I was sitting in class staring at Mr. Takashi writing algebra in big loopy lettering on the chalkboard when the bomb landed. He was wearing a short-sleeved white cotton shirt with black slacks that billowed around his skinny legs and a pair of black-rimmed glasses that perched on the bridge of his rubbery nose.
I’m not sure why I can remember him so vividly now. It was just an ordinary school day and me and my thirty or so classmates had no idea when we filed into trigonometry that morning that this day would change our lives.
But somehow every minute detail of that day is seared into my memory, like it’s a part of me and I’m a part of it. And so my life became divided in two—those childhood days that came before the bomb and the days that marched onwards defiantly after. The bomb itself is somehow outside of my life now, like a break in a paragraph, instead of a chapter in itself. (more…)
Nancy would later tell anyone who asked that she escaped the hailstorm by ducking into the first available open door, which happened to lead into a church. She’d been making her way back home slowly, switching her purse from the crook of her right arm to the crook of her left and back again as they got tired of the weight. It was just bad luck that there’d been such a massive storm, so uncharacteristic for February, on that exact day, when her purse was so heavy. She was carrying Walter’s favorite book, his glasses and hers, a thermos still half full of black tea, an empty Tupperware (she despised hospital food), her billfold, her house keys, a packet of Kleenex, a packet of mints, a small leather pouch with all her regular medication (the Lipitor and the diuretics and the aspirin), and her cell phone. It was a lot for such a small, feminine bag. (more…)
Cormorants swoop and dive-bomb into the salty water, their trajectory stealthy and deep. The ravenous dog looks on, the birds out of reach. He paces back and forth, riveted along the water’s edge. Frothy waves tickle his paws, tracing wet impressions in the sand. He is prepared to wait. His stomach growls and bends.
The dog has been on the hunt for five days, lost far from home, disoriented since the electrical storm. He is managing quite well for a purebred: cozy cave, blankie, and binky, out of sight, out of mind. Foraging comes surprisingly easy for him, as if it were a daily hustle. He’s made friends too; first ever beyond the local fenced-in dog park. His master would be impressed, no, worried, both. He does not know that his human family has been busy plastering the neighbourhood with posters, leaving bowls of premium kibble and fresh water out on the veranda. The porch-light left on 24/7, beckoning him home. He is too far away to see the beacon. (more…)
On the porch, the radio plays old tunes. Sometimes our heads bob. I’m on the top step. Below me, Bianca sits behind my little sister, Tia, braiding her hair. She combs out Tia’s rough hair with an orange comb, applies grease. Bianca doesn’t have rough hair, no. She has good hair. Tia doesn’t care much for Bianca because of that. It’s a girl thing, I guess.
My mama used to do Tia’s hair. She was gentler with that orange comb. She’d even cut my hair when it got too long. Boys shouldn’t have long hair, she’d say. But I loved it when she’d cut it. We’d talk about life, me becoming a man, and sometimes about my father. Her gentle hands would glide the clippers through my hair, trimming it to her liking. I would feel like a new me afterwards. But now my hair’s the longest it’s ever been. It gets longer by the day, it seems.
It’s hot out, even hotter with this long hair. Inside’s no better. The Mississippi sun tans us, sweat beads dot our black skin. I hold a cup of lemonade to my forehead, then take a swallow, ice cubes kiss my lips. It’s more sugar than lemon—Bianca’s doing. I watch her jerk Tia’s head with that orange comb again, smearing more grease. The comb works through the hair. The sweet, greasy fragrance sweeps across my nose. (more…)
I wondered what kind of “closure” did Jean think she was going to get?
YOU ARE FEMALE & DRIVE
A RED CAR.
YOU RAN OVER MY CAT
ON WINGRA STREET
PLEASE CALL JEAN.
NEED HELP WITH CLOSURE
I came across this notice the week that Eric, my boyfriend-since-high-school, suddenly moved out of our apartment to follow an Edgewood College grad to Schenectady, New York. Apparently, someone’s cat darted into danger, a simple case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. What was there to explain or describe—unless apathy meant the driver didn’t brake or she actually went out of her way to hit the animal. But who would fess up to that?
I pictured Jean barely out of her teens, just a few years younger than me, stapling laminated notices to phone poles outside of The Yellow Platter, a neighborhood café. I had started going there for breakfast so I wouldn’t have to start the day alone. I imagined her returning to an empty apartment where a catnip bunny lay under a chair, saw her reaching instinctively for fur among the bedcovers at 3 AM. I doubted that meeting the red car phantom would make 3 AM’s any easier. (more…)
As usual, Dad collected her after breakfast on Sunday and drove her to Dunstable downs. The hillside was already full of families.
“You first, Tracy.”
She held the bobbin of string while her father retreated with the kite. Then he threw it skyward. “It’s new!” she said, watching the dragon soar.
“Yes, I made it this week.” When she pulled harder, the kite spiralled and fell. “It needs a longer tail,” he said, “Oh well, let’s have an ice cream.” They sat on the grass, licking 99s. While he studied the other kites, which to her were heavy and drab, she watched the gliders taking off below. Winched up, they climbed steeply until they were higher than she was. She watched the cable fall away, as if in slow-motion. The ice cream finished, she stretched out on the grass and looked up at the kites against the bright blue sky. Without warning a glider filled her vision, flying very low and fast. She would always remember the wide wings, the silent surprise. (more…)
Congratulations to Charles Rafferty, winner of a 2017 Write Well Award for his story, The Silver Smile of the Hatchet, originally published in the March 2016 issue of Brilliant Flash Fiction. For details, check out writewellaward.com.
The Silver Smile of the Hatchet
By Charles Rafferty
Magda was too tiny to kill a cow but her mother needed help with the weed-like tenacity of her daily chores. The chickens were put on Magda’s list. The worst one could do, her mother concluded, was to run headless around its pen.
Magda surprised her mother. With a succession of little kisses, she would persuade the chicken to her side. She let it peck the seed from her palm as it had done on a daily basis since the first time it left the henhouse. Then she scooped it up and took it behind the barn. (more…)