I wish she would have waited until we got home from Florida to tell me what was bugging her. She pouted the entire plane ride down there. At first I thought she was unhappy with the amount of orange juice they gave her on the plane. “Why can’t they just give me the whole can?” Then I thought she was annoyed with the size of the towel at the hotel. “It’s too small! It barely covers my body.” Then I thought she was mad because they didn’t give her enough melted butter for her lobster. “I’m going to soak it all up with the first dip!”
There was a man sitting in the sky. Mum said we’d have the beach to ourselves so I was a bit cross when I saw him. He had a bright blue kite-thing that was really shiny underneath. Mum called it iridescence (she spelled it for me). It looked like the inside of the shell I found last summer, creamy and smooth. I wondered where he could have come from because we hadn’t seen him from the car. When I said he’d flown across from America mum told me not to be daft. But that’s where ad is and he flies back here.
Under the big blue sky, even in the dead of winter, I was not changed by the structure of modern life outside of my tribe. Like any other day, the felt was unloaded from the oxen and wrapped around the yurt timber skeleton to ward off the chill of early winter. Mountains loomed in the distance, preluded by the rolling hills. They were a constant reminder that my tribe was still strong. Yet even as I worked, I felt something change, a tear in our way of life.
My father felt this too. As I continued to work, wondering what this strange sensation was, he looked off into the distance, toward the trees, like he could see something coming. “Fewer will come this time,” he said. He spoke softly to himself, but I could hear his gruff voice carry on the cold breeze. There was a particular tone of grief to which I could only relate to the death of the khans.
I read all the books you left behind. What? I couldn’t help it. You had, by then, stopped answering my calls and it was the closest thing I knew to hearing your voice again. Pathetic, I know, to think that I could find some part of you in a line by Carver or Munro. But, by then, I was not thinking clearly and each new sentence seemed to shine like a clue that, if studied hard enough, might lead me back to you.
I read them all in public, in coffee shops and cafes and on all those little benches scattered through downtown that nobody ever sits on. My arms would get sore from the angle at which I held them, an angle designed for you, just in case you happened to walk by. I wanted the sunlight to fall just so and the cover to look as lovely as an outstretched hand. I wanted those books to bring you back.
By Aaron White
Your naked feet suspended sugary off the edge of the porch swing. It was painted as white as your skin. Your head rested in my lap. I tied knots in your honeysuckle-scented hair and read aloud from the newspaper. Somewhere in North Carolina, turkey vultures swarmed a quiet neighborhood and preyed on pets. We laughed and speculated neat squares of yard sporting tall, trimmed trees overtaken by black coagulations as big as children.
I was reading Ellery Queen in a coffee shop when I noticed an old man, bib-overalls, flannel shirt, stocking cap, watching me. I nodded a greeting. He smiled and said, “Don’t live it up so much you can never live it down,” and returned to his sports page.
“Sounds like you’ve been there,” I said.
“Damn right. Got scars to prove it.”
“Life can be tough.” I don’t know why I said it.
I paint myself a new face just for the occasion. The woman pouting back in the mirror looks like a show girl, a rainbow of the pale old me. My anxiety is flawlessly concealed under a blend of Estee Lauder foundation; usually I’d have left it at that, no frills, just me and my nude skin. Pascal adores me bare. But I’ve got this compulsion to mask my face, paint over the nakedness with rich, velvety cosmetics to make myself look new. It’s quarter to. They’re due at eight. I feel very calm inside; it’s strange because going out anywhere usually gives me butterflies, but my hands are steady holding the make-up applicators.
Dan Rhodes is a renowned English writer and the author of nine books including the flash fiction collections Anthropology: And a Hundred Other Stories (2000) and Marry Me (2013). In 2010 he was awarded the E.M. Forster Award by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His new book is entitled When the Professor Got Stuck in the Snow (2014). He was interviewed by Flash Fiction Magazine contributor Miles White.
MW: Thanks for talking to me. I think you probably don’t like being interviewed. Is it annoying?
DR: Supremely. It feels like being hauled into the headmaster’s office for a bollocking. I suppose it’s flattering to be asked so I tend to accept invitations, but when it comes down to it I find myself dying on the inside, particularly when being asked questions like the next one.
By Elisha Wagman
Once, there was a woman who posted photographs online of every outfit she wore. She put up pictures of pencil skirts paired with sheer, silk blouses, high-waisted jeans with cropped sweaters, and ponchos pulled over patterned leggings.
Quirky captions accompanied every photo.
“Watch out Mrs. Florrick!”
“Urban turban chic.”
“I’m a homey in my hoodie.”
They stood brow to brow, brown to white, black to black, he supporting her elbows, she playing her limp light fingers over his collarbone, and how he “l’adored,” he said, the dark aroma of her hair blending with crushed lily stalks, Turkish cigarettes and the lassitude that comes from ‘lass.’
“No, no, don’t,” she said, I must wash, quick-quick, Ada must wash; but for yet another immortal moment they stood embraced in the hushed avenue, enjoying as they had never enjoyed before, the “happy-forever” feeling at the end of never-ending fairy tales.
(Great flash fictioneers of the past… if they did but know it.)