Editor’s Note: The judges score independently. They don’t talk to each other. Why does this matter? If one qualified judge doesn’t like your piece, take heart and resubmit. Another one will. Just keep searching. Of course if you find things to fix in the meantime, do so.
On behalf of the judges and me, we hope you enjoy these four Flash Fictions.
Our next contest is Flash Travel. Any kind of travel—real or imaginary. The deadline is September 1, 2018.
If you have a story about your writing or submission experiences that would fit on “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up,” go to that page and read the guidelines. You can submit there anytime.
FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES
By Steven Rosenfeld
If the IRT subway hadn’t been extended to the Bronx in 1908, I’d never have met your grandfather, and you wouldn’t be you.
On summer Sundays, our only day off from the sweltering dress factory in Brownsville, we girls would go out to Coney Island on the old BRT. We were looking for men, Jewish men of course, and Coney Island was the place to meet them. All we had to do was sit on the beach and chatter loudly in Yiddish, and before long they would find us.
That Sunday, the beach was crowded as usual. Blue sky and wispy clouds. Shirtless men plunging into the waves to impress the shiksas in brightly colored bathing costumes strutting up and down the beach. I was wearing the shapeless yellow and brown striped bathing outfit I’d stitched together at work during lunch. Sadly, its puffy sleeves and bloomers didn’t show off my figure. Still, I was hoping to meet a boy who would buy me a hot dog on the boardwalk. They were Kosher and smelled wonderful, but a nickel was more than I could afford.
Sure enough, we attracted a group of boys. They said they were from the Bronx. The Bronx? That was a foreign country to girls who’d never left Brooklyn. They boasted that they’d taken the subway, then a ferry and then the elevated, and the trip had taken more than two hours. So I reckoned one of them could spring for a nickel hot dog.
After a while, I found myself sitting back to back with one of those Bronx boys. We didn’t have beach chairs, of course, so we often leaned against each other. I didn’t even know what this guy looked like. He was talking to two pretty girls sitting across the way. But I decided this was my chance for a hot dog, so I turned my head and asked over my shoulder if he realized he was supporting me, and how long he could continue doing that.
“How about for the rest of our lives?” your grandfather said. And of course, that’s what happened.
STEVEN B. ROSENFELD is a retired NYC lawyer who began writing short fiction in 2015. His work has appeared in The City Key, Jewish Fiction.net, Good Works Review, Flatbush Review, Reflex Fiction and Magnolia Review. One of his stories received Honorable Mention in the 2016 Short Story America Prize contest.
The High Points
By Craig Kenworthy
It’s rude when people give you things you don’t want. Like a child, for instance. Sure, I told my sister that I would take care of her daughter if anything ever happened to her. But Elaine never smoked, always wore her seatbelt, and wore sensible shoes when crossing the street. What were the chances?
And who expects an alien abduction these days? But that’s what happened. Elaine was lifted into the air, along with seven other patrons of a Starbucks in Centralia, Washington. Right off the outdoor patio. The authorities didn’t even try to make up a cover story. Not after all those cell phone videos hit Twitter. Some people even posted that stuff while it was happening. You’d think one of them would have grabbed Elaine by the leg, tried to pull her down.
I didn’t tell my niece Anna any of that. It messes you up, becoming a celebrity because your mom involuntarily left Earth for Planet X. And you can blame me for that. But try raising a kid on a nurse’s aide salary. So, yes, I sold Anna’s story to whoever would pay: tabloids, TV, even some weird website that claimed they had been in touch with the aliens for the past thirty years. All of that goes for college. That’s the deal I made with myself.
Six months after the abduction, Anna brought home a library book about the fifty states. I didn’t think anything of it until her school called to say that she had run off while on a field trip to Mount Rainier National Park. A ranger found her above an area called Paradise, heading toward the mountain, carrying a woman’s shoe. Elaine’s shoe, the one that fell off during the abduction. When Anna got home, she refused to tell me anything.
* * *
She did renew that book. It was called ‘Get to Know Your 50 States”. Carried it around in her backpack. One night, I slipped into her room and got it. Mount Rainier was there, of course. Also Mount Greylock, Mount Washington, and my now personal favorite, Mount Sunflower. Each place marked. It took two ice cream dinners to pry it out of her. But when your mom disappears into outer space, why wouldn’t a six-year-old think the best place to look for her is the highest point in each state?
So, we made ourselves a deal. Five states each summer. Starting with the ones she could handle best. Like Sunflower. It’s really just a spot in a field in western Kansas. 4,039 feet. You open a little gate and step in. Or Florida’s Britton Hill, 345 feet. I insisted on a side trip to Disney World for that. Some extra shifts covered the visit to the Mouse House.
We’ll leave the technical climbs until she is sixteen. Gannett Peak, Wyoming (13,804) and Denali, Alaska (20,320) will still be there.
This all started eight years ago. Anna’s seen most of America now. I’ve seen a lot of blue sky, two engine rebuilds on the Subaru, and more than a few double shifts.
Our routine is always the same. We bring Elaine’s teal flat (perfect for safe crosswalk use) and Anna sets it down on the high point. And then we wait. We wait for as long as she wants to. No matter how cold or how tired I am (Mount Whitney, California, 14,494 feet, is not a “walk-up”, no matter what they tell you) we wait until Anna is ready to go. She always smiles right after she picks up the shoe, like she knows something I don’t. I don’t ask. I just carry the shoe down the mountain.
This girl I didn’t want is fourteen now. We’ve been together more than half her life. She never says it, but I don’t think Anna believes in her theory anymore. But she keeps on planning our annual trip. And me? I don’t think we are ever going to see Elaine again. Who knows, though. Maybe if we get up just high enough, in just the right spot, she can see us.
In a few years, we will run out of states and Anna will go off to college. But she’s offered me a new deal. It seems there are 193 countries in the world. The lowest high point is seven feet. In the Maldives. That sounds doable. On the other hand, Nepal isn’t cheap. God knows how many double shifts Everest is going to cost me.
Craig Kenworthy is a fiction writer and playwright based in Seattle. A member of The Dramatists Guild, his short fiction is forthcoming in the 2018 Fish Anthology(Ireland). He recently completed his first novel, a work of alternative history set in pre-World War II England. craigkenworthy.com
Third Place Tie
The Brief Romance of the Fishmonger
By Nadia Greasley
Pretty boys look right through girls like her.
She works as a fishmonger at ShopFast. She always wears a sweater to keep warm under the white coat that covers all of her curves like a burlap potato sack. Her head covered by a hairnet, she stands on her heavy legs cutting, filleting, and showcasing the seafood over ice.
She would not have bothered about him, had he not given her a dash of attention, and his smile. But he did. So her heart started to thaw and her mind began to believe that perhaps there are princes in this world who fall in love with the princess’s maids.
Two months ago, he started coming every Friday. And as much as she pretended not to care, on that day she would look for him through the shopping aisles as far as the eye could see. Her heart jumped at the first sight of him. Every time he came, he gave her tidbits of his life, folded into orders of filets, shrimp, and scallops. She held onto them like precious pearls. By now, she knew he worked as a physical therapist, liked swimming and loved dogs but could not have one right now. She imagined dog sitting for his Border Collie, chocolate brown like his eyes.
From behind the display case, she spotted him as he left the produce section. She proceeded to sanitize the counter and cutlery. The smell of fish mingled with a bite of antiseptic. She hoped he would be next in line.
He finally appeared while she was finishing an order of shark steak.
“What is it going to be today?” Watching if he noticed she had put on lipstick: “Strawberries on Ice.” He noticed, but quickly looked away. She had voluptuous lips, her only asset according to her older sister who had many more.
“Salmon,” and then he asked, “Is a pound and a half enough for two?”
“It depends who number two is.” She grinned as she felt her heart pounding under deep dark water.
“It’s for a date. I want to cook for her tonight. Is that too much?” He was so casual about it.
“You could just get two fillets instead.” She said, controlling her voice carefully. “Do you want some spices on them?”
“I’ll be right back.”
She went to the back of the store. She would have sprinkled poison on the fish if it were allowed, but instead, she picked two fillets she had spotted in the morning that had worms on them. She reappeared, placed them on a sheet of paper with her back turned to him, and slathered them with spices, making the worms twist and turn.
Nadia Greasley is a professional writing tutor and has focused on writing for the past ten years. Her writing has been published in Longridge Review, 1888 Center, and Living Springs Publishers. She is currently revising a memoir and can be found walking her dog in CNY or on Twitter at BraveChickadee.
It Used to be Called Trenton
By Catherine Raphael
Hollow City. It used to be called Trenton, but not anymore. After the evacuation and the chemical bombing to eradicate the virus, Hollow City was all that was left.
But, what about you? Where are you from? I haven’t seen you around camp before.
You don’t say. How bad was it there?
Whoa. That’s a bitch. Did you get the virus?
Me either. Crazy. My kid sister, Mina caught it. She pulled through somehow. I thought she was gonna die. Everyone else in our family did. Both parents, five siblings. Now it’s just the two of us.
I was working as an EMT, can you believe it? I saw what it did to a person. Blood coming out of everywhere, bodies twisted into mangled shapes by the muscle contractions. Death musta been a relief.
We were lucky, I guess, to be pulled out early. Just about a month ago, right after the first fatalities and mass graves. We passed the medical screenings and were sent to this resettlement camp. They keep testing us – blood work every three days. I guess their making sure we’re really OK.
They never told us what happened to the people who didn’t pass the screenings. A lot of people just disappeared. Gone. Blotto. Most everyone we knew. Now it’s just me and my sister and a bunch of strangers.
Got a cigarette?
How about a light?
Once the virus was neutralized, they started sending some people back. It hadn’t spread outside the city, they said. It was safe, they said. But I don’t trust ‘em. They screwed this whole thing up from the beginning. It took them too long to figure out what was happening. Then they sat on their asses figuring out what to do. What’s to say they’re not fucking it up now? They’re not saying what started the virus. Maybe they don’t even know. And, there’s no telling if it’s really gone.
I haven’t heard anything from the ones who went back. Maybe they’re all dead, too. Anyway, I figure, what’s the point? It’s nothing but empty buildings and bad memories.
Once we get our passes out of here, we’re heading west. No way we’re going back.
My sister? She’s fine now. Maybe a little tired these days. She misses our mom. That’s her, the littlest one over there playing in the dirt with the other kids.
No, she’s not running a fever or anything. No symptoms. Why are you asking? Who are you anyway?
A doctor? What are you talking about?
Antibodies? What’s that got to do with Mina?
So what if she survived?
No, you can’t take her. Anywhere! She’s not going to any research facility! Who are those guys?
HEY! PUT HER DOWN!
I don’t care who you are, motherfucker. THEY CAN’T TAKE HER!
LET GO OF ME!
Catherine Raphael has a BA in metalsmithing. She has translated her skills cutting, soldering and polishing metal into cutting, soldering and polishing stories.