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Reflex Fiction Posts

Love

He folded the menu and let it fall with a slap onto the table. They had moved seats twice. Once to sit in the shade, and then again because she had not visibly appreciated his opinion on “the shade”. “So,” he said, “tell me about this meaningful work of yours.”

She cleared her throat and told him of her latest campaign. She talked about a small village in Africa where children walked for miles along dangerous roads to drag water from a well. But her voice sounded staid; the glorious campaign, pedestrian.

He looked at his watch and then waved the menu into the middle distance. A waitress approached, smiling tightly. She was pretty and his attempts to flirt with her were met with a brutal indifference. After she’d gone, he commented on the size of her hips. She thought how hard it must be for him, to be unseen by the young women whose attention he so craved.

He spoke of a business venture which involved buying derelict houses in places he wouldn’t dream of living. He mentioned an ex-wife. She imagined a husky-voiced country girl with a ponytail and matted mascara. He must have loved her. He must have, at least once in his life, held himself up to the light.

He looked at her. Not as a whole but as a collection of parts. She watched him study the lines around her eyes; the descent of her jawline. Then he asked her age. After she told him, he said this:

“If I were you, I wouldn’t wait too long before sleeping with me.”

She looked down at her coffee, a broken rainbow sheen floated on its surface.

When she looked up he was smiling as if having delivered a punchline. In his face she caught a glimpse of the boy he had once been. She saw them walking in woodlands; unwrapping presents on Christmas morning. She remembered the softness of covers warmed by another; the small universe of intimacy. His eyes were brightened, and a pink flush had awoken in his cheeks.

On the way back to his hotel she held his hand.


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Flash Fiction by Nancy Hogg
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The Goldfish

Jodie likes to strip, but only for her goldfish. She used to strip for Rupert but Rupert has gone. Occasionally she imagines he hasn’t gone, he’s just morphed into this goldfish, who’s swimming round and round in his tiny circular world, just like Rupert did.

Jodie has considered putting the bowl up for sale on eBay and exchanging it for a giant aquarium, with reeds, a carpet of green and exotic fish like the Arowana, Flower Horn and the Green Spotted Pufferfish, but she figures her little goldfish might be an introvert, just like her, who prefers his own space. Whoever knows what anyone wants really?

As Jodie removes her sneakers, she glances over at the goldfish and thinks about his pitiful life. She feels sad he is trapped and wonders whether it might be preferable to be locked in a windowless universe with nothing but amorphous darkness and endless calm. She thinks then of her row with Rupert and the horrendous storm that followed, and the fish that kept on swimming and swimming.

She runs a hand through her curls and lowers her eyelids to the glass.

“It’s just you and me now, kiddo,” she says, and kisses the bowl as the fish swims round and round.


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Flash Fiction by Mary Thompson
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Corbière Lighthouse

Still waters encircled by a gentle ebb and flow, that is Olivia’s heart. Rebecca runs second, tracking those earthly strides made by her elder sibling across the embossed seashore. Even the banded white tower pressed deep into the dark rock above doesn’t add to the giddy contrast set before me. Biased I might be, but on this summer evening the undulating pathway, that stretches into the distance, seems to embody all our hopes and fears.

“Baby and mummy snale,” exclaims Rebecca, as a mischievous smile licks across her face. Coming close, cupped in her hand is indeed a tiny marine treasure infolded by a larger and more weathered relic. Then, tentatively at first, comes a watered creature from the smaller shell. Just like its owner, reserved shyness quickly gives way to a defiant display of grandeur. But this silent and bold oratory has barely commenced before it disappears again like a chastened seafaring politician.

Suddenly reminded that this same place was awash with Munich’s finest boots some eighty years past, I hide my face hoping that the girls don’t read the sombre metaphors that play across my mind. Innocence and guilt so often bypass each other on life’s long travels, but this time I’m mightily relieved that destiny has favoured our intrepid adventure.

It’s Olivia who makes the call as we sit beneath Corbière’s supreme assembly, looking deeply into the still rock pools below. “Dad, the siren, the siren means we must move.” Hope, trust and a limitless expectation, expressed in a way only a father can appreciate, spill from her eyes.

The three of us, banded together by immediate and future bonds, escalate our steps as the clear blue water rises closer to our escape route, running back towards mum. Aware of 1947’s tragedy; a mother and father’s son lost whilst selflessly trying to rescue a reckless visitor of this periodic track.

The tide has now come, our path engulfed, but we are safe, safe to save another day into that time capsule we call family.


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Flash Fiction by B C Pope
Picture: sanil shell by monicore under CC0 1.0
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When You Know, You Know

“It’s going to die if we don’t do something, Eric.”

Tessa spotted the sheep on the second day of their holiday. It stood on the tip of a Cornish headland, black pencil-shaped legs buckling as gusts of wind flicked it from side to side. The creature made no noise at all—just stood there, alone, blankly accepting.

They had passed it once without concern—climbing up through the dunes in their underused walking boots, sand pushing at the toecaps. Eric had forged ahead, and Tessa had lagged behind, wondering how all her uphill treadmill sessions in the gym had left her so underprepared.

But their return trudge back to the car was downhill, so Tessa had had enough breath to look left and right whilst also moving her feet in the correct direction—and it was then that she had really noticed the wide-eyed sheep, separated from its flock, a single splash of white in the mizzle.

“Yeah—it’ll probably be wind exposure that gets it. Or a dog.” Eric shrugged, rummaging in his anorak pocket for a protein bar. He chewed and swallowed, not offering any to Tessa.

“Shouldn’t we call someone?” Her stomach pinched.

“What, like 999? ‘Sorry, officer, I’m sure you’re extremely busy catching murderers, but just in case you can spare twenty minutes there’s a lost sheep that needs to be returned to its bereft sheep family.’ Tessa—it’s just a sheep.”

On their first date at a cocktail-making class, Eric had stared out of the window overlooking Hyde Park and told her wistfully that it would be great to get out of London for good, to be at one with nature. “Stupid thing’s probably too thick to know what’s going on, anyway. Have you got the car keys, or have I?”

Tessa didn’t bother to answer—Eric always had the car keys. She was never allowed to drive.

On the journey back to their rental cottage, she closed her eyes, feeling unwell. She began to picture Eric stranded out there on the headland, instead of the poor, blankly accepting sheep.

That gave her an idea.

Slowly—secretly—her sickness eased and she began to smile.


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Flash Fiction by Amy J Kirkwood
Picture: sheep by Skitterphoto under CC0 1.0
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The Spirit of Summer

The trampoline’s black mat bobs up and down, springs squeaking in protest. I stand beside it—my shadow long and lonely on our parched lawn—reach through the safety net, wriggle my fingers: there’s no one there.

Dinner, shouts Dad from the kitchen.

We eat salad in silence. Dad pours himself a glass of wine. And then another.

Dad butters my toast, plaits my hair, makes lunch, walks me to school, cleans the house, brings me home, cooks dinner, irons, runs the bath, reads bedtime stories, lies next to me until I fall asleep. In the morning I climb into his giant bed, snuggle close, wonder what he does with the darkest hours at the end of each day.

Today the bouncing is louder.

I stay in the sandpit, sprinkle cool sugar over my feet. It’s too dry for sandcastles: nothing sticks; foundations crumble. When the weather changes I’ll tell Dad it’s time to rebuild what was lost.

The squeaks get further apart. The spirit of summer soars.

At school we make cards: yellow paper, cut into sunflowers, stuck with glue, splattered with glitter. Mummies like bright pretty things, announces Miss Adams, our teacher.

You’re a good girl, the teaching assistant whispers, your daddy must be so proud.

I step onto the trampoline, wobble against the rise and fall of the mat, tumble onto my bum. But here’s Dad, pulling me up by my left hand. And then, in my right, someone else: invisible, cold, familiar.

Now we bounce. A circle of three. Unbroken. My daddies and me.

The sun sets, leaves rustle in the cool breeze, pinpricks of rain dot my skin. Dad stands opposite, smiling.

Dinner’s ready, he says. I’ve made Pop’s favourite.

I miss him so much, I say.

Me too, sweetheart. Me too.


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Flash Fiction by Danny Beusch
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The Old Skip

Ugly and rugged as a coastal tramper, the steel skip squatted next to the pavement outside a coffee shop. Its thick hull was battered and dented, and the lifting lugs at the front and back were strained in tortured shapes. The sides bore multi-coloured blotches of congealed paint, frozen in long-tentacled patterns. City grime had dulled the colours to the low sheen of long-dead fish.

The skip was filled to the gunwales with building rubble. Another load banged and rumbled swiftly down a crude wooden chute from a third-floor window. A scavenger mining the rubble for scrap metal jumped back startled as the chute spat dust and grit at him.

The skip’s front panel sloped outward over the pavement like the raked prow of a trawler built to ride the waves. Oh yes, the waves, always the waves. Ahead and behind, ridging the sea from shore to horizon, forever yielding and shifting and enticing. Adrift on the sea was the only enduring life he had known.

The old man sighed. Waves still rose running over the sea; the trawler was no more. Its end, when it inevitably came, would’ve been in a wrecker’s yard or as a barnacle-encrusted rusted wreck on some tide-washed rocks off a deserted coast. But now, in the very ugliness and brute strength of the old skip, he saw the bared sinews of grim life plunging through the days with raw vigour and stubborn endurance.

The old man moved out from the alley where he had been standing gazing at the skip. The barista saw his weather-beaten, leathered face as he drifted past the window with a sway and a shuffle to his step. There goes that homeless wreck, she thought, back to his shelter under the railway bridge up the road.

She recognized him by his tatty headgear. That baggy flat cap with a short stiff visor and the frayed cord above the visor that he always wore.

Shuffling past the window, the old man and his ancient deep-sea mariner’s headgear vanished from sight like a ship dipping over the horizon.


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Flash Fiction by Tom Serengeti
Picture: trash clam by Jes under CC BY-SA 2.0
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They Always Say You’re Beautiful Before They Break Your Heart

I come from a long line of pigs. Grade A type pigs. Woolworths’ pork-chop type pigs. We’ve fed Queens and Heads of State.

But you learn to hear a beat when the rain crashes on the mud and grass, making a wonderful time in the sty.

The children don’t want the dog to die because it sits and stays, rolls over and plays dead whenever they tell it to.

We loathe the dog.

Earlier in the week the dog, out when it shouldn’t have been, ate something it shouldn’t have and now the grown-ups say it is paying the price.

If it dies the grown-ups will dig a hole to bury it. They will mourn and shed tears like they do for their own.

But when a pig dies it is roasted. I’ve heard the grow-ups and the children lick their fingers at dinner and they throw your bones to the dog. The bloody dog!

Naturally we loathe the dog and we would stay as thin as sticks if we had any sense.

When the grown-ups want to whisper and pace about something called ‘Money’ they meet in the barn. Then after some time, they mate on the hay.

The grown-up who cleans all the animal dung, the one who sleeps in the shed, the dark-toned one, watches from a secret place only us animals know.

When they get you ready for market they fatten you up and you’re called beautiful. They always say you’re beautiful before they break your heart and tear you to shreds.

But it is our way to desire being fattened up and being called beautiful. So for a time you feel valued.

You come to learn though that the grown-ups love nothing for long. Not even each other.


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Flash Fiction by Solitaire
Picture: pig by Leah Kelley under CC0 1.0
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