Category Archives: Valentine

Meg Pokrass

Hi, Hi, Hi!

 

At first they felt zippy and free, his bird-night summer e-mails. One e-mail would say just a few warm words, trail off, be gone it seemed— but then, surprise! An hour later, ten more, like bugs over water. And it was never one hi. It was Hi, hi, hi!  For months, she’d ignore the stabbing feeling of her recent divorce, would call the cat over to her desk. She liked the solidity of the large cat’s moon-like presence while she read his words carefully, one at a time.

His e-mails were funny, but also a bit sad. There was often an anecdote about his old, limping dog, or his wife’s unfriendly new cat.

Eventually, she asked him to describe what came next.

Well, hey, I’ll be alone at the river cottage next weekend by myself (maybe) so then I might actually talk on the phone! he wrote. Along with this e-mail was a photo of himself in an undershirt, sitting on a bed.

So, yeah, I’m muddling through these days, reading, and, well, yeah, drinking, he said. But life, life goes on… sigh… How are you? he wrote, and asked her for a topless photo before they spoke on the phone, if they actually did. It might be good for her self-esteem, he suggested. “I’m not wonderful on the phone, just warning you,” he said.

Anyway, they would have to settle for photos. One time he said it straight out. Because it was all there was, at least for now. “But photos can really perk things up,” he said.

She didn’t agree, and felt that sending him some dumb-looking naked photos of herself wouldn’t help. Because once, he had sent her unasked-for photos of himself wearing only a lopsided camping hat, the lower part of his body shadowy and strange.

And once he sent her something she wanted too much and she thought for days and then weeks and probably a whole year about why it moved her, a very short video of him singing off-key with his guitar, and how close she felt to his air, how close they would feel in one warm place on one scented night under purple stars, a deep-ruby moon, because they could do that with her color adjuster, and she would pull off her shoes he would see how small and right her feet were for his true life but only when it was dark, and she would slurp him up inside the warm lake. He would sigh, the water would be moving and something might bite or sting, and even then, they would kiss for hours, would push their millions of written words together.

And they never really stopped. Even years later, well into her new marriage, his occasional e-mails zipped into her life, sadder and funnier and stranger. A photo of him looking a bit deflated, like someone’s grandfather waving from a bed— chirping, Hi, hi, hi.

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Meg Pokrass has published stories and poetry in Electric Lit, Tin House, Rattle, PANK, 3AM, Wigleaf, Matchbook, NANO Fiction, 100-Word-Story, Smokelong, and many other literary magazines both online and in print. Her flash has been included in Best Small Fictions 2018 and two Norton anthologies: Flash Fiction International (W. W. Norton & Co., 2015) and New Micro (W.W. Norton & Co., 2018). She received the Blue Light Book Award for her collection of prose poetry, Cellulose Pajamas (Blue Light Press, 2016). Her newest flash fiction collection is Alligators At Night (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2018). Previous collections include Damn Sure Right, My Very End of the Universe, Bird Envy and The Dog Looks Happy Upside Down. Meg’s flash has been included in the Wigleaf Top 50. She currently serves as Festival Curator for Flash Fiction Festival, UK, Flash Challenge Editor for Mslexia Magazine, Managing Co-Editor, Best Small Fictions, 2019, Managing Editor of New Flash Fiction Review.

Steven John

Adagietto for String Section and Solo Harp

 

We’re numb from bed heat. Rippled skin from storm-torn sheets, with the scent of animal, rut stained. We’re ship-wrecked. Shot foxes with hollowed out faces. Ferrets slithering from the burrow.

Shattered plates on the carpet—collateral damage from the tango that swept table space for body parts, which we ate like cannibals. Naked, febrile from the kill and kill, we squeeze teabags in mugs and infuse the moment in hushed sentences.

Under steaming water we swim our hands in each other, then dress and grieve the covering of addictive fruit. We wanted more. With your head on my lap I scoop your tears in the crook of my finger and drink them. You say you’re not crying. We listen to Mahler and hear the darkness of passing cars. Lights descend from the purple sky. We drive to the airport to watch planes and whisper names of countries.

 

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Steven John lives in The Cotswolds, UK, where he writes short stories and poetry. He’s had work published in pamphlets and online magazines including Riggwelter, Spelk Fiction, Fictive Dream and Cabinet of Heed. He has won Bath Ad Hoc Fiction a record six times and was highly commended in 2018 ‘To Hull and Back’ competition. Steven has read at Stroud Short Stories, Cheltenham poetry Festival Fringe and The Writer’s Room on Corinium Radio. He is Associate Editor at New Flash Fiction Review.

Claire Polders

Swan Lake

 

The night I met her she was wearing all white, as a ruse perhaps, for she was no angel. One look into her eyes and you knew: flammable, ambivalent, relentless.

She was shaped like an angel, though. A tall, lithe frame and pliant limbs. Hair that welcomed light. You could easily imagine wings sprouting from her shoulder blades, powerful wings that would lift her into the air.

She wanted to be a dancer, she said, so I figured she’d be lifted into the air often enough, wings or no wings. Classical ballet, she said, Swan Lake. Her words were born from a dream.

But that was before the steel grey car soared around the corner and jumped onto the sidewalk where we stood talking, light-headed, not willing to say goodbye. The bar had closed by then. It was a homeless night in late March.

They kept her in the hospital for nearly nine weeks. Whenever I visited, she found her charm in looking bored or attacked the wheels of her chair with a spoon, trying to bend the spokes. Together we made up stories about the pig who hadn’t stopped. How he would meet his end, squealing.

On the day she was released, I took her into my arms. I had trained for this. My arms were not wings, but they were strong and skilled. She was wearing all white again on my request. It was a whispering morning in early June.

I took her to the water’s edge and lifted her into the air. We waited and watched. On the quiet lake, the swans swam toward us, one by one, eager to meet my dancing love.

* First published in Vestal Review

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Claire Polders grew up in the Netherlands and currently roams through Europe. She’s the author of four novels and co-author of one novel for younger readers, A Whale in Paris (Atheneum/Simon&Schuster, 2018). Her short prose appears wherever it’s appreciated. She occasionally makes websites for authors and artists and is the web designer for NFFR. More: www.clairepolders.com.

Al Kratz

Union Forever

 

Years later, Christopher and Meryl divorce. Years later later, Christopher and Meryl are to re-marry.

“I’m not getting them another wedding present,” I say to Barbara, my wife, the love of my life, the woman who never does anything wrong.

“Oh yes we will, Stanley,” she says. “We’ll get them a wedding present just like we got them a divorce present, and just like we got them a marriage present the time before that. That’s what they do, and that’s what we do.”

I drive Barbara to Harrods, because that’s what I do. But I stay in the car. She walks both in and out of Harrods with a smile that doesn’t make me feel better about them, it makes me feel better about us.

The ceremony is fine. The preacher is brief. There are to be several kegs following the presentation of the bride and groom. When the new union is announced, I can’t help it anymore. I let out a sarcastic noise somewhere in the middle of a cough and a gag. My wife pinches my leg just above the knee. Really hard too, but then she whispers, “I’m sorry Stanley, you know I love you.”

Years later later later, I will ask Barbara whatever happened to Christopher and Meryl.

“People change, sweetheart,” she will say while resting her hand on my knee. “People change.”

 

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Al Kratz is a fiction editor at New Flash Fiction Review, and writes reviews for Alternating Current. His flash fiction was awarded at the Bath Flash Fiction Award in the spring of 2016 and fall of 2017. His novella-in-flash was shortlisted at Bath in 2018. Recent work of his has been published by Hobart, Bending Genres, Reflex, and Bull.