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Reflex Fiction Posts

For Brothers and Lovers

Pa shot his brother.

Two days before he shot his brother he shot a deer. The red blood mixed with the peeling rust and pine needles in the bed of his truck making an orange paste that seeped through the cracks and dripped onto moist ground as he slowly drove the crevassed dirt road home. He hung the deer in the garage and Tommie placed the smooth shiny organs in jars and as the grandchildren came outside he chased them around the yard with the organs until they cried and Ma came outside and scolded Tommie with a sharp tongue and soft eyes.

The night before Pa shot Tommie it rained. Ma franticly ran around the house, which was decorated with bleached animal skulls, egg shell white walls and blue pastel curtains, opening each window and Pa ten paces behind would close each window she opened and they circled around like this for hours until Tommie came home cold and damp and looking for a hot shower. As he opened the bathroom door he ran straight into Ma who was opening the small square window in the bathroom, Pa nine paces behind. She pressed her head against the wet flannel of his button up shirt, Pa eight paces behind. Tommie groaned and pressed his arms against his sides and stared up at the cracks in the ceiling, Pa seven paces behind.

The day after he shot his brother Pa emptied two shell casings onto the floor and slung his rifle against the warped wooden gun rack that hung on the living room wall. It cracked finally under the pressure and fell to the floor. Sighing, he drove it to the sea and dug a hole in the sand and gently placed the rifle and rack inside. He looked up at the clouds moving in the sky and made his peace with the loss and smiled softly and said a slow sad melancholy goodbye.


Flash Fiction by Mollie Backowski
Picture: Rust by Derek Bridges under CC BY 2.0
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Second Class Return to Brighton

He’s here, before me. That’s a first. Usually, I get here early and walk along the promenade, never straying far from the beach hut. The same woman with the same terrier always walks past twice. Going, coming. The first time, she smiled. And the second. The third time, a small nod. Last week it rained, and I hadn’t thought to wear a hat or carry an umbrella. The dog barked and snarled, straining to jump at me. She hurried it along, slapping its hind with the leash.

Others are on their morning stroll. Brazen, aggressive. They slow when they see I’m alone. They make assumptions. Wrong assumptions. I speed up, walk past, eyes low. These types get photographed by the News of the World. Jean’s mother reads the News of the World. Mister Pottinger, too. The mimeograph men joke about it during tea breaks at work. Loudly. Vicars and tarts. Queers in tears. People laugh. I laugh.

He’s smoking, looking around, always away from me. On my last visit, I watched to see if he ever looked at my face. He didn’t. He hasn’t ever since he asked for a couple of pounds for his train fare. Last time it was five pounds. Jean noticed.

I stop. I want to run back to the station. Run anywhere. Find a room. Breathe, think. He pulls the key from his pocket and walks towards the hut, out of my sight. I turn my wedding ring. I hear the hut’s door creak open.


Flash Fiction by Alex Cox
Picture: hut by Tim Simpson under CC BY-SA 2.0
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Butterscotch

Last night, Josh walked out and left behind his dog, Mac. Siobhan hugged Mac on the sofa, while watching a Law and Order repeat—an elderly man shot dead in his bed, killed in his sleep, possibly, most probably, by his wife.

Siobhan finished the tub of butterscotch ice-cream and thought about big acts of violence and small acts of violence too—the words said while stirring tinned soup in a saucepan, and the mouth of another man, a stranger.

It happened several days earlier on a girls’ weekend in London. It was in a dark corner after three martinis that were so strong that on her first sip of the first one, Siobhan stamped her foot. She couldn’t blame the martinis, or her friends’ sly comments on social media.

“You taste of butterscotch,” she said.

“Schnapps,” he said. He smiled.

His teeth reminded her of Bowie’s, slightly uneven and utterly perfect. Bowie must have tasted of butterscotch, she thought, and pulled his mouth back to hers. She moaned into his mouth.

Now, she sat in her car, watching Josh play football. Maybe she’d hugged Mac too tight and squeezed the breath out of him. She had learned that a dog can die in your arms, like a man on a battlefield, staring and giving up his ghost.

Siobhan stepped out of the car and Josh raised his head and looked at her. His coach yelled at him and still he didn’t move.

She glanced back into her car. Contrary to what you said, I absolutely give a fuck about you, about us. On the backseat, Mac was wrapped in a blanket. Siobhan called the vet this morning. He said he’d take care of the body, but she couldn’t drive him there. Mac was not a piece of medical waste. He lay beneath the blanket, whole and looking exactly like he used to, if you imagined him breathing, if you imagined life in his eyes, if you imagined his smile.

She made the shape of a phone with her hand. “Call me,” she said, although Josh would not be able to hear her, “we need to bury Mac.”


Flash Fiction by Melissa Goode
Picture: Hans by Aaron Jacobs under CC BY-SA 2.0
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Crushed

His feet were purple from August to October. After the harvest, five of them would form a circle inside the colossal vat, steady each other hand-to-shoulder. An ancient dance pounding pulp in California heat. Folksongs accompanied their pigéage. Tales of distant alpine mountains and the Po plains, memories vivid for some. “We scrubbed our feet with salt afterwards, but it never seemed to make a difference,” he said. “Sweat stained our socks for days afterwards. People always knew.”

There’s my dad, a young boy sitting on unseen adult shoulders and pointing to a sign. Highlighted by steel nails it reads: HOSPITAL ZONE. A shy smile, like he’s not sure about the joke. In front, closer to the camera, three Italian women stand tipping wine bottles into white ceramic coffee mugs. It’s 1933 and Prohibition has ended. I recognize my grandmother, looking happier than I ever saw her.

When my grandmother visited us, she cooked. Perched on a stool, I watched, chewing torrone nougat that she slipped me from a dress pocket. She made each dish an art. Later, I helped flip the frittate, rolled crocchette or gnocchi, stirred creamy risotto. She whirled around the kitchen whispering instructions in Piedmontese. “Speak English,” my dad said each time he passed through the kitchen.

At eight or nine, I chose Piedmonte for a geography essay and asked my dad for help. I placed the globe ahead of him on the kitchen table.

“Can you show me?”

He frowned. “Find a U.S. national park or someplace close to home.”

I found Italy and pointed along the boot top. “Here?”

He lifted my hand and spun the globe. Countries melded into a blue-green splash. He patted my hand. “It’s easier this way, you’ll see.”


Flash Fiction by Marie Gethins
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RoadThrill

He draws himself alongside the glistening road. Others are there, and as one they bask in the sultry fumes that ruffle their dozing pelts whilst they burrow into the black rainbow. He pays homage to those who also made it in time. They are laid out like dancers at obtuse angles, noses sniffing the safety barrier, legs in arabesque across the cat’s-eye spotlights. Although lifeless, bodies remain plump, many almost intact, intention of movement in those stiffened limbs.

The unschooled believe that death occurred here—plucked abruptly—but that is not the case. This one was injured in the woods but undertook to approach the traffic with his last purposeful stare. He will inspire pity, sorrow, disgust. Left in the woods he’ll be tracked down. Gnawed away whilst chewing over his own final salivarous breath. No peace. All pain. And a shamed seeping back to the earth to be absorbed out of existence.

He too opened his eyes in wonder at birth. He too frolicked with joy on sunshiney mornings and under storming skies. He knew friendship. He knew camaraderie. He knew family. Like the others, he was told of the choice at death—to accept or to force meaning. So he strives to his final love, the road. The place where death lives and breathes at ninety miles per hour. Death is seen. Is observed. Has implications. He chooses to die here in peace amidst the roar of exhausts and gear changes. No other predator will come close. The motorized top dogs shake the earth with their power and merciless orbits. And if death refuses to come, one push into the sea of tarmac and the end comes swiftly. Heaviness and lightness combined in one beautiful moment.

He stretches luxuriously toward the road. Into eye-line and comprehension. Breathes in the carbon monoxide. Dreamily he overlooks the pain in his shattered bones. He looks along along along and waits to thunder into his beyond.


Flash Fiction by C S Bowerman
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Space Shuttle

He’s reading his paper and you’re watching the documentary. Soon he’ll sigh, put the paper down, go upstairs, and you’ll stay here, watch the end, then something else. The Greeks, or something about the war.

On the screen, they’ve reached the point where they invite a civilian to fly into space. There’s a competition. A teacher wins. A woman. Overnight, her face is on every billboard in America.

He looks up for a second, not at you but at the screen, and you say, “You remember this?”

“Nope.”

“It’s horrible. Watch.”

“Why you watching if you know what happens?”

“Just watch.”

The smiling faces of the crowd at the shuttle launch. Flags waving. A band.

He says, “Oh, it crashes, doesn’t it?”

“It crashes, yes. They all die.”

“Stupid bastards.” He goes back to the paper.

The camera focuses on the schoolteacher’s family. Her husband and their kids. They’re smiling. Waving flags.

“Look,” you say.

But he doesn’t, so you sit there alone and watch as the engines fire, and the huge, impossible flames force the metal shell and the people inside off the ground. The shuttle catches the winter sun, glistens, twists, and continues its climb.

“After seventy-four seconds . . . ” says the voiceover, and you watch as the flames suddenly flare, and then the shuttle is just gone. There are some firework trails in the sky. Some black spots of debris fall back towards the ground.

He’s not watching as the camera cuts to the faces of the family of the schoolteacher. The father is holding one of their children, a young girl.

She’s still waving her flag.


Flash Fiction by Jason Jackson
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Baptism of Fire

My brother is a submarine. Ten seconds, thirty, sixty. He erupts from the water, laughing beneath a meringue-peak hat.

I trace my thumb over the coiled helix etched into the lighter’s smooth surface, flick open the lid, and strike the spark wheel. The sulphurous scent of butane spreads mottled wings through the air and flutters against my eyelashes.

Soap bubbles soar like spaceships around me and burst with lemon-sugar sweetness on my tongue. Your turn, he says, and pushes me under.

I have only ever known the edges of things. When I look at our house I see a child’s drawing. A tilted roof and angled walls, four square windows and a rectangular door. Crazy lines sketched in wild red crayon.

I kick and splash and pry his fingers from my neck, but he is too strong. Water creeps down my throat and fills my lungs as the world shrinks to a pinprick. I lay still, listening to his chant echo through the narrow tunnel of my consciousness—fifty-eight—

The doctor says that light is a magnet. She says this explains why fluorescent bulbs attract insects and why sea turtles die in city storm drains. She says this is why I see beauty in fire, but she is wrong.

Fire is beautiful because it has no edge.

—fifty-nine—

Cortical blindness is a neurological visual impairment caused by damage to the brain’s occipital cortex. Most cases are congenital. Others, like mine, are acquired.

—sixty.

At night, I lay beneath his bunk and count his breaths. I strike a match and pinch it out with every exhalation.

—fifty-eight—

I sit astride the front gate and watch the house from the corner of my eye. Colour blooms across my retina, a mitosis of kaleidoscopic blots that divide and grow into a seething, swollen mass.

—fifty-nine—

A silhouette appears in the bedroom window and screams.

—sixty.

My brother is a submarine. I see him sink into the torrid crimson nebula as sirens flash and flare around me.

I imagine whorls of smoke filling his lungs. I hold my palm over the lighter, clench my hand into a fist, and extinguish the flame.

Your turn.


Flash Fiction by Christopher M Drew
Picture: zippo by frankieleon under CC BY 2.0
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