Welcome! Here is this week’s Flash, posted in the order received.
The theme is Cigarette Smoke in the Car.
Mr. Burton by Kaston Griffin
Henry Burton chucked the whiskey bottle out the farmhouse door as he came in, aiming loosely for the glass bin, and plodded into the kitchen for another. Briskly, he patted the cigarette smoke from his jacket, snatched a bottle off the cheap end of the rack, and staggered upstairs to check on the baby, who slept with one eye open.
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.
All Credit Rescinded by Susan Tepper
His ad in the personals specified female non-smoker. So why was he lighting up? I hate cigarettes, all smoking.
“Why are you smoking?”
“It relaxes me while I drive.” He takes a long drag saying, “I hope you like seafood.”
Seafood? Like shrimp? Is the guy out of his tree?
I clear my throat. “Have you been watching the news lately?”
“It’s a downer.” He flicks his ash in the ash tray. “I never watch it.”
Ah! He uses the ash tray. So this is a regular habit, not just from nervousness on a blind date, which he might have gotten a few points for. All credit rescinded.
“What about the radio?”
“I’m a CD kind of guy.” He laughs.
“So you are unaware of the oil spill? That’s why you’re taking me to a seafood restaurant?”
“Hey, hon, isn’t that a tad paranoid?” He takes the turn sharply.
I pull on my short skirt wishing I had worn something less revealing. “Paranoid?”
“Yeah. You can order lobster. Or salmon.”
I give him a sideways glance. He does have a point. Lobster and salmon are available in seafood restaurants. It was the smoking that started me questioning his motives. And he did lie in his ad.
“You lied in your ad. You specifically said female non-smoker who likes skiing.”
“Oh, that. The newspaper mixed up the ads. That was another guy. Mine said a female who is up for anything and everything.”
“Stop this car, I’m getting out.”
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.
A Thousand Words by Derin J Attwood
I first noticed her skin, fine porcelain white, beautiful beyond belief. Her eyes were deep, her lashes thick and long. Her pale skin was offset by red lipstick and matching nail polish. Her dark hair was sleek, touching her shoulders and curling slightly. She had presence.
She sat nonchalantly drumming her elegant fingers on the steering wheel of the car. Maybe it was a trick of the late afternoon sun, but she seemed wreathed in mist, delicate, an angelic effect. There was something about her.
I had a desire to look again, to drink in the scene, to capture it forever. A picture is worth a thousand words, and this was the picture. I felt it would take every one of them to describe the scene before me. It was overwhelming except … in a harsh reality, the scene changed.
In a casual flick of her fingers, a cigarette butt flew out of the window to land in the gravel by the front wheel. Smoke dribbled from her nose and mouth.
It gave the effect of a bull I had seen one frosty morning, snorting in the icy air. Ugly – its anger growing exponentially, seemingly irritated by the steam from his nose, as unsightly from him as it was from her.
Derin J. Atwood was born and raised in New Zealand. She has been telling stories all her life, first to her younger brothers and then to her own children. She now writes novels and short tories. Derin lives in Whangarei with an adoring husband and a small green car called Kermit.
BARBARA by Marcus Speh
This is my last cigarette, said the serious writer more to himself than to anyone else: he’d pulled the shutters down, switched off the phone and sat in front of an empty desk inhaling. This doesn’t have to be your last one, said the cigarette, and the writer was surprised at the sexy voice. He felt like giving it a strong name, like Barbara. I think you’re panicking, he said to her. She sighed, blowing smoke, tickling his throat with memories of the many moments when smoking had given him unearthly pleasures. There’s nobody like me, Barbara hummed, nobody so forgiving and so attentive to your deepest, darkest needs. The serious writer nodded, conscious of his loss, and crushed her on the last breath.
Marcus Speh lives in Berlin and writes all over the world. He’s got nothing to flawnt and is hard at work on a novel. He’s been interviewed in Voices and he has created and murdered Finnegan Flawnt who’s published flash fiction at elimae, kill author, metazen, bull and other online venues.
Cigarette(I just happened to look over) by Darryl Price
I don’t know why but it struck me
as something somehow very cruel
to see, this getting redder by
the second expanding ball of
fire like a hot saturn with its
many orbiting rings of intertwining
smoke keeping it from
completely exploding out into
the rest of the universe.
And then the flashing half lit face
like a black and white photo unevenly
torn from the pages
of a fashion magazine, or
a plaster head partly smashed and
hollow on the one side.If there
were eyes they were hidden completely
by a giant pod shaped hat
with something resembling boulders
or flowers in tied-together
balls cascading down the darker
side and into the canyons
of her car seat like a story
broken and silenced forever.
The sliced slanted shoulders like something
worn away and polished by
a hundred years of powerful
and ancient winds now keeping her
chin in precarious balance
by an act of sheer will. And then
the light changed.And she disappeared.
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.
Prince Charming by Kevin Myrick
“Would you please open the window?” Marcy brushed the gray hairs from her eyes, which watered from the second-hand smoke. All she wanted was fresh air.
The window slowly lowered and the chilled autumn air hit her face like a splash of water. She laughed at the memory of the time she woke her brother with a ice water bath.“What’s so funny?”
“My brother, you should meet him. You’d like him a lot.”
George said nothing, and the moment was gone. It seemed at every turn of the evening George was missing their moments together. Maybe he thought she was too old. She should have dyed her hair.
Then he slid his free hand up her skirt along her thigh. His hand was like a cold, coarse stone against her velvet thigh. She didn’t like men with rough hands. She brushed his advance away and pushed her skirt back down.
They could have heard a pin drop in the car for the rest of the ride to her house, where she looked at him one last time and found nothing admirable, nothing memorable about him. She was glad they didn’t share too many memories. She would quickly forget he ever existed.
Marcy stood cold on her sidewalk and watched the tail lights disappear behind her. Her guard dropped when she finally walked through the door and asked anyone who was listening through her tears where she could find her prince charming?
Kevin Myrick is a writer working at a small town newspaper in Northwest Georgia. He is the author of one novel, Stuck in the Elevator. His work has appeared in The Auburn Circle, on Fictionaut and on his website. He plans to release an e-book story collection “The Book of Daniel” in October.
UNFILTERED by Linda Simoni-Wastila
Winter I hated the most. Winter, and days when rain pelted the ground in sheets too thick for space. Smoke curled, a yellow tsunami steam-rolling from the front seat towards the back where I sat with my sister. I made myself tiny as I could, imagining I was Houdini shackled underwater, holding my nose and practicing my escape. An hour into the drive I’d crack my window and sit on my knees to suck the moist air trickling in like a thief. Mother would turn around, the Pall Mall a fiery sixth finger. “Shut the goddamn window, Missy. It’s cold outside.” The smoke never bothered my sister; she wallowed in the fumes, a gill-breathing dragon. When we arrived at our destination, I’d tumble from the car, refilling myself with pure oxygen for the return trip.
Later, my sister and Mother shared a special intimacy, talking on the patio and tapping ashes into coffee cans. I’d sit inside the cool kitchen and watch from the window. When Mother died last year, felled by a stroke induced by her pack-a-day habit, my sister kept smoking and started running charity 5ks. In her last race, the contestants lined up, waiting for the gun; I watched from the sidelines. The air smelled electric, reminding me of riding with rolled-down windows, the shimmering wind pummeling us in a furnace blast. I remembered those summer months and wondered if they saved me from worse — though what could be crappier than living life tethered to an oxygen concentrator?
Linda Simoni-Wastila lives in Baltimore and blogs at LeftBrainWrite.
Drive, you sd, for christ’s sake by Ryder Collins
This weekend was supposed to be about intellect and soul-mating, but, like all others, it’s turned into body and longing. You sit in my passenger seat, and I let you smoke in my wee car with the windows rolled down.
We’ve come from a wedding, a fairy ring, a carnival, an executioning, anything that’s spectacle, and you sat beside me that whole time and we sweated together and you made sure your leg grazed mine but only every now and then.
I would’ve had sex with you every time I felt your leg against mine.
You say you were imagining me giving you head at the altar, on a mushroom, a ferris wheel, the electric chair.
I would have done you but I started thinking about love and hate, about the hair on my toes, my 70s bush, my weak teeth, my ability to fall for the right cock and the wrong guy. You could be a hipster; you attach yourself to the right people and feed feed feed. Everyone wants to introduce you to others.
I want to introduce you to the priest, the barker, the Faerie Queen, the executioner. I want to show you god, show you magic, con and kill you.
Or maybe, I want to lock you in my car and just drive.
Ryder Collins has work published or forthcoming in Monkeybicycle, Dogzplot, DIAGRAM,Juked, and Wigleaf, among others. She has a chapbook of poetry, Orpheus on toast, forthcoming from Imaginary Friend Press. Her sometimes neglected bloggy can be found at Big Northern Girl Goes Down.
Up in Smoke by Elizabeth Kate Switaj
The car had always been the one place he could smoke, at least as far as Jenna knew. She knew when he got up in the middle of the night that he was going to sit in their little yellow Subaru with a pack of American Spirits, even if he did come back with fake blood trickling down his cheek. At least, she hoped it was fake.
She had never told him she knew. His elaborate plot to make her think he’d become a vampire was too amusing: the ever-darker glasses, the refusal to eat at Italian restaurants because garlic upset him—eventually he even stopped going outside during the day and had thick drapes installed in his home office.
And she was grateful now that she had allowed him that one haven in which to smoke. It meant she could slip outside when the insomnia got to her, curl up in the driver’s seat, and smell his last remaining trace.
She was grateful, too, that in the note he left before hanging himself in that darkened office, he had asked to be cremated. It gave her something to argue about with his very old-school Catholic mother. A welcome distraction from grief.
Besides, there was something nice about having him in a box in the glove compartment. Smoke and ashes in the little car they had driven from California to Juneau. That would have to be enough from now on.
Since completing her MFA at New College of California in 2004, Elizabeth Kate Switaj has published Magdalene & the Mermaids (Paper Kite Press), Shanghai (Gold Wake Press), and The Broken Sanctuary: Nature Poems (Ypolita Press). She is currently an intern for Irish Pages and a doctoral candidate at Queen’s University Belfast. For more information visit www.elizabethkateswitaj.net.
Where there’s smoke by Catherine Russell
Ralph and Gary reeled away from the tapping at the driver’s side window. Fumbling for the unseen latch, Gary opened the door. Thwack!
Horrified, he stepped out and over the body of a prostrate cop. The officer held his head and peered at Gary through great billows of smoke that poured from car’s interior. Sitting up, he glanced back at the rock – annointed crimson by his head. “What the hell did you do that for?” he asked. From the passenger side, Ralph stumbled out, waving his arms to disapate the clouds.
“Just having a smoke, dude,” said Gary. Sweet aroma saturated his clothing.
“From cigarettes! I swear!” said Ralph.
The officer closed his eyes and rubbed the lids. “Yeah, right. Why did you assault me?”
Befuddled and confused, Gary asked, “Assault?”
“You slammed me with the door.”
The giggling that ensued annoyed the crap out of Officer Bart. “Oh man!” said Gary. “No, dude, my windows don’t work.”
Wobbling, the policeman stood up and brushed himself off. He told the two men, “Okay, turn around and spread ‘em. You’re under arrest.”
The two obeyed, snickering uncontrollably. The officer read them their rights. When he asked, “Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?” Gary turned, face suddenly serious. “Does this mean we can’t take our munchies with us?”
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.
Bag by Matt Potter
He had a C & A shopping bag, sweet sleepy eyes, and white socks above blue sneakers.
The U-Bahn sped on for Gesundbrunnen and I grabbed the overhead rail, flexing my biceps and easing my pelvis in his direction.
Behind me as I flipped the door handle to get off, sleepy eyes caught mine in the reflected glass. Definitely Deutscher.
No chance for Hallo, we sank into an unlit station doorway and he fumbled through my shorts. Nicht hier, I said. And followed him in the dark to a nearby park.
Swatting bendy boughs, striding through the thicket all purpose and haste, the C & A shopping bag rustled as he tossed it on the ground. Kneeling in front of me and unzipping my fly, Hast du einen Partner? I asked.
A breeze blew. Passers passed by. A gate clanged, feet shuffling as they followed a footpath.
And I wondered if his purchase, nestled amongst the dirt – perhaps an inexpensive t-shirt or two? – was for him or the partner he might have.
I groaned. And zipped my fly.
Danke schön, I said, so perfectly polite in the English language way.
He wiped his smile, grabbed the C & A shopping bag, and left.
As I walked back to the station, I caught him lighting a cigarette and exhaling as, getting into a car, he kissed a man on the lips and began talking with great animation.
Matt Potter is an Australian-born writer who has spent the last two years living between Australia and Germany (and particularly Berlin), perhaps following the summer. Also a social worker and an English language teacher, Matt is inspired by the discipline of others and their sense of enjoyment, and wishes both would rub off on him.
Body Double by Matthew A. Hamilton
John woke up in the dark and the dark was moving. He was blindfolded and tied up. He heard men talking, the car swerving. He smelled cigarette smoke.
He didn’t make a sound, feigned unconsciousness. His head hurt. He assumed that his future was over. “Was I drugged?” he thought. “Hit over the head? Why? Had they found out that I was the one who killed Tommy? Yea, that must be it. But how? I’m the best.”
When the car turned on to a dirt road, he began to panic. From his experience, the work he was in, he knew that dirt roads always lead to empty graves and hit men wearing black gloves, black suits. Pebbles, kicked up by the tires, clinked the back bumper. The smell of dust poured through the air conditioner. His palms were sweating. His breath was heavy with fear. He shifted in his seat, tried to speak, but was slapped in the face, told to shut the fuck up.
The car stopped. Doors opened, shut. He heard deep, mumbled voices, grunts, through the window, but he didn’t recognize any of them. He only made out a few words: money, escape, and one phrase: hide the body.
He was pulled from the car, forced to his knees. The blindfold was removed.
“Tommy!” John screamed, just before his head transformed into red marmalade.
Tommy took a drag on his cigarette, got in the car, waited for his men to hide the body.
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.
Rust by Damian Pullen
“What have they done with it?”
“Looks better, don’t you think?”
She smiles. She is serious. The whole front yard has been cleared out. The grass is short and the bushes have been cut right back. It looks bare.
“He was never going to do anything with it. They gave Mum $50 for scrap.”
I stare at the empty driveway as the engine cools, ticking softly. There is the darker outline of the car on the concrete in front of us, and four marks where the tyres had slowly disintegrated over the years.
“No, come on – what’s up?”
“It’s just a bit of a shock, to see it gone. It was… part of us. Right?”
She looks at me, then laughs. That annoying cackle, like her mother’s.
Staring at her suddenly unfamiliar face I wonder: was it us in that musty, magical car? Was thatour childhood of high-speed police chases, grisly auto wrecks, emergency childbirths on the back seat, endless space missions, doomed road trips across the Sahara? Then stolen cigarettes, shared bottles of beer, our first French kiss and… that night. All of it so vivid and exquisite. The cold leather seats, the smell of old carpet, the sagging roof lining…
“Didn’t it mean anything to you?”
“No! I was actually ashamed of the rusty old heap. This place was always so untidy compared to yours. Come on, let’s go in. Mum will be waiting.”
“You go ahead. I just want one more cigarette.”
Damian Pullen was born on May 16th 1968 but many more important things happened on this day in history. For example, the Campbells Soup company introduced SpaghettiOs (1965), Tony Kakko, Finnish singer, was born (1975), and “Bodacious” the bull died (2000). Bodacious was a legendary bull. Only six men ever completed their professional rodeo rides on this 1800 lbs. of raging Charbray bull. Bodacious was the only bull so feared he was retired to protect the lives of bull riders everywhere.
Victor has a Night Out by Martin Brick
This is the scent of smoke lingering in the car,
which came from the cigarette,
held in the long elegant fingers of the redhead,
who would not have gotten into a 97 Civic,
but would get into a new BMW z4,
which is exactly why Victor took the BMW,
though his father was out of town on business and hid the keys.
This is the scent of smoke that was easily detected,
because the car smelled of air-freshener,
which Victor simply took from the bathroom and sprayed the shit out of the interior,
to hide the fact that an elegant redhead lit a cigarette in his father’s car,
which he was using on the sly.
A simpler scenario would be that Victor himself was smoking,
which he might try,
or one of his knuckle-headed friends might try,
but certainly not in the BMW,
because he would be too afraid,
and so it must have been something so amazing,
which could override all mechanisms of fear,
which would offer rewards possibly justifying any punishment.
And Victor’s father remembered the scent of cigarette smoke,
and remembered the redheaded girls at the bars of his youth,
who would never get into his Plymouth Volare,
because there were boys with Chargers and Mustangs,
and if Victor had a chance to be one of those boys for a night,
to feel that rush,
who was he to deny it.
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.
Black Square by Stephen Hastings-King
She says: I don’t know what happened to my little Jean-Pierre. I was getting water about a hundred feet of curious hermetic stillness from where I left him playing. I turned in time to watch him disappear into the black square of the world.
Inside the television monitor positioned next to the window children were being declared orphans based on photographs. The idea breaks into concentric rings produced on the high tide surface of the marsh by the rain. My sightline follows a radiating wave.
Across the water a red version of my car floats in the air above the trees. It is tethered to the ground with a yellow line. Sitting in the passenger seat, Jean-Pierre smokes cigarettes and waits. He is careful to minimize his movements. He closes his eyes.
She says: I don’t know what happened to my little Jean-Pierre. I was getting water about a hundred feet from where I left him playing. I turned in time to watch him disappear.
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.
Good Morning by Guy Yasko
A figure in a dirty shirt and pyjamas puts a sandaled foot tentatively
through the tobacconist’s broken window. He holds a coffee pot in one
hand, a cigarette in the other. He joins a fire-tender in the circle of
chairs besides the barricade. Nods and glances suffice; it is as yet too
early to talk. Others join them as the cicadas begin their chorus. One
of the newcomers distributes mugs.
The barricade is a row of cars on their sides. The cars are all black,
charred, but only one still smokes from its glassless side window. The
source of the smoke is a growing pile of cigarette butts within the
car. From time to time, one of the coffee drinkers flicks a butt through
the open window.
The cicadas grow louder.
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.
Simple Parameters by Christian Bell
She wrote a list of the things she wasn’t supposed to do. Stay out past midnight without calling home first. Smoke cigarettes in the car. Drink alcohol more potent than 80 proof. Mom had died two years before so she had promised dad—alone, not dating, lost in mathematical theories and shows about cars—that she’d follow his simple rules as she finished high school, enrolled in community college. I was young once, he said, I know you will do certain things. These are just some simple parameters. Take any drugs beyond pot. Drive after having more than one drink. Be on the west side of town after dark. He told her that mom died from an undetected heart defect while staying overnight with her sister, but she knew that mom was having an affair, that she overdosed on heroin in a seedy motel room while her lover did nothing. Dad had hunched shoulders, small sad eyes peering through wire-rimmed glasses, a self-clutching demeanor like a pastor who knew he was losing. She was at best a C student in math. Car shows made her eyes tear with drowsiness. She kept the list in her purse, never showed it to friends. If she knew her words would not break him, she would say, it should be stricter, not so permissive. But she didn’t. She nodded while he talked combinatorics and the Poincaré conjecture, drifted asleep during a history of sedans. She kept the list and adhered.
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.
Happy Birthday by Randal Houle
“I don’t want smoke in my car.” I say.
“I don’t care what you want. This is about what I want.” She holds the fragile fag delicately. It burns and she puffs. She leans back and exhales, aiming at the small opening at the top of the passenger side window. Two months pregnant, we were nine days from our wedding date.
“I don’t really want you smoking.” I put enough conviction in my voice to rattle myself. My cheeks flush. There would be repercussions for my attempt to take charge. There were always repercussions.
“Don’t bother me with this, right now. I’m enjoying myself.” She closed her eyes and exhaled into the ceiling. I pull the car into a small parking lot.
“Don’t bother me… It’s not just you anymore.”
She glares at me. “I’m not having the baby. And we’re not getting married. So just leave.”
The words are like little daggers. I’ve heard them before. The sharp blades penetrate the skin where scabs formed over previous attacks. The eyes in my rearview mirror are not my own, they are of some other man. He looks back at me and pleads for release.
“Fine.” I take the keys out of the ignition and drop them to the seat as I leave. I look back after half a block. Blue smoke billows out the passenger side. I keep walking.
Randall Houle writes in the Pacific Northwest (of the USA). He is VP-Programs for Willamette Writers based in Portland, Oregon.
Wraith of Wraiths by Walter Bjorkman
“OK if I grab a smoke?”
“I like to smoke, not with cigarettes, but with chicks, hot chicks.”
I inch as close to the door on the right and as far from the driver as I can, have to get outta here, but how? I’m hitching into Salt Lake City for the night, and on this desolate run from Pocatello, there are no excuses.
An empty boat trailer rattles unexplained behind the monster Olds.
The smoke trails up over my head and out the crack in the window; if only it could carry me with it, out of this nightmare.
“You can close the window if you are cold. I like to be in a smoky room. With hot chicks.”
“Yes. Even if I die trying.”
Did this specter add “and take you with me”? I heard it, even if unspoken.
The deliberately slow words are ominous, spoken the way a wraith might call me to death. I get lost in the smoky haze of the shadow of gray memories protecting me, but the voice comes again.
The stranger pulls into a gas station in the center of town.
“Need to get gas, can’t stop on the way back.”
I lam off down an alley, go around back to have another Marlboro, making sure I cant be seen from the road, trying to not think about why he won’t be able to stop on the way back.
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.
Separation by John Wentworth Chapin
He sniffed the air. “Somebody’s been smoking in my car,” he said. The increasingly furrowed lines on his forehead made her stomach clench. He shook his head in disbelief. “I am going to try to keep it together, but…damnit! In one move you…you lie to me, you disrespect me, you disobey me, you make me look stupid.” He slammed his fist against the steering wheel for emphasis. “You just gonna sit there?”
“Daddy… I–” She faltered. She wanted to tell him he was wrong, but he wasn’t. Allen had been in the car last night indeed, smoking even though she asked him not to, running his fingers up her skirt even though she asked him not to. “It was me. I… sometimes I have a cigarette.”
He pulled over onto the soft shoulder of the road and brought it to a stop. “Don’t lie to me. Get out,” he barked. She flinched when he reached across her and opened her door. “You think I’d hit you?” he said, dumbfounded. She was silent.
He clenched the wheel with both hands and closed his eyes. “Don’t you lie to me,” he whispered. He took a long, deep breath and then opened his own door and hopped out, leaving her there with the engine running and both doors wide open. He walked ahead on to church, alone, his shoulders shaking. As she watched him go, she thought of Allen.
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.
Bedtime Story by Michelle Elvy
Let me tell you, child, the story of how your father became your father.
Not the story of how his sperm crashed into my egg, how mad passion made a sweet sticky union that turned two into one and then in a split second became three. That is a good story, too, but this one is better.
We were driving down Highway 1, me at the wheel and him dialing the radio. Windows down, heatwave hitting us hard. Supertramp: Give a Little Bit. He turned it up, lit a cigarette, put it to my lips like he always did, his sweet salty fingers so close I wanted a nibble. When I turned my head slightly and said No he looked almost hurt. Then I said the thing I’d been hiding for two weeks: I’m pregnant. I couldn’t read his face, and the telling of this simple truth was much like the rest of our relationship: unplanned and hot. I saw the slight slump of his shoulders that accompanied his bent head, his black Oriole’s cap shielding his eyes. And then he stubbed out his Camel unfiltered, exhaled long and slow. He took the pack from his Tshirt pocket, turned it over, studied it as if it might reveal some magic wisdom: Run away! Marry her! Find another girl! Then he pulled the remaining cigarettes from the pack, and, one by one, tossed them out the window. Turned Supertramp louder, cupped his hand round my sweaty neck, and grinned.
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.
52|250 thanks Cecelia Wyatt for the art this week.