Flash Special: Puzzles and pieces (August 2017 / 17.9)
Jim Zola has worked in a warehouse, as a security guard, in a bookstore, as a teacher for deaf children, as a toy designer for Fisher Price, and currently as a children’s librarian. Published in many journals through the years, his publications include a chapbook — The One Hundred Bones of Weather (Blue Pitcher Press) — and a full length poetry collection — What Glorious Possibilities (Aldrich Press). He currently lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Make Me Whole Again
My dog and I have diabetes, diagnosed the same week. We were drinking gallons of water, pissing constantly, feeling like shit. I had headaches; she was always panting, that slick, pink tongue looking delicious, like lobster meat between her tan cheeks.
Now we’re both on practically the same medicine except mine is insulin from pigs and hers — lucky — is canine. I imagine our pathetic pancreases as useless, withered lumps sputtering like old engines. The nurse at the VA said that was fairly accurate.
We’ve become closer, my dog and I, since the diagnoses. We fall asleep together on the couch, attentive to the sounds of the street filtering through the open windows. The other day someone rang the doorbell and we both barked. We take our insulin shots in tandem, too — her in a rear leg, me in a piece of pinched gut. They had us practice in the VA on oranges.
We look alike. Our hair is the same beige, like dirty sand. Big ears. I even have some scars bleached with age that match her white spots. I look at them sometimes during therapy. The two on my left thigh look like ballet dancers. Shrapnel. I point to the large white spot on her left hip, all sharp corners. Practically identical.
After a few weeks, my dog says she’s feeling better. Not peeing as much, not nauseous. I can’t agree. I’m itchy now, still have headaches, and my feet tingle. I think it’s the pig medicine. It’s not working.
“Let me try yours,” I say, reaching into the fridge where both bottles stay.
My dog is skeptical but she’s willing to share. There’s no alpha in our relationship, no subordinates. We’re equals. As one.
So I start using the canine insulin. And I feel great, full of energy. In fact, I’m not hungry at all. Ever. In a fever of generosity, at the deli, I get my dog an entire sandwich for herself. She looks at me: are you sure? Yes. I lift a leg and pee on a trashcan while she eats it right there, on the sidewalk.
The deli clerk runs out, apron in hand, his face red as raw meat. We spook simultaneously and take off down the sidewalk then turn and dash across the street, never looking. We run blind.
Then, a flash of yellow cab. Thump thump. We’re struck.
In the hospital they ask if I’m on any meds. I’m diabetic, I growl. They say it’s my leg. It will have to go.
Go where? I ask. I’m panting. Will I get a new one? I’m so thirsty. Where’s my dog?
We’ll talk about a prosthesis after surgery, they tell me. We don’t know anything about a dog.
I want a tan one, I say. With white spots.
A dog? They ask.
No, a leg, I say. I already have a dog. A pinch in my arm and a catheter goes in. Make me whole again, I howl.
Anna O’Brien’s fiction has most recently been included in Luna Station Quarterly, Cease Cows, and Scrutiny Journal.
A black cab pulls around the corner of the park and comes to a halt. The driver gets out from the passenger’s side. He lights a cigarette and blows the smoke into the dawn mist, rolling his head from side to side like he’d just been slugging it out in the ring. He can’t see me, like I can’t see you. And vice-versa.
There is much we can learn from the dawn.
I keep on walking in an easterly direction. You are walking with me. Right along with me. It’s uncanny how in step we are, like a couple of twins. Or besties. Or people who just enjoy each other’s company.
I have two bags of shopping and a phone in my back pocket, which I can’t reach. I have a pair of shoes worn out from walking.
Think about the dawn.
The light is hard and cold, but with a tinge of softness. There is no wind. There is no noise — except for the distant bleep of a reversing lorry. No cars on the street. No people. No animals.
Hold this can for a minute. Can you not feel its light aluminum casing? The weight of about half a mouthful of cider.
There, you felt it.
This is dawn. I am here, now. You are with me. Occasionally, there are pigeons flocking at the kebab remains. There are many.
have no past and I have no future.
The kebab remains look like bloodied organs.
You had to think twice about that.
Jonathan Cardew’s writing appears or is forthcoming in Passages North, Superstition Review, JMWW, SmokeLong Quarterly, People Holding, and others. He was awarded the Doug Fortier scholarship to the Mendocino Coast Writers’ Conference 2017, and was a finalist in the Best Small Fictions 2016 and the Wigleaf Top 50 2017. He edits fiction for Connotation Press.
Choose Jesus for Christ’s Sake
Rubbish day. Mess is scattered in the streets. It’s everywhere and it’s chaos. The only order is the flow; it’s all going one way. Yet that’s hardly clear in the swirls and whirls.
A tall, maroon wheely bin is toppled, tipping waste onto the street. A green recycling bin bounces and flips, emptying its contents, then it stops. The gale wind picks it up again. Dong, dong, dong on the concrete: a deep bass beat, only out of time.
Blue rubbish bags are wounded soldiers, lying on their sides, defeated; their plastic flutters in the gale like loose clothing. The scavengers will be here soon.
Driving south down the road straight into the fierce, invisible wind, a lone car is a fish swimming upstream. It seems the whole world and its debris is flowing the other direction.
All sorts of discarded stuff pass the car’s side windows. Sediment in the river. Cans, tins, plastic bottles, leaves, wrappers, cardboard boxes.
The rubbish truck, with its hazard lights flashing orange, is doing its best to gather what it can. Still, rubbish is flying out of the truck with the gusts. It’s impossible to conquer, and wild.
Crap is everywhere.
Even the clouds look like office waste: strewn pages of a newspaper flicking overhead.
There. A small group of people. Walking against the howling wind, eyes squinted, skin dry and cold. Dodging bits and pieces coming at them. It’s like witnessing a time sequence of their ageing – the weather’s that harsh.
I don’t think they’ll make it much further, not without a car.
Nick Fairclough lives in Masterton, New Zealand. Father of two boys, husband to one woman. He graduated from Otago University some years ago with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Human Geography. Fairclough enjoys cooking, singing, and making horse noises. He is an okay cook, a terrible singer, but has been highly commended on the horse noises. Currently on unpaid sick leave from his day job, Nick spends his mornings writing short stories.
Like Jane Goodall Would
My mother married my father’s clone. She said he was a better version than the original. Wasn’t it nice to have someone new, but yet not new, around the house? I agreed with her by not disagreeing and took to studying him like Jane Goodall would.
Speaking – He slurs the end of his Ws. Especially when he says narrow or mow, which he says often as he likes to mow our garden; even when the grass is short, even in the rain.
Sleeping – He sleeps on his right side. In a boomerang curl, mouth open slightly at his Cupid’s bow so it’s always caught in a kiss.
Sex – From the sounds through the wall, he seems to know what he’s doing. My original father used to get directions shouted at him.
Affection – He responds, but doesn’t initiate. Each touch is then copied — a stroke for a stroke, a hug for a hug — only harder and tighter to make up for not initiating.
Eating – He eats daintily. In small gerbil bites that mean he finishes after everyone else as if always checking he’s doing it right.
Hobbies – He watches people on tennis courts; back and forth, back and forth. He doesn’t play or watch it on TV. When he goes missing, we know where to find him.
Driving – My mother says he’s not allowed to. Something about his cotton wool eyes: opaque and ever-blinking in a silent Morse code.
Socializing – He hovers in corners, moves from one to the other in a rectangular dance. When my mother drags him to the middle of the room, he stands and wraps his arms around her like a dead fox stole.
I brought the list to my mother. She scanned it silently and handed it back, crumpled. “He’s better than nothing though, isn’t he?”
We held hands and watched him out the window, mowing in the rain.
Clodagh O’Brien writes flash fiction and the occasional short story. She has been published in Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Litro, Literary Orphans, Flash Frontier, The Nottingham Review, and others. In 2016, she placed 3rd in the Bath Flash Fiction Award. She likes to write in bed and realizes there are too many books to read before she dies. She tweets @wordcurio.
Jumping off the Head
A young German guy came to Beachy Head in southern England where people jump to their deaths from the high cliffs.
He had a new camera and was going to stay a month or two in the local township to document jumpers and their stories for a book he was planning to write. He even had a publisher interested back home in Mannheim.
He came into the pub sometimes and wanted to show me photos of people jumping and talk about their personal stories including those who changed their minds but I wasn’t interested. I’d been a barman in the area for nearly a year and I’d heard it all before.
Then one night another German guy told me the photographer had jumped that morning. The new guy said the photographer had taken it all too personally, become strangely spiritual and had jumped to somehow connect with the suicides.
The new German guy said he had come to Beachy Head to jump but the photographer went before him and he had decided not to. The photographer had left him his camera gear. The new guy wanted to finish the book, said he felt he owed his life to the photographer. He wanted to show me the picture he took of the photographer jumping. He said the guy blew him a kiss on the way down.