Category Archives: Flash Fiction Feature

Tina Tocco
It started with butterflies. Wings splayed and restrained. Proboscis coiled, but dormant. The softness, hardness, softness as the pins popped the abdomen, the innards, the felt. The crisp crack of Styrofoam. The tints of them, powdered on his every finger, cleansed with warm water and Ivory soap. "Good boy," Dad would whisper, prodding, prodding under his nails until everything washed away. [This flash fiction piece appears in our Winter 2014 is [...]
John Burgman
After school, Damon reached into the pocket of his rain jacket and showed me a fragment of his mother’s bone, as smooth and white as a swan feather. I had never seen a human bone before, and somehow I was expecting it to look different, less animal-like. Damon let me hold it and said it was a gift from his father. I felt a cold weight in the pit of my stomach at the thought of such a thing being presented as a gift, but Damon’s family was odd like that, and Damon’s father was always doing peculiar things—leaving Damon all alone, borrowing money around town, offering the girls in our class rides to school. I wrapped my fingers around the bone and asked Damon why his father had kept it, anyway. “He didn’t have enough money for cremation,” Damon said. “What’s that?” I handed the bone back to Damon and smelled my fingers, but they smelled normal; I was surprised because I thought a human bone would have a scent. “They throw the dead person in a fire and the body turns into sand,” he said. “But Dad says it was too expensive, plus he says Mom wouldn’t have wanted to burn.” At this, I envisioned Damon’s mother being shoved into a fire, kicking and clawing at the perimeter of the flames. I felt ashamed for such a thought because I knew that she would already be dead. But I couldn’t help it, and the image remained in my mind like a residue. We walked around the puddles at the edge of the recess grounds, where the school was veiled by trees near the river. I wanted to ask Damon how his mother died, since he never talked about it. But it didn’t feel right after I had just held her delicate bone. Finally I said, “Do you have more bones at your house?” “Dad says they’re in the ground,” Damon said. “It’s comfortable for Mom’s ghost, like being under bed sheets.” Damon took a step onto the smooth rocks of the riverbank. As he hopped onto the next set of rocks, I saw his feet slip on the wet surface—his arms flailed in a motion so grandiose that I thought he was joking at first. His back hit the ground and I heard the wind rush from his lungs. He looked at me, his eyebrows curled into snakey arcs, and I knew instantly what was wrong—he had accidently let go of his mother’s bone in the fall. We knelt to our knees and searched around the rocks, but didn’t find it. I expected Damon to be sad—maybe even cry—but he just sighed, and then said he had to go home. I stayed at the river for a long time, still thinking about Damon’s Mom screaming at the flames. I dug around in the grass too, tried to dig, but the ground was too rocky for anything to be buried beneat [...]
Erica Langston
Somewhere in the distance, the earth burns. The sky is close and cupping like the inside of an egg. Five hundred heifers and their calves have been swept together across hundreds of acres. The men drive the cattle into a yawning Colorado horizon. Horses, whips, and border collies descend on the stock and push the herd toward new pasture and old branding stalls. They have taken this fragmented herd and stitched it together. Fifty head here, eighty there, until it became a living, breathing organism pulsing through the dry earth, electrifying the dust and sand they trot over. An aerial view would paint a creeping black stain against the patchwork of a tawny fabric. The riders push through the dense, dusty air. Heat and grime pick at the dry corners of their eyes and mouths like gnats. The men breathe through thick mustaches and frayed bandanas, attempting to filter out the soot. It travels down their throats, coating the inside of their mouths and lungs, gathering and rolling into a mass of phlegm before being hocked onto the back of a heifer. Dark clouds billow up over the mountain peaks like great angry ships crashing against a jagged shore. But the clouds won’t break, and the drought will continue, and the men and the cattle will intimately mouth unquenched thirst in the months to [...]
Mark Crimmins
A flash thunderstorm hits Millennium Park. Tourists scatter as though coming under sniper fire. Some run towards the Pritzker Pavilion for shelter. Others flee in the direction of Michigan Avenue. You join a crowd taking refuge beneath the Bean. It seems like a good spot to wait. Silver rivulets of rain swirl over the sculpture’s mirrored curves. People look upwards and murmur in aesthetic appreciation. Huge gobs of prairie rain ricochet into efflorescence off the concrete surface of the plaza. But there is trouble. A yellow-jacketed security guard runs towards the sculpture, hood up, waving his arms. People! You can’t shelter here! It’s dangerous! The Bean is made out of metal—it conducts lightning! If lightning strikes the Bean, you’ll all be fried! You’re gonna have to go someplace else! Now let’s move! He claps his hands authoritatively and makes a big circular motion with his arms. Nobody moves. Momentarily, all are stunned. The Bean has become death. Like a robot, you step forward and speak: “If I’m gonna perish, I wanna die right here—under the Bean!” Defiantly, you point to the ground beside your feet. The guard is dumbfounded. A big guy in a Bulls cap looks at the guard, points at you, and says: “I’m with him!” Two teenage skateboarders agree. The guard’s mouth falls open. He shakes his head in disbelief. He tries again. Come on, people! Let’s move! But an old woman totters forward, resolutely shaking her head: “We’re staying under the B [...]
RM Cooper
Eight months after the accident, and I still call every night. Her scent, like roasted pears and cinnamon, has evaporated from the linens. Long strands of red hair which once coated our flat, now belong to the Dirt Devil. At some indefinite point, her voice became vague and unfamiliar in my dreams, so we rarely talk. Even her cat started to come when I call. But after eight months, I still can't sleep without the electric-purr of the cell ringing in my eardrum. I've heard of people who spend their whole lives by the ocean, and then after some forty years or more, just up and move to eastern Nebraska or western Tennessee or somewhere equally flat and dry. Within a week, they buy their first New Age CD—Nature's Voices or something—and a track featuring the slow roll of tides is put on repeat all through the night. Like the voice behind a hypnotist's pendulum, the water whispers sleep. It's as if for them, silence only exists in the gentle crush of water over sand. At the forgotten possibility of the line clicking live and a familiar, hel [...]