Tag Archives: microfiction

Sarah Salway

On Hold

She was just passing the phone box the first time it rang.

Or that’s what she said afterwards. She checked her mobile of course, but her boyfriend had recently changed her ring tone to ‘Hello Barbie’ so he could find her easily. This was an old fashioned dring-dring. It brought back so many memories that when she picked up the receiver she almost imagined it to be her mother telling her to be careful.

‘Hello,’ she breathed, ‘hello, hello, hello.’

She gently touched the four corners of one of the postcards plastered on the wall as she waited for the torrent of words in a language she couldn’t understand to finish. And then she replaced the receiver.

***

The second time she took the call, she’d been waiting for half an hour.
The phone box wasn’t even near her house, but she changed the route of her run so she could pass it. Every third run, she’d wait. Just to see. Her boyfriend complained that she wasn’t losing that much weight for someone who ran so much, but she told him muscle took time to build up.

When the phone rang she didn’t say anything at first, just let the voice on the other end run on, smiling at the way it rose and fell, how the consonants tripped over each other. As she listened, she let her fingers trace the women on the postcards. They were all so happy looking.

‘Sweet dreams, be safe,’ she whispered as she replaced the receiver. It was what her mother always used to say to her before she went to sleep.

She threw the cards into the bin by the park. ‘Sweet dreams,’ she whispered as she imagined them nestling together in the dark.

***

It was some time before she could go near the phone box again. Her boyfriend insisted on running with her and he liked easier routes, ones he could measure after on his computer. He liked to run for twenty-five minutes exactly and then have sex for another twenty-five minutes. Ten minutes for a shower. He called it their productive hour. ‘I don’t understand why you used to take so long,’ he kept saying.

It was a relief to get out without him. The roads seemed familiar, as if they were welcoming her home, and the phone box gleamed like a red present waiting for her to open it.

There were new girls pasted up, all still smiling though. She was counting them, cataloguing them in her head – brown haired, Asian, blondes – when the phone rang. Dring dring. It came as such a shock that she almost dropped her stack of girls.

It was a different man on the other end this time, but the words were the same. Unintelligible, and such a hard rhythm to the language that she shut her eyes as if that might stop her hearing.

‘Mum,’ she whispered, ‘Mum, hello, it’s me, Josie.’

She was still talking when the phone box door swung open, an arm grabbed at her, swiping the cards so they fell, forming a circle around her.

‘Sweet dreams,’ she told them. ‘Be safe, be safe, be safe.’

###
Sarah Salway is the author of six books: three novels (Something Beginning With, Tell Me Everything, Getting the Picture), two collections of poetry (You Do Not Need Another Self-Help Book, Digging Up Paradise), and one short story collection (Leading the Dance). She is a former Canterbury Laureate and RLF Fellow at both the London School of Economics and the University of Kent. She writes about gardens at www.writerinthegarden.com, and tweets @sarahsalway. Her website is www.sarahsalway.co.uk.

 

Fred Muratori

Orson Welles

Lesser evils gather and disperse, ephemeral as fine hairs on a barbershop floor. But the greater evils aren’t obvious until it’s too late. You think Looks like it might rain and then a SWAT team storms the house next door. I remember the Great Northeast Blackout of 1965. My parents didn’t know what was going on, but at first I didn’t think it felt evil, just strange – candles encrypting the living room, rosaries at our fingertips in case we passed the limits of reasonable conversation. While Mom prayed to her Jesus of Prague, Dad and I went out to find the news on our Chevy Bel-Air radio, sitting in the dark garage, engine running, scratchy voices in the dashboard as if from tiny hostages. That was when he told me about hearing Orson Welles’ famous broadcast in 1938, how he wasn’t fooled at all. But nowadays, he said, who knew what those Communists might do?  You mean Martians, I corrected incorrectly, too frightened to know the difference.

###

Fred Muratori’s prose poems and flash fictions have appeared in Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, Fiction International, 100 Word Story, Inch, Duende, NANO Fiction, and others.  The latest of his three published poetry collections is A Civilization, issued by Dos Madres Press in 2014. He lives and works in Ithaca, NY.

Melanie Márquez Adams

Betrayal

When I finally had the courage to say goodbye, I let my beloved doll know that our time together was coming to a tragic end. I whispered in her ear what the doctor told my parents. “I will get really thin and you will see blood coming out of my mouth”, I explained, “I won’t make it to eleven”. She just nodded, indifferent, looking past me.

I followed her turquoise eyes right into my sister’s doll collection.
That same night as I laid down, I told Mother in my most serious voice that I already knew the toy with which I wanted to be buried.

###

Melanie Márquez Adams is the author of the short story collection Black Butterflies (Eskeletra, 2017). Nominated for Best Small Fictions 2018, her work has appeared in Aster(ix) Journal, Thrice Fiction Magazine, The Acentos Review, and elsewhere. You can find her at melaniemarquezadams.com and @melmarquezadams

Nancy Tingley

Fire Wall 1

Choking smoke, gagging fear. The fire wall sailed down the hill as the kids, wedges among hurried belongings, cried, Arthur, Arthur. And the dog, crazy with ears skull-pressed plummeted away. Get him. But, I turned the key. No, they wailed and I took in the house in the rearview, pressed my toe, then opened the door for the dog.

Fire Wall 2

That house burned and this didn’t and only because fireman Joe liked this paint job, but didn’t like that rusted swing set, that yard of rocks. Over there flames like high jumpers and here smoke like hair. He dug the shovel, felt the heat, smelled his fear, watched the swing set buckle and bend.

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Nancy Tingley is a specialist in Southeast Asian art, who has written fiction in the closet for years. She’s recently come out -The Jenna Murphy Mystery series (Swallow Press) and flash fiction forthcoming in various literary magazines. Her mornings are dedicated to writing, her afternoons to the pleasure of the potter’s wheel. She lives in northern California on a hill.

Colleen Maynard

Hands

Confronted with the responsibility of viewing the body, it’s good to have as many small tasks to do. Kneeling on the padded bench becomes a slow dance. Contents are now at eye level. Look downcast for reverence (you’re too empathetic to be bored). Or bite the bullet and look at the body. Maintain gentle eyes, this isn’t an exam. Brooding is my style, yet for appearances I force myself to glance once. Mom says it’s just a body now; the soul is up in heaven with our other relatives. I’m led to believe deceased great-grandparents look down from above, paralleling the cheerful song about Jesus being everywhere. Is this supposed to be comforting? Is Jesus in our beds when we climb inside them at night? While I’m in the bathroom do my relatives gaze lovingly on, or do they wheel around out of respect? There have to be limits.

I start treating visitation as though watching a horror movie with people: when you know it’s about to get bad, fix your eyes on the lower-right corner of the television set and focus. Blood and bone are blurred. The twinkle in its eye may be imagined.

Hover on a starched collar, or the fluff of hair at her temple. The hands are friendlier, clasped in eternal prayer. Surely they retain something of the person I knew. Their soul’s begun to re-assemble one slotted piece at a time in heaven. Her hands will be the last up.

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Colleen Maynard has appeared in such publications as matchbook, Monkeybicycle, NANO Fiction, and SHARKPACK Poetry Review. Maynard graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute and received training in Botanical Illustration at Illinois Natural History Survey. She writes and draws at www.colleenmaynard.com.