Last Day by Briana Maley

You wake up thinking not about dying, but about Trina DeMartini and the inside of her warm mouth and all the places you want her to put it, and maybe if you’re being honest a little bit about your Algebra teacher because she’s pretty hot too, the way her blouses show the line between her boobs, and it’s raining so your mom offers you a ride but the last time she drove you to school, you were sure kids were laughing at her dented old car that rattles when it goes uphill, or maybe they were laughing because they saw the way she cupped your chin before you got out, so you say no to the ride and your mom looks in the closet for your raincoat, but you haven’t had a raincoat since fourth grade, and you tell her it’ll be fine and she tries to make you wear a sweatshirt but you say no to that too, and she says be careful on your bike the roads are slick and it will be hard for drivers to see you in the rain, and at school you have a pop quiz in Spanish, and when school is over the sun is shining and Trina DeMartini is walking out at the same time as you, and she asks you how you did on the Spanish quiz and you shrug but you’re pretty sure you aced it, and you’re so psyched that Trina DeMartini is talking to you that you cruise past the bike rack and walk beside her as she heads home, the words and laughter float out of her mouth like bubbles until she turns down her street and waves goodbye, and you are still looking at her when you step into the road, so you don’t see the car as it crests the hill, and you don’t hear it either because it doesn’t clatter like your mom’s car, and you don’t have time to think about how if you had known you were going to die today, you would’ve let your mom give you the sweatshirt, and you wouldn’t have ducked out the door before she could hug you good-bye, and when she said I love you, you would have said I love you too.

The NFFR Interview with Briana Maley

It’s obviously been an insanely rough year. What’s been your favorite artistic escape either book, music, or tv?

Probably no surprise—literature is my go-to artistic refuge, especially since museums have been closed. Early in the pandemic, when we were new to lockdown and it felt like we would never go anywhere ever again, I read Camus’ The Plague. I guess that doesn’t qualify as an escape—it felt more like taking a deeper dive into the experience of living through a pandemic. But it was strangely comforting to do so. Although Camus was using the idea of a plague to write allegorically about other things, he got so many details right in terms of how people behave during a crisis like this.  It was soothing to see my experience reflected on the page.

More recently, I’ve been reading Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels.  I know I’m not the only one—it feels like half the world is reading Ferrante right now. I’ve been completely swept away by these four volumes, which read like one long novel. It’s the opposite of flash fiction, but also wonderful!

We’ve been thinking about the elusive definition of Flash Fiction. What’s your working definition of it?

As the name implies, flash fiction goes by in a blur. But it leaves an impression, the same way you can still see a bolt of lightning on the inside of your eyelids after the flash, the way you still hear the blaring of a fire truck after it’s zoomed past, the way you still feel a touch on your shoulder after the other person has pulled away.

What was the inspiration for this story?

I’ve read that you should write about the things you can’t stop thinking about. One thing I think about a lot, is how after an accident like the one that takes place in this story, it’s hard to imagine that in the time before, we didn’t know what was coming. When I was in high school a classmate of mine died suddenly. At the time I found myself turning over memories of the days and weeks before his death. The silly things we talked about at lunch time, the way we behaved in English class. And although I knew intellectually that none of us had known what was coming, I still had a hard time believing it.  The idea that we don’t know what the future holds both haunts me and inspires me.

This summer, I participated in a wonderful online workshop with Tara Campbell at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland. At the end of the course there was an optional challenge to write a story in a single, rambling sentence. And this story tumbled out.

Briana Maley’s short stories have been published in Fiction Southeast, Cagibi, Lilith, Literary Mama, and elsewhere. She received Lilith Magazine’s 2019 fiction prize, and was runner-up in the 2020 F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival fiction contest. She lives in Maryland.

Black and white photo of a country road

Photograph by Al Kratz.

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