Go back (flash fiction)

He encouraged the man to go back.  Just go back.

“She’ll be there,” he said.  “Go back.”

“I don’t think so,” the man said.

His blue jeans were nearly black with slime.  His flannel shirt was a cold film of sponge around his body.

“I can’t.”

“What’s the worst that can happen?”

“She won’t be there, and I’ll fall in again.”

“Okay — and what’s something great that could happen?”

“I’ll find her.”

“Then go back!”

“Okay,” he said.

His chin rose, as if pulled by a string, and he turned walked back to the path and into the blackened woods.

Another summer night

the use of a couch (flash fiction)

For whatever reason, he couldn’t talk about it.  That is, he couldn’t talk about it very well.  He could try, and he did.

“It’s in my stomach,” he said.


“Something, uh.”

“Is it pain?”

“Not really.”


“Maybe a little.  But not really.”

“Then what!”

“I don’t know.”

“If you don’t tell me, then I can’t help you.”

“I don’t know what it is.”

“Honey — of course you don’t know what it is.  We go by symptoms.  You tell me what you’re feeling, and maybe we can talk to the doctor and find out what it is.”

“I don’t want to go to the doctor.”

She did not want to raise her voice.  She had been careful, until now, not to.  But now she did.

“Well that’s where you’re going to be if you don’t give me some details about your stomach!”

Then the little boy — age 10 — whose dog had gone missing five days earlier, dove onto the couch, turned his back, and curled into the fetal position.

the quickest way in and out (flash fiction)

It pulled him in both directions.  Like taffy.  Like bad earbuds.  It was the story of his life.

If he used the backdoor, he could get a little walk.  A little exercise around the building.  And stop at the bathroom for a pee.

If he used the front, he could get in there and out quicker — then use the bathroom somewhere else (with the check in his pocket).

“Which way?” he asked.

“It’s right here,” she said, walking to the front door.

When he was twenty-two, just out of college, he had talked about going to Tunisia.  He knew where Tunisia was but didn’t know anything else about it.  Why did he want to go there?  For the adventure.  So he could say he had been.  He now realized why he wanted to make that trip.  He didn’t know anybody who had ever been.  He would have taken buses and probably seen a lot of sand and gone days without using language.  It was his big chance to tell people about a place he had been where they had not been, a place where he had been a very independent man, that nobody could match.  Of course he didn’t go — and it’s a good thing, too.  Now, he would not be able to tell anybody anyway.  It would have sounded silly, with so many back from Iraq and Afghanistan.

He stepped down the hall and knocked on the door, even though it was open.

The guy looked up as if he were wearing a mask, except for the eyes.  They were still.

“Beard,” he said.

“Winter,” said the guy.

“Long time.”

“No shit.”

“You busy?”

“No.  Yeah.”

“I finished.  You want it?”

“I don’t know,” said the guy.  “Do I?”

He shook his head and pulled the DVD out of his pocket, holding it as if it were a candle.

The guy with the beard took three steps, and then one more, and took the DVD.  He pulled out his checkbook.

“Two thousand dollars,” he said.

“Make it three,” she said.

“We had an agreement.”

“You didn’t tell me about the daughter,” he said.

The guy stopped writing and clacked his teeth against his pen.

“Is she on there?”

He nodded.

He wrote the check and handed it to her, and they left, out the hall and into the parking lot.

They held hands.  He hummed a tune. She let go of one hand and took a twirl.

a name (flash fiction)

It was just an email.

He was watching a video on YouTube, one suggested for him by the algorithm. It was something he would like, according to his usage. And he did. It was a pretty girl trying on hats while talking about a snowstorm in Canada and why she never learned the difference between term and whole life insurance and why she never would. Dumb stuff, but funny.  The girl wore a low top and made funny faces.
He wondered who was there with her. Probably nobody. Just her and the laptop’s video camera. Yet, she could be awful funny in her room by herself with those hats, talking about what it’s like to be really hungry for green vegetables — especially green beans — with two feet of snow on the ground and no life insurance.

She probably had family there, in another room.  Maybe her mother.  She was young enough.  Maybe her children.  She was old enough.  YouTube must be her hobby.  She spends her days at work planning what funny stuff to do and then at night, she makes the videos.

Then it came, with a loud ding. He paused the video while she was changing hats and snapped to it and there it was.

It felt warm because the air in the room was cool and he breathed less of it now.

Nobody had ever called him a name like that before.

breakfast (flash fiction)

Something was different. They looked like eggs. They tasted like eggs. The bowl of grits looked like an ordinary bowl of grits. The toast was plain toast like many other pieces of plain toast.

And yet, after the fork touched the food, before reaching the mouth, the color of breakfast shifted, like the shadow from a cloud passing over the eggs.  A pasty hue.  A ropey taste that wafted and then concentrated toward the glands.  An anxiety. Nerves in the upper chest, rising into the neck.eggs

It was the calmity of death. Sitting, heavy, on the fork.

“What’s the matter?”


“I didn’t say anything.”

“I’m not mad at you.”

“You’re acting like it.”

“I’m not!”

“There. See?”

“Stop talking.  Nobody asked you to come here.”

“It’s that space in your heart. You still can’t fill it.”

“I know.”

“You need to.”

“That’s my business.”

“That’s too much salt.”

“Leave me alone.”

One egg was enough.  No grits.  Only half a piece of toast.

rough, very rough, draft of almost nothing

He walks down the road thinking this foot hits that crack just below the toe but this foot hits that ice just above the heel and then he does it all over again, wondering if the cold against his face will get worse around the next bend because it’s just plain cold outside or if it will be warmer with more and faster stepping.

She walks down the path thinking the coffee in her right hand is doing the trick but her left hand in the pocket is colder but not too cold and really a little warmer than the outside of the hand that holds the hot coffee.

He wonders if his father could lend him just a hundred dollars but then how to pay him back. Maybe out of the next paycheck but that needs to pay rent water electric and the muffler is sounding bad but who needs a muffler if you don’t have the money for gas and what kind of mood will his father be in and what would be the best way to ask.  The right foot is far from meeting the next stick in the middle so he shortens his stride and almost makes a little hop.

She could light a cigarette but one hand will have to be cold then and the dorm is still three blocks away more than it takes to smoke a cigarette and really too far to walk with one hand really that cold considering her neck is also freezing.  She could enter the room quietly and let her roommate sleep but her roommate needs to wake up for her own good.  She has work to do and sleeping is just avoidance.  She would be doing her a favor to make a little noise even though it wouldn’t help the relationship at all because it’s a known and proven fact that she’ll get mad and say something mean even though she loves her roommate.

He sees her coming in his direction and looks up and down at the bumps of snow and back up and then down again.  Up and down and up and down.  The air in his chest cools because she’s the girl from that class who likes to answer questions.

She knows that he wants to be an actor but he’s really a singer and not much of an actor if only he knew it and now the cold wind moves from her neck to her cheeks.  He’s the boy from that class.

When they pass she almost smiles and he almost keeps his head down and then he grunts and says hi and she does smile and says hi.

“It’s cold.”

“No shit.”

“Going to get coffee.”

“Just got some.”

“Want some more?”

Her hands warm now and his steps weaving.  His dad could be okay and her roommate could need more catch-up sleep.