Flash Fiction Winners 2019
The Winners Are — Summer 2019
Editor’s Note: We had some wonderful submissions. Writers using complex characters that surprise me and increase my understanding of the world we live in—all in 750 words—are so impressive. Many thanks to all who participated.
Our summer contest, which is for both fiction and memoir, is posted under current contest.
By Karen Collier
“Eddie!” The sheriff towers over Eddie as he sits slumped at the kitchen table, staring at his hands clasped together on the chipped laminate.
“Sorry, Sheriff.” Eddie looks up.
“This is exactly how you found him, right?” The sheriff waves a hand toward the body of a man sprawled on his back on the floor. His face is turned away, toward the wall, eyes open and a lock of grey hair falling across his forehead.
“Yes,” Eddie answers.
“You told Darrell you didn’t move his body or touch the gun or anything like that, right?”
“Darrell?” Eddie cocks his head.
“You told Darrell,” the sheriff lifts his chin toward the deputy standing in the doorframe, “when he got here that you hadn’t touched anything. Is that right?”The sheriff grits his teeth.
“Yes, sir.” Eddie remembers lifting the telephone receiver, dialing zero, telling the operator that his daddy was dead. He remembers Darrell showing up at the lake cabin. He and Darrell played baseball together in high school. Darrell must have called the sheriff. Darrell who’s no longer a baseball player but now a sheriff’s deputy.
“Why don’t you go give the coroner a call?” The sheriff nods at Darrell and then returns his attention to Eddie. “Why’d you come out here this afternoon?”
“Daddy and I go fishin’ on Fridays.” Eddie looks out the window at the jon boat tied to one of the cypress trees on the edge of the water.
“Do you recognize the gun?” The sheriff points at a pistol lying on the floor, near the dead man’s left hand.
“It’s Daddy’s.” Eddie looks back at the sheriff.
“Does he keep it out here?” The sheriff waves his hand around to indicate the one-room cabin.
“No. He keeps it at the house, in the safe. Only me and him know the combination.”
“Does he usually bring it when he comes out here?”
Eddie begins rubbing a spot on the knee of his jeans.
“The pistol.” The sheriff raises his voice before lowering it again and speaking more slowly. “Does he bring the pistol with him when he comes out here?”
“No. He keeps a shotgun under the bed.” Eddie looks at the sagging full-sized bed pushed against the wall.
“Any idea why he brought the pistol with him today?”
Eddie furrows his brow.
The sheriff moves on. “Has he been quarrelin’ with anybody lately?”
“I know your daddy is always fightin’ with somebody, but has he had any serious beefs lately?”
“I dunno.” Eddie shakes his head.
Darrell reappears in the doorway. “On his way.”
The sheriff looks around the room. “Looks like your daddy committed suicide.”
“Suicide?” Eddie looks up.
“After you called the operator, did you call anyone else? Your wife? Your mama?” The sheriff now looks out the window at the jon boat.
Eddie takes a deep breath. “No.”
“I need you to concentrate.” The sheriff looks back at Eddie.
“Okay.” Eddie meets the sheriff’s eyes.
“Maybe your daddy was cleaning his gun when it accidentally went off?”
“He was cleaning his gun?”
“No, he wasn’t cleaning the gun, but that’s what we’re gonna say.”
Eddie’s confusion makes the sheriff look away again.
“Nobody else needs to know. Just me and you and the coroner and him.” The sheriff waves toward Darrell.
“Know what?” Eddie asks.
The sheriff turns back to Eddie. “That your daddy committed suicide. Doesn’t do any good for anybody to know that.”
Eddie finally understands what the sheriff is suggesting, that they say his daddy’s death was an accident so no one will know it was a suicide. Eddie realizes that he’s the only one who knows it was neither.
“Okay.” For the first time that afternoon, Eddie feels a twinge of hope. He thinks about his wife standing over the stove, frying chicken for his dinner.
“Do you want me to go tell your mama what happened or do you want to do it?”
“I’ll do it.” Eddie rises from the chair. He has a long drive ahead of him, plenty of time to decide if he’ll tell his mama it was an accident or a suicide. Or maybe he’ll tell her the truth. Tell her how tired he was of seeing her bruises.
As Eddie reaches the door, Darrell reaches out a hand. “Call me if you need anything, okay?” Eddie returns the handshake, and as he walks out into the sunlight he thinks about what a good outfielder Darrell used to be.
KAREN COLLIERspent twenty-five years as a writer in high tech and five years as a high school English teacher before finally focusing on creative writing. Her work has been published in Full Grown People, Treehouse, The Austin American Statesman, The First Line, The Ocotillo Review and on NextTribe.com.
By Lilian James-Gets
Photo by Liberty Walker
You find out when you’re four weeks along. You call it ‘it’ and unpick the last month, wondering how it slipped through the sieve. You bite your lip. According to Google, it’s the size of a poppy seed.
You unravel your train of thought.
What if? What if? What if?
What if you wait 34 weeks? What if you don’t? What if you tell? What if you don’t?
You forget to breathe in.
You chew your nails.
You want to press ‘esc’.
You flush the toilet, feeling like your stomach is swirling away with it. You think of the phrase ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’ and imagine a poppy seed spiralling down the plughole.
You grip the messenger, wishing it would hold your hand, but it doesn’t.
You throw it in the sanitary bin.
You sit on the school steps, waiting for the bus.
You pay for a child single to Harberton, and wonder when people will start giving up their seat for you.
You sit next to an elderly man cradling his grandchild, hair falling across his head in wisps of white, like strands of silk. He has a bright red poppy pinned to his jacket front. You wonder if he fought in the war, if his shaking hands ever held a gun as tenderly as he holds the child now. Your own hands shiver in your lap.
November ice gives the pavement a topcoat. You peel clear varnish off your thumbnails. All the talk is of the war, decades later, unforgotten.
‘Lives cut off too early, never given the chance to grow up…’
You go to bed early. You don’t sleep until two.
You wake up soaked in red. The sheets are slick with blood, pooled about your clammy thighs, hot. Your stomach clenches, nails scraping across your hips, palms damp.
You bundle the sheets into the washing machine. They fill your arms like a swaddled child in the half-light of the early morning. You whimper, bite your tongue, and clamber shakily into the shower.
Your stomach squeezes tight on the walk to school. You swallow paracetamol along with your secret.
At 11am, the country falls silent for one minute. You listen to the sound of your own breathing, the clock ticking, your heart beating. Blood: bad. Blood: sad. Fields of poppies. Poppy seeds. Blood.
Your fists unravel and fall limp at your sides. You breathe.
Lilian James-Gets is a South African writer now living in South West England. She likes to explore taboo themes through fictional characters in real life settings. She has just finished her first novel, ‘Running on Empty,’ about anorexia. Lili is 19 years old.
By Kay Rae Chomic
Sometimes the name they give you is all wrong. I knew a kid on my block in Cleveland whose father, a 24-handicapper, named him after Arnold Palmer. Turned out Arnold’s sister had the golfing talent, and even ended up on the LPGA tour.
Sometimes the clothes, toys, and friends are all wrong.
Sometimes the gender at birth is all wrong.
My Uncle Rick, rejected by everyone in our family except me, understood these issues, and suffered other sorrows I’d
Uncle Rick, now known as Aunt Rosie, moved to the shoreline of Lake Erie in Ashtabula county after “the surgery.” Uncle Rick actually made an attractive big-boned woman. Aunt Rosie bought a dilapidated beach bungalow, rescued two dobermans named Marilyn and Felix, and contracted with me for my carpenter skills to remodel the place.
I spent all of October on Lake Erie’s shore, and came to love its morning fog, cleansing wind, and Aunt Rosie even more. Putting the finishing touches on my last built-in and installing a pedestal sink, Aunt Rosie seemed satisfied, and I needed to be on my way to New Mexico for a job selling prefab homes—a job I knew I’d hate.
My last night with Aunt Rosie we uncorked champagne and dined on our usual walleye and perch main course. For dessert, s’mores in front of the fireplace. Afterwards, we played gin
rummy late, and drank whiskey neat.
When I made it to my room, the throw rug skidded under my wobbliness. “Oof,” I said to the floor. Then I saw a curious thing. A 2-inch loop of fishing line stuck out from a floorboard’s edge. “Huh.” I pulled up on the loop with two fingers, and the shock of what I saw turned into elation, which turned into a sobering reality about Aunt Rosie and my future.
The next morning, I hugged Aunt Rosie goodbye, and smooched the dogs behind their ears.Marilyn whined as I clutched my bursting backpack. When I rolled my stuffed suitcase to the door, Felix growled. Tingles scattered outward from my spine. I hoped Aunt Rosie wouldn’t notice my bulging pockets—bulging everything, really.
At the Cleveland airport, I considered the other Mexico. Dollars would go much farther there, and you could start fresh. A new life. Like Aunt Rosie. But, NOT.
I ate a Coney Island with fries. Threw it all up ten minutes later. Knew I was an asshole, and called Aunt Rosie.
“I took some money from you. Found your hiding place,” I said.
“I know,” she said.
“You robbed Cleveland State didn’t you?
“Some guyrobbed that bank.”
Last night, as I had scooped neatly wrapped packages of musty-smelling thousand dollar bills from the concealed container, my mind conjured a memory of the biggest bank robbery in the state of Ohio and the newspaper’s grainy picture of the robber who was still at large, and a large man he was.
“Yeah, right. How’d you know I robbed you?”
“Did you forget I installed security systems back in the day?”
“I have a silent alarm in the flooring in your room.”
“Shit. I’m sorry. I’m bringing it back.”
“No, you aren’t. Keep it. You’re the only pal I have in our family. Besides, I would have done the same thing.”
Aunt Rosie and I both lived our best lives after my visit. She became known as one of the top female anglers in a region known for its bounty of fish. She visited me in Oaxaca during the winter. We never again mentioned our thefts.
Kay Rae Chomicis a novelist (A Tight Grip), and writer of flash. She has been published in Crack the Spine, Five:2:One’s The Side Show, Hysteria 6 (UK), The First Line. Kay lives in Seattle, and is a Motown fan forever.
The Rose 🌹
By Laura Fischer