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Reflex Fiction Posts

Eyebrows

Blanche knocks over her makeup case and an eyebrow pencil rolls out. Or, what’s left of it, a red stub barely longer than its matching cap, with a black tip inside. She swiped it from her parents’ dresser twenty years ago, after Momma killed herself. Each time Blanche buys a new beauty case, the first thing she transfers from the old one is this little red pencil. She pushes it down to the bottom, where no one else can see it.

Back then, when no one knew anyone who went to a salon to do their eyebrows, Blanche’s mother used to pencil in her brows twice a day. She would lean in towards the bathroom mirror, her rounded stomach pushed up against the sink, her head tilted down, to see past her glasses. Jet black curves, standing out against Momma’s deep brown skin. Twice a day, morning and night.

“Why do you draw your eyebrows before going to bed?” Blanche asked her mother one night. She stood close to her, watching their reflections in the mirror, so close that Momma’s elbow brushed the top of Blanche’s braids.

“Because I want to be beautiful in my sleep” Momma replied. “What would happen if I had an important dream and didn’t have my eyebrows on, hmm?” Blanche nodded solemnly at the thought, leaning her ear against her mother’s hip and listening for signs of life inside her belly. Did the baby inside already know how to talk?

After the new baby grew into a beautiful little girl and then died, Momma sometimes forgot to pencil in her brows, leaving the delicate arcs over her huge, black eyes exposed. Blanche would look down, embarrassed by the sight of her mother’s grief, undressed.

Momma’s face was bare when they pulled her out of the water. In the last moments alone with her body, Blanche took the brow pencil out of her pocket and drew.

Blanche picks up the stub, now, holds it flat against her cheek, then rolls it against the side of her growing belly. Then she shoves it back into the makeup case, where no one else can see it.


Flash Fiction by Charmaine Wilkerson
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Taking Its Toll

Like a Coney Island Circus sideshow, you stare at me. Trapped inside this glass box for hours at a time, I become an object to you. Of ridicule, of your pathetic pickup lines, of your sexual overtures: the flashed genitals I never wished to see. No perk of the job, believe me.

I cope. We don’t report, we stalwart band of female toll takers. Harassment comes with the job. For $12.59 an hour, your dirty mouth’s a perk to some rare souls who crave attention.

Yet I, with window barely cracked and headphones on, grind my way through eight-hour shifts, breathing your traffic fumes as you gawp and offer up obscenities while trying to stroke my hand.

At night, lit by red taillights, I am a whore from Amsterdam behind my Plexiglas screen. You, emboldened by the darkness, try it on, harder than before. I keep my eyes averted, drop filthy coins into your grubby open palm but will not touch. You may be lonely, but I am not your girlfriend or your therapist or your pay-to-play goodtime girl. I am a mom. I am a college girl. I work two jobs to feed my family.

Drive on. Sir. Please.


Flash Fiction by Gillian Webster
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Co-Dependency

You know she’s beautiful. You do, but that’s not why you watch her, tonight or any other night. There’s something in the way she lifts her chin and laughs, daring the world to question her. Her long limbs, not gangly but graceful and elegant. She speaks and it’s like music, but it’s sad, so sad and you want to pity her, you want to and you can’t.

You can only ever, will only ever, fall more in love with her.

Because she’s insane and you know it. You see her at her worst, peel her off the kitchen floor where she lays, lipstick still on and a hundred-pound bottle of champagne on the counter. You don’t know where it came from and you’ll never ask.

You watch her while she dances and she watches you while you sleep—because in reality, you couldn’t be more different. Her hair is blue today and white tomorrow and red the day after that and yours is the same brown it has always been. You don’t know this, but it falls so perfectly between her fingers, and she likes to measure it down your spine at night. She is the tornado that whips through a room, crackling with energy and leaving mass devastation in her wake. You are the calm after the storm, settling with barely enough life to clean up the mess.

You will always lift her from the floor and she will always protect you from the night, because you are just as damaged as she is and co-dependency has never been so sweet.


Flash Fiction by Florence Stones
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Rosy

Fuscia flowers trailed over and down the ornate, iron archway, cocooning her in a rosy tunnel. Sunbeams streaked through the spaces between the petals, casting faint shadows across the cobbled path. Interspersing this pink wave of colour were hints of purples, lilacs, jades and emeralds and she felt content here. Some petals had fallen to the floor as the season had begun to change but it was a warm day and everything felt summery.

Ahead, just around the bend, was a wooden bench, cracked by time and the changing seasons. Deep grooves ran along it but didn’t detract from the smooth curves of the arms leading down to the sturdy iron legs that had held it down for so many years. Collecting up one of the fallen flowers, she wandered towards this favourite perch.

Him. He consumed her thoughts. He had waltzed in that day, a cool, nonchalant air emanating from him. His glossy hair and bright smile had turned her head and when he spoke to her, chose her of all the girls there that day, she beamed and flushed and couldn’t believe her luck. Now, she was thinking of him again, running her hands through her hair. The last two months had whizzed by in a whirl of smiles and kisses and shared moments.

She was so taken by her thoughts that she didn’t really notice the woman taking a seat at the end of the bench. And only when this woman pushed a photograph along the bench towards her: a smiling lady, the lips of a man pressed against her cheek, a dot of a boy playing at their feet; only when she heard this woman’s stifled sob, did she look up.

“Stay away from my husband,” the voice trembled. Another sob. A pause. The sound of footsteps trailing away.

The clouds rolled over, blocking the sunlight streaks which had cascaded through and the gentle breeze blew stronger. Fuscia petals, somehow darker than before, dropped from the trees above her, mimicking the tears that rolled down her flushed cheek.

She left the bench. She left the cobbled path. She left the rosy tunnel.


Flash Fiction by Annie Vincent
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Warm Rain

It was the most beautiful of summer nights consisting of torrential rain and thick warmth. The contradictory weather acted as a blanket of heat melting Josiah’s mind, with cold streams from above reviving his soul. He sat on the damp pavement waiting. Waiting for consistency. He needed to fully embrace the rain in its glory or be enlightened by the hug of heat. He needed consistency.

“What are you doing out here?” Questioned Bryan.

“Nothing,” answered Josiah.

“Everyone’s inside, come in and have some fun,” urged Bryan.

“Why do you think I’m out here?” Responded Josiah.

“You can’t be serious, Josiah, it’s been over a year now. Just come inside and have some drinks, tonight is going to be great, I promise.”

“Alright, just give me a minute.”

“Sixty seconds that’s all you get, and if you’re not inside by then I’ll drag your miserable ass in myself.”

“Okay.”

Josiah remained on the pavement trying to find his reflection in a dark puddle between his legs but found no success. Josiah enjoyed summer in the past, but as of late he couldn’t bring himself to enjoy anything, except Rain, he enjoyed Rain and the company she brought. He usually counts all of her guests that land on his body, but tonight there was only one unwavering flow of water falling on him. It was not an opportune night to be wearing suede shoes but Josiah didn’t check the forecast, he enjoyed Rain’s visits more when they were unexpected. Heat grew constant, maybe that is why he became wearisome in her presence. With Rain, there was no lull. Even in her absence, the anticipation of her next beautiful drop of chaos was enough excitement to last an eternity. With Rain’s chaos came turmoil but with Heat’s familiarity came peace. Rain’s wall of liquid began to crumble, as it collapsed individual drops plummeted to the ground until all the water Rain had to offer lay stagnant in front of Josiah. He was left with nothing but the heavy warmth of Heat’s love.

“Alright, your sixty seconds is up Josiah, let’s go inside.”

“Fine.”


Flash Fiction by Nicholas DelloRusso
Picture: Sun Shower by Mark Ramsay under CC BY 2.0
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Just Twenty-Four Hours

I feel relieved. Tomorrow it will be done. I smile to myself, clutching the letter tightly in my hand as if it was the key to a new life. I will forget my pain, I won’t remember how I have let so much of my life slip past me, and I will not remember him. I’ll be free.

Just one thought of him crept into my mind and suddenly, I felt swamped with grief. He will be dead to me.

I must go to him, just for a glimpse of him one last time.

He is in his garden, he is sat with her . . . There’s a pull inside my stomach at the sight of her, a deep jealousy and hatred of this girl who he chose over me. She doesn’t know I exist and yet there is no one I loathe more. She doesn’t know that he needs me, that he loves me and not her. She doesn’t know that he runs to me at any opportunity that he can escape from her. I am his truest love, who his heart longs for. I feel no guilt or pity for her, she took him from me and I will never forgive her.

But then . . . he chose her over me.

It’s my last twenty-four hours and I am here watching him. I am not with my family or my friends. I’m not writing letters or organising photo albums. I haven’t left myself any messages. I want to be new. I want to leave it all behind.

So here I am, hidden in the trees watching him. I’m watching him be with her. They seem so happy just to be together. The pain rips through my body unrelentingly but I can’t tear my eyes away from them. I imagine it is me. That he is looking at me like that.

It’s morning now and I am at the hospital. I’m ready.

The Doctor appears, his face concealed by a white mask, his large brown eyes stare down at me, “Close your eyes and count back from ten”

I close my eyes.

“10, 9, 8, 7 . . . ”


Flash Fiction by Jennifer Courtenay-Hall
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Actor, Broadway, 1961

I reach the dressing room. The towel is dirty yellow from the matinee and my hands feel weak as I lean on the table. My shoulders hunch, my chest heaves.

I unbutton my shirt.

Was it always this hard?

The audience is on the sidewalk almost instantly, trading the heat of the auditorium for the warm night. Their noise is all around me now. Smoke drifts up through the window: first the heavy brands of the men, then the sweet ones of the ladies. I don’t care about their reviews, but I listen hard for my name.

A woman’s voice carries above the others. I know this woman, or versions of her. She is happy just to be out for the night, not having to sit through another ball game, another argument. She has seen my studio pictures and has told her friends in the typing pool she is seeing the show tonight. She will not now allow herself to feel disappointed. I resent her happiness, and am sick with myself for that.

There was a time when I could take Kate out anywhere and we’d be happy: before we were hollow. A time when we could hold each other’s hand without feeling desperate.

She will be back in her dressing room now, surrounded by bouquets. But in my mind, she is frozen in the final scene: head thrown back, a drop of sweat falling from Nick’s forelock into the private hollow at the base of her throat. Under the lights they are a perfect statue. I lie dead on the stage in front of them, blurring around the edges.

The door opens and he comes into my space. The room comes alive. He is telling me it was a great show tonight. He is telling me what a privilege it is to star with his idol. His tone is telling me we both know they’ll be together before all this is over. The sole of one of his polished brogues is peeling away at the toe.

Kate will expect me at the apartment tonight but I won’t be there.

He is talking about her again, he always does.


Flash Fiction by Guy Smith
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