FLASH FICTION: The Cemetery Bird

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They won’t bury you.

That’s what they whisper. When they really want to hurt you.

When someone dies, when a kid dies in my town, they don’t bury you, they feed you to the Cemetery Bird. There’s no room for kids in the cemetery. If you’re poor, there’s no room, but if you’re rich, they find a way.

Billy…

My mom carried him. I walked behind my mom. She walked up to the bird. My dad didn’t even go up. The bird opened up its mouth and my mom dropped my brother in. Then it closed its mouth. That was it.

They didn’t bury him. They won’t bury you.

One morning, I felt cold in a different way. My parents got nervous. The doctor talked to my parents. When they looked at me, I felt like I was on fire. Though I was so cold.

Every day, I try to feel okay. I walk around with my cane a bit. I try not to think about it.

Yesterday…

I walked past the cemetery. I looked down at my legs. They were shaking, I was so tired. I grabbed onto the cemetery gate. When I looked up, I shouldn’t have, I looked right at the Cemetery Bird. A big, pale bird like a pelican. It breathed out. It swallowed. I felt just as cold as the cemetery gate. I cried there for a long time. When I got home I was still crying.

I’m just trying to feel okay.

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FLASH FICTION: The Roses

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I want nothing more than to smell these roses.

My family. I will never see them, again. My crew. Rescue … is improbable. If I’m recovered at all, it will be frozen. My visor furred with frost. Turning and turning.

The Earth is far away. The Sun. There are no stars here. We had reached the black region, at last. The Mysteries. The journey… It took all our lives.

It took all our lives.

The roses. They’re blackened, and fragile. The petals. They’re crumbling away. One by one. They’re floating away.

The roses. Holding them is something. Some comfort. It’s something. But smelling them. If I could do no more, and in them find a last breath of sweetness…

I want nothing more than this.

FLASH FICTION: Jenny

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My only friend is the robotic cat that helps me when I fall down. Her name is Jenny.

Well, I have big leg trouble. My one leg is twice as big as the other leg. I’ve gone through two sets of hips now because of the strain of lugging around my big leg. I put soup cans in my purse to balance things until I was accused of shoplifting.

I fall down a lot. Medication makes me dizzy. I take three pills three times a day and two other pills two times a day and this new pill once a day. Those aren’t the directions but it’s easier to remember.

Thank God for Jenny. When I fall down now and say “Jenny!” she glides right to me. She hooks her claws into my sweater and lifts me up. Once, she pulled my shirt right off and my bra. I would have been so embarrassed if I had friends!

The best thing about Jenny (except for the helping) is if I put a record on and stand her on her back legs she dances in rhythm in a stiff way. It’s not helpful but it’s sure entertaining.

The worst thing about Jenny is that at the end of the day you have to wind her up. You crank her tail till her eyes light up. It’s not a problem for me now, not a big problem, but my arthritis is catching up with me. I take glucosamine three times a day. But one of these days, I won’t be able to wind Jenny. Her eyes won’t light up. And when I fall down she’ll just sit there on her stand not moving. I’ll be rolling around on the floor, and not with laughter! You don’t laugh when you can’t reach your glucosamine.

Every night before bed, I pray that nothing happens to my Jenny. I pray for God to give me strength to wind my Jenny. I can’t afford the new Solar Jenny or the Vibrating Jenny. I’m on a very fixed income.

When I climb into bed—it’s not easy, with a big leg—and turn out the light and see her red eyes shining at the end of the hall, charged and ready, it’s such a comfort to me. I don’t mind getting up in the night because I know they’ll be there, glowing like heavenly coals.

But if I ever woke up suddenly, and only saw darkness…

God! I don’t know why I’m telling you this!

FLASH FICTION: Hugs, Peggy

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I love, love, love, love, adore and love that Jack Dangerson. When he tilts his hat in Hey! Sandiego, I could scream. When he smiles at the end of Nearly the Last Tomorrow, I could rip my pillow in half. When he pulls out his gun in The Nursery Murders and says, “Not today, babies,” I could simply die of love.

My apartment has no wallpaper, but do you hear me complaining? For I’ve covered the walls with Jack. From his first flick, Afternoon Sex Romp, even if it wasn’t a proper Jack Dangerson pic, to his latest epic, Cactus in the Wind, I’ve got all the posters, overlapping, on the ceiling, rolled up in corners, my rabbit chews on them, so what, I buy new ones.

Anyway, I heard on Screen Scream that Jack is shooting a sequel to Old Yeller called New Yeller, which will hit theatres next summer. I couldn’t be more jazzed. I just have this feeling, in my heart, in my gut, I know, know, know this is going to be the ultimate Jack Dangerson flick. It’s got everything going for it. The director’s the guy who did The End II, which is generally regarded as the best film in the End trilogy. The writer’s the guy who does those hilariously sad antidepressant ads. The dog’s the dog that was shot to bits at the end of that stupid Hellhound movie. Awful, awful movie. But one seriously talented pooch.

I must’ve written ten thousand love letters to Jack over the years. I always sign them “Hugs, Peggy.” It’s my trademark. So what if he doesn’t write back, he’s gorgeous, he’s a Very Important Star! One time, his secretary faxed me a head shot with a blurry-looking signature on it. And what did I think of that? It was the biggest thrill of my life.

Alright. I read last week that they’re shooting a scene for New Yeller just a few blocks from where I live. The street’s already cordoned off, the trailers are lining up, I can see it all from my bathroom window. I am peeing my pants in the bathroom every day. As soon as they start shooting, I’ll be there. I’ll get as close as I can. I’ll get on the set, if I can. I have souvenirs from the last three Jack Dangerson flicks. The cigar knife from Bloodlips and Company. The blue parrot from his 3D remake of Casablanca. And my crown jewel, his wax double from Dream Museum. That one was worth the scar.

I love LA. I love, love, love LA. All this amazing, amazing stuff happening all around you. It’s like you’re a part of it. Even if you’re a total nobody, you’re a part of it. I wear my sunglasses every day.

Jack. Dangerson. What a name. What a tan. He is so, so handsome. So cute you could just … stab him in the neck with a screwdriver.

I can’t wait for New Yeller. I can’t wait another second. I have to, but I can’t.

I hope the dog can talk.

FLASH FICTION: Dad

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Dad filled a bowl with raisins and put his face in it.

When he got back from the hospital, he had a shopping bag. He reached into it.

Out came a tin truck for my brother Tom. He’d always wanted a truck.

Out came a sawdust rabbit, for Hannah.

Dad looked at me. I looked at the bag.

“I got you a doll,” he said.

I felt sick.

He pulled it out.

A doll has a solid head and body, and arms and legs that you can move.

This was not a doll. It was a ­composite doll. The whole body was soft and one piece. Only the face was hard.

“Say thank-you,” said Mom.

I looked at my dad. He looked terrified.

“Thank-you,” I said.

*

Tom and Hannah played on the floor all day.

Dad lay on the floor but didn’t say anything.

Mom didn’t say anything.

I…

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