photograph of her, but threw it out when I got married so Irene wouldn’t be jealous. So I drew her picture again and again, from memory, so my vision would never wane.
“This morning I couldn’t remember. And I can’t find a drawing.”
When Byron finally passed out, Angie went to the café where the artists hung out. $5 for my portrait. She came back and let him see it through his magnifier.
“Yes,” he smiled. “You found one.”
“I did,” she said.
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.
Perfect Vision by Catherine Russell
Bernice thought she looked like a damn owl. Her pupils seemed like walnuts behind the large oval lenses. However, on her meager retirement, they were the only new glasses she could afford. Swallowing her pride, she walked out the door for the first time and headed to the bank.
At the crosswalk, Bernice tapped her foot until the light changed and the stick figure indicated her right of way. With her head down, she crossed with the crowd, embarrassed by the gaudy plastic frames.
The gunk on the street didn’t attract her attention too much until she noticed a glowing trail leading into the bank. A tall, handsome man stood behind the help counter.
Following the path of light, she found herself staring into his impossible golden eyes. He beamed at her.
“Hello, Bernice,” he said, offering his hand.
“I’ve been waiting for you.”
She examined her glasses.
The pealing sound of his laughter filled the room as he took the lenses from her. “You don’t need these anymore,” he said. “You have perfect vision now.” Then he took her hand, spread his wings, and flew with her into the golden sunset of her life.
Catherine Russell is currently trying to publish her first novel. She writes short fiction, poetry, and learns more about the craft every day. More of her work can be found at her writing blog.
Storyboard by Stephen Hastings-King
For a time he documented his facial expressions.
He arranged the photographs on a storyboard.
With his finger he traced pathways through fields of possibilities.
Guiding himself with a hand mirror, he mimed the resulting sequences
and waited for something to fill the blank spaces behind.
But somehow there was no learning.
He thought: Perhaps someone else is narrating my life.
Stephen Hastings-King lives by a salt marsh in Essex Massachusetts where he makes constraints, works with prepared piano and writes entertainments of various kinds. Some of his sound work is available at www.clairaudient.org. Other material will be at www.post-reality.org. His writing has appeared in a wide range of journals including Sleepingfish and Black Warrior Review (this fall. stay tuned). This piece comes from an ongoing potential radio opera, Calamity in Clamville.
West Side of the Tracks by Matt DeVirgiliis
“And I promise that your tax dollars will never get diverted to the West side of the tracks again!”
The crowd, holding signs that read Otto for Congress, hoots and hollers. Campaign music blares as Otto steps off the stage – handshakes and hugs. Then his manager escorts him to the tour bus, complete with a flat screen and wet bar.
The bus heads west on Route 36, toward the next stop – Howell, New Jersey. After driving ten minutes, and after crossing the tracks, the bus gets a flat.
Otto gets off the bus and sees a young kid sitting on a stoop. Tattered shirt and worn-kneed jeans, the kid hops off the stoop and walks up to Otto. “Hey, mister. Wanna play a game?
Otto looks at the stoop and at the house behind it: shutters falling off, boarded windows, and graffiti – a building, not a home.
“You have to throw a rock and land it in that box over there,” explains the kid. His small hand points to a warped cardboard box on the corner of the sidewalk.
Otto turns to his manager. “We have to get more money over here,” says Otto.
“This is the West side of the tracks,” he says.
“All politicians break promises.”
The kid hands Otto a jagged rock. “Visitors shoot first,” says the kid. Otto tosses the rock and it lands wide to the right by about one foot. The kid sinks his shot right away. They play until dark.
Matt DeVirgiliis lives with his wife – and inspiration – in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. He has written and produced Emmy Award winning television series for The Discovery Channel and has also produced shows for TLC, HGTV, and Baby First Television. His short stories can be read at Fictionaut..
Perp Walk by Guy Yasko
– Why Poughkeepsie?
– No one expects you here. Besides, there are more mushrooms. Especially now, in this economy.
– People won’t sell unless they need to. Now they do. Up in the Catskills, they’re selling them to the dealers. They don’t usually. Complain all you want about bonus limits, but you’re eating better than ever. You want the chanterelles.
– Eyes on the essential — as always. The wine?
– That’s a tough one. I’m going to say go with a sherry.
– That’s a surprise from you, Roger.
– Just trying to keep you on your toes.
Shoptalk and tax advice ensue. A first course arrives. Then somewhere against the babel of conversation and the sound of knives on plates, a chair scrapes against the floor. The light arriving at the table decreases. More scraping sounds. All too far beyond the realm of the conceivable, all too quickly unfolding to process until much later, his eyes record Roger being kicked to the ground while hands push his face into the pasta. He is handcuffed and pulled toward the door.
Someone cackles: “Perp walk!”
A diner holds open the door for the ad hoc entourage. The newness of the situation allows illusions to linger briefly. The implications of his new situation arrive only with the first projectile, an apple. This
meaning is communicated not by the choice of projectiles or their state of decay, but by savage impacts and the sheer hatred in the velocity.
Guy Yasko went to Japan as a child and never came home. He makes a living in the intersection of Japan and the anglophone world, often as a translator.
Blindness by Matthew Hamilton
His first assignment was to enter the ghetto. His eighteen year old mind, easily and malevolently conditioned, urged him to rid the parasites that stole his father’s business, his family’s inheritance. His blue eyes, intelligent and strong, were full of rage. He kicked in the door of one house, then another, forced women to pack, men to dance, children to polish his boots. He pulled beards and called names, taunted. He pushed bodies, large and small, sick and healthy, young and old, in separate lines. He stuffed them in sweltering boxcars.
The train departed. A camp is the best solution, he thought. Gather and destroy, leave no trace. His crooked smile, like the badge on his arm, motivated his blindness.
Arriving at camp, yellow stars were replaced with stripped pajamas. Old men and women, the sick, children, were immediately marched into the forest. He volunteered to go. He was the first to squeeze the trigger. His memory of humanity was erased by angry metal.
He and his comrades soon realized that gas and fire were more efficient. Bony forms were herded into a dark room, promised a shower. Water transformed into a white cloud. There were screams. Fists pounded the door. Finally, the cloud hovered over the silence. The forms were piled into ovens, burned. He watched the smoke become one with the sky. His soul fought him to change, but unsuccessfully. He couldn’t see right from wrong, good from evil.
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.
Makeshift Optometry by Christian Bell
Mom was a makeshift optometrist. She made a few extra bucks working in the basement, keeping the neighborhood in glasses. She had an old phoropter she got at auction, cardboard boxes of used glasses bought in black market bulk. For awhile, she dabbled in home dentistry, but that involved too much screaming—it scared the dog and the seven cats and raised hairs on us kids too. But no matter what Mom did we thought she was amazing. She was sixty different women, feeding us meals, stitching our clothes when torn, keeping our house together. We would kneel on the couch and look out the window, see if Dad were ever coming home. She’d say, voice cracking, sorry, kids, your Dad and I—let’s just say my vision was bad before but now it’s improved. Once, crowded outside the kitchen out of view, we overheard her say, I’m not the other woman, sobbing to a friend over the phone, that’s the one woman I could never be.
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.
The Sand Wedges There by Walter Bjorkman
Him: You know, you really aren’t any taller, it’s more like an optical delusion.
Her: Illusion, you mean illusion, not ‘delusion’.
Him: No, I mean delusion. An illusion is a lie from the get-go, an oasis. With a delusion you trick your own mind.
Her: Thanks for clearing that up.
Him: Like your wedges.
Him: Well, a delusion is also more like the moon seeming larger near the horizon.
Her: But an illusion can be a delusion too.
Him: Not so sure – can an illusion be seen wrong?
Her: Say you saw a girl like me – you thought it an illusion, like an oasis, but it isn’t. It’s a delusion because you tricked your own mind into thinking you saw the girl.
Him: I see. A girl like you in the desert when others imagine palms. But an illusion can’t come from a delusion – because of the time line. The pic has to get to the mind first.
Her: So an illusion comes from being delirious not delusional.
Her: So that means my wedges are real, and delude no one. They just are.
Him: Ah – a self-illusion is a delusion – you are getting in too deep for me here, my brain hurts.
The moon slowly grew larger as it began its descent to the horizon, the desert night’s relief soon to end.
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.
Double Vision by John Wentworth Chapin
Angela knew the sensation she caused as she approached Jeanne’s casket carrying a white rose; it would agonize everyone at the gravesite to watch the identical twin approach. The girls had always been together, from moments after conception and first meiosis till 28 years later when the elevator decapitated Jeanne as she struggled to extricate herself from the doors, Angela at her side. Now the survivor faced the perished, those two identical faces brought together one last time. She knew the increased weeping from the folding chairs on the grass was as much for her, remaining in the world alone without her constant companion, as it was for Jeanne – always one life, one identity, one half. To conceive of them separated was unthinkable to every wet-eyed soul at the burial.
Angela imagined tomorrow: free for the first time. Neither had ever dared let the other out of her sight from overwhelming horror that one might secure an advantage, might get something that the other didn’t have. She dropped the rose on the polished cherrywood and prayed for there to be no God, for the stories to be just that: stories. The possibility that Jeanne had an afterlife refueled in Angela’s heart the furious hatred that had burned there bright for 28 years.
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.
Twins by Michelle Elvy
When we turned 50, my twin sister and I inherited money from an uncle. It was a modest amount, enough for me to enroll in a night course at the local college and to buy a new pair of glasses, not the $20 frames at JC Penney but an obscenely expensive designer pair which my made me feel sexy and smart, and which my boyfriend told me to keep on when we made wild rodeo love that night.
Some weeks later, my sister called. “You gotta come visit, see what I purchased with the help of Uncle Robbie’s money!” She sounded excited, so I drove across the state line the following weekend. I rang the bell and adjusted my new glasses, sure she’d notice them right away. She threw open the door with her characteristic enthusiasm and greeted me with a new set of D’s, maybe even Double-D’s. I hugged her, mindful not to squish her new acquisitions, and followed her in, my mind responding in overdrive: Good Lord, Patricia, what have you done? I am reading Foucault, have a copy of Discpline and Punish right here in my bag. Wanna read it? No, of course you don’t. I wonder if my $300 left over would get me a downpayment on a set of those. I couldn’t afford D’s of course (and they are ridiculous), but C’s might be quite sensible…
“You have new glasses!” Patricia interrupted.
“The better to see you with,” I replied.
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.
The Editors of 52|250 wish to thank Bernard Heise for his photo this week. Gokart Track was taken at the playground on the malecón in Ensenada Mexico.