Flash Special (June 2012 / 12.12)
Artist, Allan Gorman: Allan Gorman lives in Montclair, NJ (USA). A self-taught artist, Gorman’s precise, realistic oil paintings attempt to capture the random abstractions found in the industrial environment. His work can be viewed here.
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He wasn’t always invisible. As a youngster, he raced around the playground, awkward and obvious as everyone else, but something in his eyes reacted to the closeness of others, so he had to stay back. His parents got him glasses when the teachers complained about him standing in the hallway to see the board, but they kept forgetting to take him to replace his prescription.
It was in high school that he truly began to fade. When the other kids were sticking grubby fingers in each other, he always kept a few feet back. By the end of his freshman year, he was a head and clothes. By the end of sophomore year, he was a squeaky voice. Even his clothes were invisible.
He decided that invisibility must be a super power, so he started reading the papers to find crime to fight. He spent his afternoons hanging around gas stations and liquor stores, and soon realized no one would notice if he missed school for it. The first time he saw a robbery, he ran up in front of the man’s gun and yelled,
“This gas station is protected by the Invisible Sun!”
But no one heard him. The robber shot the cashier for being too slow with the register, and even though the Invisible Sun tried stopping the blood loss, he couldn’t save the man. That night, he followed the man’s wife home and spent a dark evening trying to console the man’s daughter, who heard not a word.
The Invisible Sun decided crime probably paid more than heroism, anyway. He walked into a bank, waited until an old lady went to the vault to check on the cougarans her husband had left her, and walked out with several thousand dollars, which he hid under his clothes. He went to a store, but realized he didn’t need to pay for anything. He filled himself with junk food until he became fat and indolent.
Soon, he noticed that he could see the mound of belly and the shirt barely covering it. When his neck doubled and tripled, that became apparent in the mirror also. Women on the street glared at him. Men smirked when he plodded by. Still, he kept eating until his whole body became thick and visible. He began to realize many of the people on the street were equally large. He started ignoring anyone smaller than him as well as everyone else he encountered.
He grew and graduated, took a job at the same gas station he’d once tried to save after his parents kicked him out of their house. On the day a robber came, he turned his head, refusing to see the man. When the bullet entered his stomach, the Invisible Sun smiled; there was nothing important in there for it to hit. He lay on the floor as the robber helped himself to the money in the register, cursing and shaking with need; the Invisible Sun saw no one there.
CL Bledsoe is the author of the young adult novel Sunlight; three poetry collections,_____(Want/Need), Anthem, and Leap Year; and a short story collection called Naming the Animals. His poetry chapbooks, Goodbye to Noise and The Man Who Killed Himself in My Bathroom , are available online. His story, “Leaving the Garden,” was selected as a Notable Story of 2008 for Story South’s Million Writer’s Award. He’s been nominated for the Pushcart Prize 5 times. He blogs at Murder Your Darlings. Bledsoe has written reviews for The Hollins Critic, The Arkansas Review, American Book Review, Prick of the Spindle, The Pedestal Magazine, and elsewhere. Bledsoe lives with his wife and daughter in Maryland..
You can keep your bread and crackers. I don’t need them. I will keep my whiskey. I will drink it in the study, TV on, volume down. In this house there are no voices, only echoes. There is only the sound of growing old.
Days splinter. There are casseroles and strangers, Arrangements made with scoured phrases. There are dotted lines and perforations. Sign here. Initial there. Between, there is an elemental stillness. A wedding band. A broken wristwatch. A floor worn bare from pacing. A TV that broadcasts to an empty chair.
On my shelf I keep a stack of photo albums, catalogued and labelled volumes 1 – 9. I lift them down, run the pages through my fingers. I find her there in profile, arms folded, one hip jutting, right where I’d first placed her, midway through volume 3.
I rise early, drink coffee by the window, gaze at nothing, lost in used-to-be. All this, and yet there are things I still believe in. I still believe in autumn gardens, jazz playing in the background, hair twisting round a finger, lips pursing, saying, Yes.
I need time. That’s what they tell me. Yes, time is what I need. I need to hold time between my fingers, let it settle in the creases of my hand. I need to grasp it, squeeze it tightly, and when I feel it slipping, when I grow weary of its passing, I need to stop it, hit rewind.
Originally from the east coast of the US, Sally Houtman now lives and writes in Wellington, New Zealand. Her work hangs out in such places as Literary Mama, Tattoo Highway, Girls with Insurance, Wilderness House Literary Review, Connotation Press, Rose&Thorn, Scissors&Spackle, and Flash Frontier. She is the winner of three New Zealand short story awards and was shortlisted for the UK’s 2011/2012 Fish Prize. Her work was recently Highly Commended in New Zealand’s inaugural National Flash Fiction Day Competition, earning the runner-up award for her region.
Tuesday May 8th 1912. One hour’s burial in the poor ground of Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.
Carpenter’s child—the child of John and Mary Kenny—Convulsions
Mary tried to drown herself in the Poddle, but was rescued by a passing cyclist
Dairyman’s Child—the child of John and Jane Larkin—Measles
John’s tears soured the milk for all of Sheriff Street for a month
Labourer’s Child—the child of John and Ellen O’Brien—Scarlatina
Ellen drank rat poison and died in the gutter
Servant’s Child—the Illegitimate child of Margaret Maguire—Diarrhoea
Margaret’s employers gave her a shilling extra in her paycheck
Labourer’s Child—the child of Edward and Elizabeth McDonald—Gastritis
Edward blamed his wife’s poor constitution for the child’s death
Labourer’ s Child—the child of Peter and Sarah Clarke—Premature Birth
Peter and Sarah lost twelve previous children
Bookseller’s Childe—the child of Joseph and Teresa Finegan—Diptheria
Teresa followed the child a week later and Joseph destroyed his bible
James Claffey hails from County Westmeath, Ireland, and lives on an avocado ranch in Carpinteria, CA, with his wife, the writer and artist, Maureen Foley, their daughter, Maisie, and Australian cattle-dog, Rua. He is the winner of the Linnet’s Wings Audio Prose Competition. His work appears in many places including The New Orleans Review, Connotation Press, A-Minor Magazine, Literary Orphans, and Scissors & Spackle. His blog is at www.jamesclaffey.com.
sybil what do you want
We were born on the river and we lived on the river for a long time. The river made a kind of long soft sound. It wound through the shade in the shallow valleys. In the spring pollen was a bright frost on the water. The haze held everything in a kind of broken flat eternity. It was a languid gold haze in the summer, heavy as water. You could feel the earth move. I thought. The water was cold. It made a fist around you. We got older and at night we went down to the docks beneath the bridge. It was shallow there. The moon sat by the hills. The city glowed around the hills. The sky was a dark purple around the hills. We lived on the river for a long time. Is what I’m saying. Things weighed different. Things do when you get older. When I went back there I drove my dad’s old Volvo around through the mist low over the fields in the long valley. The breeze came in along from the river smelling like silt. The river was low and the banks black mud. The water was sweet and cold. It said where are your sisters? and I said don’t talk to me about my sisters, not yet. There was no we anymore is what I’m saying. The moon shimmered down the curve of the river. The surface was unbroken like glass. I said will you please leave this whole thing alone and the river said no. The river said why do you keep coming back here if you don’t want to talk about it? I said don’t psychoanalyze me. And the river laughed a long slow burbling laugh and time stretched itself out like someone with long legs. After a long long time the river said I miss you when you were a kid. And I said yeah I miss me when I was a kid too. I miss the way everything was when I was a kid but it’s gone now and that’s what it is. The river told me sometimes I acted like I was a thousand years old. I would know, it said. You talk like you’ve suffered worse than anyone in the world and now you’re like, whatever. I got up to go back to the car and the river said come on now. Come on, and I went back up to the car. The river kept calling it after me. Come on, come on, come on. But we can’t go back, do you know? Listen, baby, said the river, you’ll live, I promise.
Genevieve Oliver is trying to write a novel called “Dust Rules Everything Around Me” out of a series of cold rooms in Western Massachusetts. Her work has appeared in decomP magazine.
Shell of My Future Self: A Narrative Riddle
It’s rare for me to have anything to say this early in the day. I am ablaze, imbued in a genetic rite of passage. In front of me broods a piece of paper and an engraved nine-millimeter my father gave to me after I graduated college. There is nothing behind me unless I turn around.
My family tree is a labyrinth of loss; relatives don’t die, they get lost in folds. Death is a dance partner that allows you to lead while He dictates the pace of the song. The playlist is a mix of every word you’ve ever spoken, any sound you registered as your own. I am your dance partner. Together we waltz into dark corners where we’ll be most easily forgotten.
If we’ve met, there’s a significant chance you fell in love with me. If we haven’t, there’s a strong chance you’ve thought of me. My body is a higher percentage of water than yours. I amble with the hitch in my gait you feign for effect.
The gun, in case any Chekhovians were wondering, has already been fired. Let go, that is. Tough market. Couldn’t afford the bullets.
I write by amber lamplight, a timeless tone. There is no pen in my hand, no words on the page, no amber lamplight, no engraved nine-millimeter. I am one cell endlessly multiplying into unrequited oblivion.
But what am I, really?