Category Archives: Flash Fiction Feature

Amanda Marbais
You refuse to go to your doctor for months. You and your partner treat this like most projects, with enthusiasm that can only be dampened by people in authority. Because it’s about the body, you embrace disassociation – treating your guts like a meteor suspended in the rafters of your garage. You speak respectfully, but you hate it. You wait for people to leave, lock your doors, climb the rafters, straddle it, lick it, measure it, sniff it. Get a sense before anyone else can. You know. You just know you will get annoyed with those who try to relate and those who assume you’re seconds from flying apart. You spend a lot of time on the Internet, more than is healthy, but then realize that part seems normal. The Internet becomes a limb. Blood Initially, you enjoy the hospital phlebotomist’s crooning, which distracts as he siphons a quart of blood. He’s butchering a ‘70s ballad from a band like Boston, Foreigner, Styx, maybe Air Supply. He’s forcing your name, and it’s a guttural name. It’s Germanic. Yes. Your name. His mouth seems very wet. You touch his arm when you can no longer bare it. He switches to Veronica, which is not your name. There’s a relief it’s no longer about you. When you bob your head, he mirrors it, not allowing you that moment. Exams Every hospital object is shaped like a Popsicle. They shouldn’t leave you and your partner alone, because you both have a dark sense of humor. It has bonded you. In minutes, you each take turns pretending the exam light is a microphone, a strap-on, an air guitar. Large rolling devices have graphics of human torsos and a sick face surrounded by stink lines. Your cheeks are hot from laughing, but you feel sad. Everything seems like a psychological experiment. Cords are hooked into plates, are soldered to coils, are screwed into pegboards, are wound around lights, are gathered in zip ties, are plugged into nothing. People’s narratives reveal holes. Doctors use gravitas, yet say “if only I had a crystal ball” and you realize science isn’t a panacea, and it’s like the moment you decided maybe God wasn’t real. X-Rays When they finally light your lungs, your liver, your spleen, your uterus, your vas deferens, it’s like strobing a party, a snapshot of private dance moves. Your lungs are sized differently. One advances, one retreats, in butterfly kicks. Your tubes split, one points to the ceiling, the other to the floor, like disco. You think of the grade school health chart, a body turned away to cough, split open and pink, everything displayed in place. No mystery. But, you feel certain if they cut you, it would resemble the deer in hunting class, a mess of bubbling guts, that made you turn away and cry, while the rest of your class watched and everyone in your high school, even the parents, said you were sensitive. And, you are, sensitive. After Sometimes you want to run off so no one will bother you. You lay in the bathtub and take joy in scoffing at science, you know, with a large S. You used to love science, because it felt safe, unable to be swayed. Maybe you and your body have made a pact to defy everything that can be measured and quantified, and maybe that’s okay, because it’s something you did together. You hate that you love your body so much. Then, you let your submerged self rise, your fat like tiny islands, and for once you forget about it though it’s in front of you. Being alone is a release. Part of its sweetness is the knowledge that soon enough you’ll need another person. — Flash fiction from Portland Review's Spring 2016 i [...]
Tamar Telian
I went to my first wedding at twenty-one. A former best friend was getting married to her high school sweetheart. I was dreading it. She stopped spending time with me when she started dating her husband-to-be. She called me two months before her wedding and said, “It would mean a lot if you came.” I didn’t know what was expected of me, so the day before the wedding, I bought myself a blue polka dot dress from Ross and two mixing bowls from Macy’s for the couple. I even paid for the fancy department store gift wrapping. The ceremony was in a small garden just outside a country club. I showed up just as the couple was exchanging vows under a flower-wreathed arch. They kissed, there was applause, and then each attendee was handed a small box tied with a lavender ribbon. The priest held up his arms until the applause died down. “May God’s love lift this couple, lift us all,” he said, and then asked us to open our boxes. I opened mine, hoping for chocolate. Instead, a large white monarch flew out. It fluttered in front of me for half a second before joining the hundred or so other butterflies that were now ascending above the wedding party. It was something out of a Disney movie, one that had the entire wedding party sighing and craning their necks back to watch the kaleidoscope. Even I was taken aback by how romantic it was. As the monarchs flew beyond our sight, I looked down at the box in my hand. Inside, crumpled against a corner, was another butterfly. It too was black and white, and its wings twitched with its repeated attempts to fly. The priest started directing people towards the reception hall, but I walked over to the line of bushes that encircled the garden. I gently slid the butterfly into my palm, cradling it until it stopped moving. I don't know if insects feel, but I wondered if the monarch felt anything as the world opened and the other butterfly flew out towards it. I wondered if the other butterfly looked back. I placed the monarch on top of a bush, and I went to join the reception. Since then, I’ve been to about twenty weddings over the course of eight years. Farm weddings. A steampunk wedding. A wedding on a ship. A wedding with a 700 person guest list, a cigar bar, and a room exclusively for chocolate-flavored desserts. I’ve been in a few bridal parties. At some point during every wedding, usually when the dance floor has dwindled down to the bridal party and the really drunk, I think about the butterfly, its desperate movements. I wonder why I flinch a little each time an aunt saunters over, raises her champagne glass, and says, “It’ll be your turn next.” — Flash fiction from Portland Review's Spring 2016 i [...]
Danny Judge
Me and my friends, we’re animals. We spit curse foam at the mouth—fuck this, fuck that, fuck you. Listen for a second. Don’t go away yet. Me and my friends, we’re reckless. We die young. We don’t care what you think who you are who you think you are what you think. We don’t care what you think. Wait. Wait just a minute. Me and my friends, we get it. We get it all and we hate it. We’re not dumb and we’re not naïve. We’re the neo avant garde of fed-up punching bags in Small Town, Nowhere. Listen a minute. Stay there a minute. Me and my friends, we’re animals. They’re animals, these guys. They foam at the mouth—fuck this fuck that fuck you... Don’t go yet. Me and my friends, they’re animals. They’ll die young. They don’t care what you think. Stay. Don’t leave yet. My friends, they’re animals. Take me with. My friends, they’re animals, they’re animals, animals. If you won’t stay then get lost ‘cause— you’ll get hurt get lost get hurt stay with them get hurt stay here get hurt get lost or else 'cause lost cause because —me and my friends, we’re animals: you’re liable to get hurt. --- --- Flash fiction from Portland Review's Spring 2016 i [...]
Glenn Shaheen
A house on Oak Street burned down. We took many photos of it going up in flames at lunchtime, and it was only later, after posting the photos online for comments from friends and strangers that we found out it was a murder-suicide. We thought it was just that the houses in our neighborhood are old, have bad wiring, careless landlords. We thought it was college kids leaving the burner on. But a guy came home and stabbed his girlfriend nineteen times, then burned the place down to kill himself. He was taken out alive—we got a picture of the stretcher and firemen—but he died due to smoke inhalation that night. We were sad, but we didn’t know them, they lived a couple blocks away. A house on Merrill burned down next. The family was away, and the police said it was definitely not electrical. Maybe it was insurance fraud, or maybe it was lightning. Our neighborhood gets the most lightning strikes in the whole county. A house on Davis burned down the very next day, and the police were quiet about the cause. The reporters asked questions, and the police said in front of cameras “No questions.” Then, breaking news that a house on Vine was aflame amidst the holiday lights festival. We don’t fear fire, though we do not like to be burned. At night we hear the house shifting, the noise of drunken neighbors stumbling from the car, and if fear spreads its palms at the inside of our stomach it’s only for the idea of break-ins, ghosts, or that a friend has stumbled to our porch in direst need. We hope our home does not burn down next, today or tomorrow, but we are not scared. Houses keep burning down. We know they are unrelated, but we also know that there is potential for all the houses to burn down at once, unrelatedly. At night when our neighbors aren’t at home, didn’t leave on their porch lights, we imagine we live on an island, isolated, we are the only light or heat for a thousand miles. If we step outside we drown. We die like powder in flame. — Flash fiction from Portland Review's Spring 2016 i [...]
Taylor Lea Hicks
The cemetery is small and overgrown. The statue of Catholic Jesus oversees from the roadside, the crown of thorns adorning his head and his nail-pierced limbs drooping from the wooden cross. Cars zoom by on the two-lane road as a blue SUV turns onto the gravel driveway. The red and white cathedral looms over the churchyard as the car parks across from the graves. A girl exits the vehicle, slamming the door with an echoing thud and walking over to the ditch, her shoes crunching on the rocks. She hops over the dike to meet the first headstone, a German name defeated by weeds, passing it with a quick nod. At the middle of the site: an upright tombstone with curves and an English namesake. She wipes the dew off the top with her sleeve and sits, listening to the cars pass and staring up at the tall white steeple. She thinks what she always thinks when she visits this spot. What would it be like to attend mass here on Sundays? How many people actually go? Who lives in that house across the driveway? The pastor? Or are they called priests? Then she thinks about why she came. The boy she lost. The other graveyard she will now have to visit. Two weeks ago it happened. When she got the call, she didn’t realize what it was. It wasn’t until the visitation that it sunk in. Until she saw the body. Because the thing that was in that casket wasn’t the boy she had known for eighteen years. It was just dead. Since then, she hadn’t known what to do with herself. And when she didn’t know what to do, she came here and thought about what it would be like to be Cathol [...]