All posts by Meg Pokrass

Jenny Stalter

Elephant Women

The man, a sort of apparition, was going around the neighborhood, slipping in and out of our houses. Like a dick. In and out. He showed us a perverse mirror. A thousand insecurities. I was the fat woman whose husband was unfaithful with younger women.  I tried to tell the man it wasn’t true but the only thing that came out of my mouth was the word no. On the third visit from him I twined myself around the pain and thought this is mine. If something is my own then it can’t hurt me, right?

Jane in her picture window, done up and vacuuming like some 1950’s nightmare, day and night. Kimmy who stopped everything and became smaller until she was unseen but still existing somewhere, like an idea. Like it was better to be invisible than to be plain. Amy was always fussily painting herself.

The man didn’t kill us. He made us stronger. But it was a crude, misshapen strength. We became Elephant Women, a large muscled bicep here, a thin, atrophic limb there, hobbled legs, hobbled thoughts, odd protuberances. The fear of his return was more excruciating than what he’d already done. The pain of the potential for greater pain. One of the women started a Facebook group. We tagged each other as QUEENS and offered virtual ((HUGS)).

I tried drowning the man in alcohol but I ended up drowning myself instead. I passed out with Netflix at top volume and woke up to a blank screen asking if I was still watching. In the panic of that silence I understood what we must do. I created an event for the group: EXORCISM: GET THE MAN OUT.

Each woman showed up lugging her load. Jane showed up with a Dirt Devil and tidied as we convened. Amy arrived with a kaboodle full of cosmetics, applying her makeup. I kept repeating the word no.

We formed a circle. Clarissa wrote something on a piece of paper, folded it into a tight little square and placed it in my mouth. I didn’t see what she wrote but the words felt strong in my mouth. I clenched them between my teeth. I turned and gently pulled the Dirt Devil from Jane. We stood in that circle, each woman taking the burden of the one beside her.

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Jenny Stalter is a writer and former private chef. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Typehouse Literary Magazine, Eunoia Review, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Tiny Molecules, and New Flash Fiction Review. She was longlisted for the 2018 Anton Chekhov Prize for Very Short Fiction and is a 2021 Pushcart Prize nominee.

Frankie McMillan

The Elephant in the Room

1

My husband is a choker. Every now and again, he’ll cough then suddenly rise, the dinner plate flung to the floor. Food thrown everywhere. He runs outside, leans over the balcony. His body shudders as he tries to clear his airway. Sometimes he grasps an overhanging tree fern to steady himself.

We thought living at the edge of a forest might help his airways. We thought all that greenery would be good for him.

2

He explains to visitors why he can’t eat certain foods … the flap in his throat is faulty.

When I think of the throat I don’t think of there being a flap in there. Or two passageways, one for food, one for air. The mechanisms of swallowing are a mystery to me. ‘Can’t you eat more slowly?’ I say. ‘Can’t you count to ten before you swallow?’

One friend, who I suspect has a crush on him, always jumps up to offer water. Rub his back in little circular motions. ‘I hope you know the Helmlich’s maneuver,’ she says.

It’s hard to resume the conversation after a choking fit.

Usually the conversation that follows is about his flap.

3

I’m on my hands and knees poking out a pea from under the leather sofa. My mind is not so much on the pea but the way a sofa seems to swallow objects. If I ever lose something, say my cell phone it’s bound to be wedged into the back. Under the sofa it smells like elephant. I’ve never smelt an elephant up close but I think, this is how it would smell. This is the sort of thing I find interesting but it doesn’t seem to go anywhere in a conversation.

4

My husband lurches inside. ‘Helmlichs,’ he gasps. He points dumbly to his back.

He’s never asked for this before.

I jump up. I put my arms around his middle, my fingers search blindly for the bony ridge …the diaphragm. But he is a big man and my arms scarcely go around him. We stagger around the floor, my face pressed to his warm back.

In desperation I hit him. I pound his back. My hands, my fists raining down on his sweat soaked shirt.

We haven’t made love for years. Now we are involved in a terrible struggle.

5

Outside, wind ploughs through the flaxes, the tree ferns wave and as we lie there in a sweet tangle I imagine he is thinking of the latest story he will tell about his flap. But instead he turns to me, ‘We are so lucky’ he says, ‘so very, very lucky.’

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Frankie McMillan is the author of five books, the most recent of which, The Father of Octopus Wrestling and other small fictions was listed by Spinoff as one of the 10 best NZ fiction books of 2019. She co edited Bonsai : best small stories from Aotearoa New Zealand. (CUP, 2018) Her flash fiction appears in national and international journals and anthologies, notably, Flash Fiction International, 2015 (WWW Norton) Best Small Fictions, 2017 (Braddock Books) and Best Microfictions, 2019 ( Sonder Press). In 2014 she held the Ursula Bethell writing residency at Canterbury University and in 2017 the University of Auckland/Michael King writing residency. In 2019 she was the recipient of the NZSA Peter and Dianne Beatson Fellowship.

Morgana MacLeod

End of Days as the Dairy Queen

End Of Days At The Dairy Queen

Momma wears her memories like a ratty robe, worn patches rubbed shiny on the seat, diverse stains obscuring the lapels.  Between you and me, Momma’s mind is the kind you shouldn’t wear out in public but there’s principles and there’s practical and anyone will tell you I never had what you might call high-grade standards. Here’s a for instance – some people call them dust bunnies, those tumbleweeds of dirt under the sofa? Momma always called it slut’s wool, and I am proud to be that slut. Where’s the pleasure in moving furniture to vacuum someplace only you will know you’ve been?  I’d just as soon spend that time batting my lashes at someone else’s handsome man. Time was we would have butted heads over housekeeping, but nowadays Momma don’t mind the grit in the carpet as she shuffles the trailer end to end, looking for her husband, “Where’s your Father?”

I’ve done some training. Reminisce, don’t remember.

“He was the bravest man I know,” I’ll reply, “When you met him, he was a rodeo clown.”

The clouds in her eyes part for a beam of clarity, “I was taking tickets for the Haunted House.”

“You married in the Midway, after-hours. And instead of a bridal waltz…”

“We rode the Cha Cha!” Giggling, Momma spins until her dodgem car feet tangle but it is never long until, tears queuing in the pouches beneath her eyes, she frets me for a trip into town, fetch Daddy a pouch of chewing tobacco.

We only get as far as the Dairy Queen. Momma won’t go past the giant bananas they got dangling off the sign.

“Ain’t decent, hanging right there in broad daylight, half undressed.”

“Momma, what’s decent for fruit, anyhow? They still got peel downtown.”

“Your Daddy curled over at the tip, just like that.”

Not one lick of use shooshing her, I know that much, “Well, I can see the appeal.”

“Why the Good Lord take them nekkid fruit and not my poor soul. Have pity on us sinners!” Momma fold one chicken wing arm cross her mashed potato chest, hold the other one high, waiting for Jesus to reach on down and haul her home.

“Momma, it’s fibreglass and wires. Not the Rapture. C’mon now.”

There’s a row of gawking lunchers, other side of the plate glass front windows, lips stretched wide around forgotten mouthfuls. My face swims, reflecting in the line-up. For just one floating moment, I am one a them empty-headed laughing clowns,

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Morgana Macleod was born peculiar, in a time when no-one paid attention. Literary influences range from Angela Carter, Tobsha Learner and Umberto Eco to 70s Penthouse letters via the Fortean Times.  She now lives on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia where her hobbies include raising two boys, carnivorous plants, and Afro-Caribbean syncretic religions.

Publications include “Undercurrents” anthology and two Stringbark Press collections of prize-winners, “Between Heaven and Hell” (flash) and “Between the Sheets” (erotica).  Her flash fiction appears in Thumbnail 5 and Thumbnail 6.

Her work can be found online at sites including New Flash Fiction Review, Medium and outofthegutteronline.com.  She’s toying with writing a novel but concerned about the limits of her own attention span. Feel free to stalk her on Facebook (Morgana MacLeod) and Twitter @morganamacleod.

Aimee Parkison

Peg

Inspired by the song Peg” by Steely Dan

In your favorite foreign movie, the husband wakes at night and sees the elderly neighbor woman in the bedroom, staring at his wife, the young sleepwalker, S, tied to the bed for her own protection and played by aspiring actress, Peg.  Later, the husband, finding S gone with ropes untied, recalls a flashback of previous times.  After asking the elderly neighbor, J, for help, they find S sleeping high in a tree and talk her down.  Inside J’s house, the husband and J watch as S freaks out about an old B-movie poster hanging over J’s garish sofa.  The faded poster is of a woman running from a monster.  S says that’s what she has been running from, asking J about the poster and discovering from J that J was the actress in the poster and the monster was a creature J’s husband, a screenwriter, created to explain the death of his mother after J married her son.  Later at home, S is terrified and keeps talking about the poster, and her husband explains, again, that the monster is a made-up creation.  S says she wasn’t running from the monster but the woman in the poster.  That’s what she has been running from all these nights since her sleepwalking started, since they moved into the house next to the elderly neighbor.  The husband wakes up at night and sees the old woman in the bedroom, staring at Peg. 

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Aimee Parkison is the author of Girl Zoo, Refrigerated Music for a Gleaming Woman, Woman with Dark Horses, The Innocent Party, and The Petals of Your Eyes. Parkison has won the FC2 Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize, a Christopher Isherwood Fellowship, and the North American Review Kurt Vonnegut Fiction Prize. She teaches in the creative writing program at Oklahoma State University and serves on FC2’s Boards of Directors.

Nod Ghosh

Marionette

You pull her up on two-strings, one-string, ten strings. You make her dance her necessary steps, and then you stand her still. When she says ‘please’, you pretty her into indigo happiness, and then you drop her on the ground. Her bamboo legs unfold, her skirt splayed, displayed like an open orchid.

A crowd gathers, curious, not knowing what will happen next. But you don’t want them to see everything you can do to her, this other widow-woman, with her spine made from bricks, her heart on stilts.

She bears all the glitz and silence of an outsider, but she only goes outside when you let her. She is yours, your mother-bride. Seek and hide. The crowd tosses coins, small boys cheer, pleading for more of her catapulting dance. You pour what you can into her, even lose part of yourself in her, though you keep the best for yourself, your hammer-ankles, your wan loathing.

Through your offerings she thrives and feeds small mammals in passing. They leave droppings, oblong turds that stick to your shoes.

You pull her up on two-strings, and then you stop.

Your shoes clack as you walk away.

When the two of you sleep, you hold her close, her hair jasmine and mildewed. You watch her sunless repose in the palm of your hand.

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Originally from the U.K., Nod Ghosh lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. Truth Serum Press published the novella-in-flash 'The Crazed Wind' in 2018, and will release 'Filthy Sucre' (three novellas) in early 2020. For further details on other publications visit http://www.nodghosh.com/about/