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Reflex Fiction Posts

Two Hundred Years Ago We Would Have Been Dead by Now

Forty years of twisting hands inside her belly, dragging at her guts for five days every month, as regular as a Swiss train.

Three natural births, each round head inherited from their high-browed father, burning as they crowned, leaving their imprints on her cervix and her memory like the sear of a cattle brand.

Five years of crimson flames rising from her breasts to wrap around her throat like a hungry serpent. Five years of the softening of flesh between her hips where she used to be as flat as a carpenter’s bench. Five years pressing her cheek against the cold glass of windowpanes, and grabbing menus from passing waiters to use as fans. Five years peeling herself from sodden bed sheets, and standing naked in front of the open fridge in the middle of the night.

But most of all, it’s the darkness in her head, the illogical anger and inexplicable shame. She spirals down, this feeling that her life is over. He no longer looks at her with hunger in his eyes. Someone needs to catch her in a safety net and persuade her that there is something worth living for.

Flash Fiction by Louise Mangos
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Rabid Dogs

I recalled my father’s voice today, as words lurched out of me, “Twenty bucks please on number four.”

It was impossible not to get in trouble with Dad when we were kids. Socks always poked out of dresser drawers like rabid dogs panting, and it wound him up no end. My legs were too slow when he came at me with his wide hand.

Anytime one of us got sick, noses running green in air thick with Friars’ Balsam, Dad disappeared leaving Mum to cope solo.

“Useless bugger,” she’d curse, after he’d closed the door. A hand forever cupped to her mouth when she spoke—her cave of secrets.

We were meant to hear those words.

Dad topped himself because he couldn’t pay his debts. We all got to choose something, before the rest was bundled up and sent off to the Sallies.

His dressing gown was a heavy wool tartan, with a silken belt that reminded me of Irish dancing. Girls wore those, not boys. But our Dad liked flash things, and the weight felt easy on my shoulders.

I don’t remember Mum having a dressing gown. She was always up by the time we got out of bed. Her hands a constant map of angry red cracks, with a cigarette permanently adhered to her bottom lip.

She had to get an ‘under-the-table-job’ afterwards, and I got a paper run.

Mum didn’t muck around clearing out Dad’s side of the closet.

“No point reminiscing,” she said, through tight lips.

I never saw her cry.

Dad took me with him to the races once, purchased a bag of lollies and left me there to watch the horses. I sat alone until evening draped me in its cloak, and then walked home—freed from something that had no words.

Flash Fiction by Iona Winter
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In Litore Veritas

My father picked up a stick.

No, it can’t have been a stick, not on that beach. No trees.

My father picked up a stone. Yes. Palm-sized and flat, with a pointed end. He stooped over.

Except he was younger then, limber.

My father picked up a stone and bent over, legs spread to steady himself and wrote in the sand. H-A-N-N-A-H. He straightened up and smiled at me.

I wish.

He straightened up and looked at his handiwork, admiring the neatness of the lettering. He always prided himself on his penmanship.

I rocked the arches of my bare feet over the hard ridges the tide had left behind in the sand, and enjoyed the ache there.

“Look,” my father said. “Do you see?”

I put my head to one side, pretending thoughtfulness. I’d just learned how to spell my name, I supposed he was testing me.

“It’s my name,” I said.

“Yes, but it’s a special name. Backwards or forwards, it stays the same. It’s called a palindrome. We named you after my mother.”

I dug my toes into the sand to get my balance back. “You don’t have a mother,” I said.

He dropped the stone and scuffed the letters out with his feet. “Tide’s coming in,” he said as he walked away.

My father wrote my name in the sand.

He told me it was magic, and he told me it belonged to someone he loved better than me.

Flash Fiction by Rachael Dunlop
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Hobo Heroes

We ditch the others on a moon-baked street outside the Gonzo bar in a turnstile town. Big Sam, T-Bone, Larry the Hatchet Job and all the back-room motes that we love and hate and love again, round by messy round. Drinking suds and putting the world to rights like earthquakes as the day breaks and falls ’til it’s time to say adios. We’re the hobo heroes, the Shakespearos, the cavaleros, tearing a great big hole in the sky with found words; unbound words, spoken, spoke in, soaked in sweet tokes, easy strokes and dusty footprints on Kerouac roads on our hands and knees as our knuckles bleed. Driving all night in bare feet, in naked heat to the place where skinny dogs howl and belly’s growl in neon flickers and amber liquor waits in lemonade jars. That sticky slick bourbon stings enough to make you remember, hurts enough to make you forget. Then from a bathtub in a motel room in cold blood we spill like fish from the mouths of fools because fools dare to hope. And we bend our shape to the underground, unbound, found and feel the beat of a thousand restless feet on our shoulders like boulders urging us on the road again, along the road again. Just a couple of hack whores on slack shores California dreamin’ in the great blue nowhere. We’re outlaws, the dog’s jaws, cat clawed to the page. Mojo mothers riding high, we scream our ghost letters ricocheting the sky.

Flash Fiction by Denise Cowap
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Everything I Knew Was True

“Please, mister,” he said, blocking my way as I tried to enter Fairway. “I am from Syria. Got two children. Need food, need clothes.”

He held out his hand and looked at me. Tears welled up in his eyes and trickled down his dark stubbly face. No words were needed. On that face, eight inches from mine, was written everything I knew was true about the refugee crisis.

A bomb had destroyed his home and shop in Aleppo, killing his parents and his wife. He had taken his three children from school, stuffed all the belongings he could find in the rubble into a backpack, withdrawn his life savings, and headed for the Turkish border. They had subsisted for months in a makeshift tent city, teeming with filth, crime and disease. His cash nearly gone, he gave all he had left to smugglers, who locked them into the back of a sweltering truck and took them to the coast. There, they boarded an overcrowded tub bound for Greece. That night, on the stormy Mediterranean, as he held his two daughters in a tight grip, his son fell overboard and drowned. Miraculously, the other three made it across and into the care of UNICEF. They survived “extreme vetting” and were admitted to the United States. But now the resettlement benefits had run out, and they were on their own. He was not a terrorist, but a desperate human being. The tears on his cheeks were genuine.

As I reached into my pocket, a woman tapped my shoulder and I turned around.

“You’re not falling for that sob story, are you?” she said. “That guy has been panhandling on this block all week. He’s as Syrian as you and me.” She hurried into Fairway and I looked back, my hand still in my pocket. But the man was gone.

Flash Fiction by Steven B Rosenfeld
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Paean to a Greek Goddess

With fuzzy hair and bright, white smock, a small boy sits upon the pavement edge, absorbed, as a group begin to play.

Below the sacred hill, swept by footfalls and the buzz of talk, the broad, cobbled way runs above the bustle of the town. A gentle breeze hints oregano, basil, spices in the sultry air. In the night, a hundred small illuminations glitter and street lamps throw their bright pools into shadowed gaps along the promenade. Musicians beguile with fiddles, drums and curiosities. Behind the screen of conifers, a chamber orchestra rehearses for an evening concert.

The group begin to play as the boy’s father urges him to come along but the boy stays put.

Against the girl’s dark hair, a momentary flash of cheek shows white as she steps into the light. Her voice is husky; deep. The folk song’s cadences evolve. A dark young man slaps out double bass; a father figure sits between them striking his bouzouki’s tansy, higher strings.

Catching votive offerings, an ancient, upturned hat and all the world walks by. Lovers, oblivious, lost in their own mythology: families herding children—rounding up their older folk: an urgent cyclist dodges through the crowd.

One song ends and from her magic flute the breathy notes soar out for dance. The mind’s eye strays to an Aegean village; spirited young men; circling, hands joined; feet stamping out the beat.

Here the elegance—stately homes rising in the evening sky call to the head; half-moon racing wispy clouds; dark limbed trees—silhouettes on pale stone. Scented pines, charcoal black rising up the slope. Pillared temples standing high are liquid gold to deify the Goddess and her gifts—the flute and reasoned argument among so many—ageless truths as those antiquities buried far below.

Another song of love and hope.

The boy sits on, bewitched. His father, once anxious to be off, capitulates and squats to share the dream. From Athene’s flute, the music’s soft and pure.

While reason, not yet learned, promises only that one small boy and thousands more will wake to discord—with the music gone.

Flash Fiction by Bryan Thomas
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Unfinished Nudes

While my uncle, her husband, packed their only car to leave her for one of his students, my aunt sat, red-eyed from weeping and vodka, on the studio sofa, listening to Cannonball Adderly’s recording of “A Child’s Introduction to Jazz”. One tongue-flick at a time, she withdrew kernels of salted popcorn from the turpentine smelling palm of her hand and dissolved them in her mouth.

As my uncle loaded the rear seat of the station wagon with easels and brushes, his new student reclined across the hood. She drummed stubby nails against the waistband of her denim cut-offs in perfect time with the Ginger Baker eight-track solo pulsing through the car’s speakers. Her strawberry jam colored hair hung over the fender and curtained the stack of unfinished canvases leaning against the passenger door.

As he pulled away from the curb with his most recent, unframed nudes bungeed to the roof, I watched from the kitchen window, humming the Queen of the Night’s Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen and munching stale Spanish peanuts.

My aunt, the student and I had all, under different circumstances and at different times, stolen bubble gum from my uncle’s trouser pockets.

Of the three of us, only the student had beautiful hair.

Flash Fiction by Lesley C Weston
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