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Reflex Fiction Posts

Ladybird

She said things come out of oak wood, devils as big as your thumb.

She said, hair is important.

She said, “I don’t like to be reminded of space, the world spinning and being so tiny.”

Smoke was what kept them together, and kept them apart. A cloud between, around them. Everywhere he went, smoke was at hand, cigarette smoke, fog, mist. Smoke and its deposits. He was always brushing ash from her dress; they had sex in a greyed slant of light.

Sometimes she didn’t care too much for sex, but she was very serious about hugging and embracing. Wrapping herself round him.

Often she sat huddled seeing things in corners. Or not seeing things, you look and look and there’s nothing, no one there, she complained once. She talked of her lip-chewing teenage years. He would overdo it. Looking after her like a child. Made her lunch: cellophaned ham sandwich and KitKat. Caught ladybirds with her in the garden, the hedge was full of them that summer. Blood beads moving across her fingers.

She was trying to see everything at once and fit herself in, but she couldn’t without bending. Nipping and tucking. She said it hurt, everything hurt. He waited, sang to her quietly, tried to soothe.

When he was alone, walking through town he was burning, crackling with her. But he was calm. He had in him a different order of things.


Flash Fiction by Alan Beard
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Never Bigger Than an Orange

Tiny tangerine foetuses curl as if for protection next to the glass bowl. Their delicate flesh oozes juice onto the chopping board. I place my finger on the smallest and think of the first time.

I didn’t tell early on because I thought this somehow protected me.

I arrange the tangerine slices in a swirl, nestled in half-set strawberry jelly. Thick red gloop pulls the tiniest segment down from the surface so I can barely see it. My whole hand strokes a peach’s downy covering. It fits snugly into my palm.

I saw the last baby in grainy black and white, like a photograph from before my time.

The peach separates into two halves easily with a blunt knife. I pull out the stone and press its ribbed surface between my thumb and forefinger.

We had grasped one another’s hands at the sight of a heartbeat. My ears drummed for days with the echo of it. When the bleeding started I cried from my bowels upwards. He gave me grapes and took a job out of town.

I slice the peach halves and let them sink into the red jelly bed with their siblings. Then I rinse the knife clean ready for next time.

The fruit is suspended now in time and jelly. Fingers of sponge swell as they absorb the thick liquid. I scoop up the remaining fruit on the way to my bedroom.

Under soft covers I turn to lie on my side. My hands curve around the melon placed under my shirt.


Flash Fiction by Stephanie Hutton
Picture: Orange by Brian Pirie under CC BY 2.0
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Green Thumb

The week after you left, I planted roses in the garden.

“I don’t even miss you.” My hand dipped into the soil.

Clouds closed overhead. Liar, whispered the trees.

The next morning at breakfast, petals poured from my Crunch Berry box. The bowl spilled with color. I ate every bite. My skin breathed rose water.

At work, a dozen long-stemmed bouquets appeared in my cubicle.

“Condolences?” Marta asked, because she, like everyone else in the office, had heard about the fling.

“There’s no note.” I pushed the flowers to the edge of my desk.

I planted more rose bushes, this time in the front yard.

“It’s the wrong time of year to grow things,” my neighbor said, standing over me in faded espadrilles.

I tapped my finger against the root ball. “Yes, I’m certain you’re right.”

The following day, my bed swam with petals. Pollen blanketed my skin. I brushed my teeth with blossoms.

Marta twirled her gum, eyeing the new collection of bouquets that crowded the cubicle’s floor. “Where are they all coming from?”

I handed her the vases. “I have no idea.”

I bought new bushes, tucking them against the house.

“You have quite the green thumb.” My neighbor squished an aphid between her fingers.

“Apparently,” I said.

At dawn, I woke with buds sprouting from my chest. Petals rained from my lungs and made drifts on the floor. Thorns armored my legs. I scrubbed myself clean and went to work.

“It’s impossible.” Marta stared at the sea of flowers cramming my workspace. My chair formed a hump under the cascade.

“Yes, isn’t it?” I replied.

I waded into the mound and inhaled deeply. Perfume enveloped me, cocooning me.

On the way home, I stopped at the nursery. The clerk loaded flats into the back of the car.

“That’s a lot of planting,” he said.

I closed the trunk. “A girl’s got to have a hobby.”

At home, I pulled on my gardening gloves.

Tonight, I’ll plant in the moonlight.


Flash Fiction by Mureall Hebert
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Only

I am most eager to set my eyes on a cow. In my mind, I see the herd ambling down the town’s main tar road in an alarming juxtaposition. It is normal here, but I imagine myself leaning my head on the car seat to muse; what must an outsider think? Does he, alarmed by the calm of the drivers that stop to wait patiently for the cows to move along, shuffle around the contents of his backpack to find his cheap camera? Does he sit slack-jawed, mulling over in his own head misguided conceptions of wealth and development?

It doesn’t matter, I think, because what my heart hungers for the most is to see a cow. I want to roll down the window and wave to the herd’s shepherds. Maybe I’ll get a wave back. I want to see a bull roll the muscles of its belly in anticipation, pushing itself against another body with hind legs rearing up to mount. It’s spring, after all. I want to hear the herd speak, its bellows baritone moans in the humid heat.

There should be one right around the bend when we cross the border. I reckon it will be the first thing I see through the gates leading to the land on the other side of the Great River. My thighs are tight with the effort of waiting. The rain is a good sign, I think, because I have missed the smell of wet earth, fresh grass, and cow shit. I wish to satisfy my yearning for home.

It has been an hour now, and not a single cow. I am nervous. It is becoming harder to open the little pipe in my throat responsible for the carriage of air. Every five minutes or so, I release a small hiccup. When I finally see it, a dot the size of my fingernail in the distance, I almost jump up from my seat. The closer the car gets, I know it not to be the beginnings of a herd, but only the felled trunk of a small tree.


Flash Fiction by Nkone Chaka
Picture: Rude Cow! by John Haslam under CC BY 2.0
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Vessels

“Just chalk it up to experience,” Mattie’s mother said, as another man broke her heart. She’d smile and turn away but Mattie could see the disappointment hanging off her mother like a cut price bauble on an old Christmas tree.

Mattie never let this happen. Instead, she bottled heartbreak. Displayed on the open box shelves at the back of her coffee shop sat the vessels she shaped on her wheel and fired in her kiln. Some were tall, like the Italian who tried to teach her the best way to make fresh pasta like his Mamma used to make; others squat, like the ex-squaddie who’d let his fists talk when he didn’t want to. She bottled it all, their lies, their infidelities, their unreturned phone calls. Then she stuck in the cork bung.

She dusted them down twice a week, careful not to dirty their pristine paintwork in chalky shades of cream or duck egg blue, others the colour of the mocha or latte she served to her customers.

She would watch the customers as they talked over their drinks. She would see the men grow wary and look over their shoulders, sensing but not certain that something was amiss. Across the table from them, their girlfriends grew, sat taller, more confident, inspired.

The vessels never stirred, their contents safe, the men within contained to keep them from the world.


Flash Fiction by Susan E Barsby
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What the Garden Knows That the Summit Doesn’t

I used to climb mountains, but these days I blaze a trail in the garden from water tap to tomato plants and back. Shuffling back and forth with a big red watering can, now empty, now full, now poured over the seedlings, now light in my hands, now filling, now heavy again. Every day, twice a day, I water, weed and watch.

They do what they always do. Take all summer to solve the same old genetic code in wind, rain, sun and thunder. From seed to seedling to baby leaves to first bloom to full blossom to wilted petals to tiny green marbles. Hard as stones. Mistaken for mistakes. Ugly as warts.

They know their story arcs. Their transformation occurs without dramatic irony or cunning plot. No grandiose acts of hubris chart their storyline. No protagonist invokes tropes of tomato against tomato, tomato against nature, tomato against itself. They ask neither the moon for meaning nor the sun for enlightenment. They grow into themselves, trusting their roots and their yearnings.

Give them time and they grow fat. Take on colours to suit their size. Blush into oranges, into reds.

When they are ready, they pick me. I am chosen to savour. The fruit always remembers the seed, knows where it came from, knows how to return. It tastes like faith and delight.


Flash Fiction by Melissa Fu
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On Consignment

Still, no one has ever brought a raspberry beret into the second-hand shop called “Raspberry Beret” but maybe today will be different. What usually walks in: blouses, jeans, a few ties, formal attire worn once, scarves, purses still containing tissues marked with butterfly-like blots in plum or red. This morning, Carol, the shopkeeper, has to make more room than usual on the glass countertop for a new consignor, Lorraine. Beneath the polished glass is jewelry, pendants, charms. Not one bead of a necklace or gem of a bracelet is visible after Lorraine empties her bag of caps.

They’re all from one man, she tells Carol. Lorraine holds a Gatsby that is the very specific color of vanilla extract before it’s been creamed with butter, sugar, and eggs. She explains the caps: they’ve touched her husband’s dark curls, his forehead, the tips of his ears, some he hung on a sturdy hook with steadfastness, some carry strands of her hair. By way of his hands, sometimes by way of hers, the hats moved gracefully on and off, off and on, and only rarely were flung on a table in their home’s entryway. Since his absence, Lorraine says the hats have gathered on a chair in the corner of her bedroom. Sometimes she imagines they’re an all-men’s chorus, singing her to sleep each night and serenading her in the morning as she dresses. Like Scheherazade, the caps know how to keep her intrigued, night after night, but she says she will not make it to 1,001 nights; it’s become too much, all the hats without his head, without his body, caps hopelessly stationary. She tells Carol she doesn’t think he’ll be back for her or his caps. Lorraine wonders if it’s a case of him having stayed missing, or him not being found.


Flash Fiction by Marjorie Thomsen
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