FLASH FICTION: An Ostrich

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When Dad died, I talked to an ostrich.

In the waiting room, an ostrich sat down.

“Who let this ostrich in?” I said.

The janitor stared at me.

The ostrich stared at me.

The surgeon walked into the room. He tore off his white mask and put on a serious one.

“You don’t even have to say it,” I said.

The ostrich put his wing around me.

*

We didn’t have the greatest relationship, Dad and I. We didn’t talk. He treated me like shit. I loved him. I realized that after.

When he got sick… I walked closer to him, I sat closer. We still didn’t talk, but…

Then he died.

*

I wrote a letter. It said, I COULD REALLY USE A FRIEND. I mailed it to my friends.

No one got back to me.

One afternoon, there was a knock on the door.

I got out of bed. I got dressed.

I opened the door.

It was the ostrich.

He sat down on the sofa.

“I’ll make some coffee,” I said.

*

“I don’t remember Dad ever playing with me. He was always too old. Even when he wasn’t. He loved me. He never said it. I said it a lot when I was a kid, but … I didn’t mean it. Not really.”

You can tell an ostrich anything.

*

I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t open my eyes. I kept falling asleep. I kept dreaming.

I dreamed I was the last person on Earth. I felt so homesick. Even though I was home.

I crawled into bed—in my dream. I lay there.

Something touched my hair. Something tousled it. Like Dad.

I woke up.

I looked over.

There was something on the pillow, next to me.

An ostrich feather.

*

One morning…

I looked out the window.

The sky was blue. I hadn’t noticed that. Not in a long, long time.

I made breakfast.

I swept the floor.

I opened the front door and closed it.

I heard something.

I ran back to the window.

I saw the shadow of the ostrich, on the lawn.

Just the shadow.

Then it was gone.

                                                                            

*First published in The Walrus.

*From an unpublished collection, Dream Museum.

Rolli’s latest book is The Sea-Wave

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FLASH FICTION: Vivian Jackson Bean

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I have written over two hundred novels. Two hundred and five, or six. It always startles me, the number.

When I was young and dreaming, living in the museums of books we mistreat, in libraries, both there and in my imagining, I dreamed a thing that escaped my dreams. An amphibian idea. For a year of my young life I followed it, for a mad year, a brilliant year, catching it, at last, between leaves of a book, my own, which was placed in the museums of books, for others to mistreat.

An idea begins … as a spot on water. A dark spot. If it is not washed, by a wave, away, if it does not simply change into nothing, then when the tide stands back at last, when you have done with waiting, it remains. A glistening animal. A real thing, born of nothing, and yours—to capture, if you can.

I have always dreamed so easily. In a million nights of life, there have been a million dreams. But ideas… There has been only one.

I have waited by the side of water, forever. I have watched, these nights of life, for the dark spot to reappear. I have seen the deceiving shadows of gulls, above, and the roaming fish below. And when the waters retire, finally, when I am half mad of waiting … there is nothing. There is only sand.

This is my secret. It is the secret of many. One in a million, perhaps, one in so very few, is more fortunate. Such a one will sit by the sliding water again and again, and each time will see first the spot, then the animal. Will reach for the last with that shaking, trepid reach. Will hold it. What life must be for such a one… It is beyond my imagining.

I have written over two hundred books. But really, I have written only one.

Perhaps one is all one needs.

                                                                                   

Rolli’s latest book is The Sea-Wave

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FLASH FICTION: The Sweet Stripener

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The children don’t understand. What they live and scream for is not squeezed from the machine with stripes intact. No—they must be painted on, by hand, with so much care. It it almost unimaginable, the care.

My partner is a sweet turner. He holds the sweet, and turns it. I apply the stripes. He is my partner. But also, we are in love.

We work and live in the Cormack Candy Factory. Our region is Green Region 3, where sweets are painted, and nuts are shelled. At day’s end, we sweep up the shells, lay down blankets, and sleep. Mr. Cormack charges not too much rent. It is difficult to afford anything, at present.

Mr. Cormack is a powerful man. He is a great and a terrible man. But also, generous. Without him, we would have nothing. Not even a floor on which to sleep.

He is like a magician, this Cormack. I have never before seen his face. I have heard his voice, and when I turned … there was nothing. Is his a pleasing or a nightmarish face? When I gaze at the intercom, I wonder.

One evening, after the sweeping-up…

I was returning my broom to the cabinet in Hall 7. At the end of the hall was a man. His back to me. A black suit, he wore. There had been rumours of a black suit.

I moved forward, though slowly.

He was admiring a painting, this man.

I felt weak, but proceeded.

I was a few feet from him, now.

And suddenly, he turned. Hearing my light tread, he turned. The man in the black suit turned.

I looked at his face. But I did not see his face. For he wore a mask. A jewelled mask.

I trembled. And quit the hall quickly.

In the past, it was my duty to paint one hundred sweets per day, to keep my position. Now Mr. Cormack is insisting on two hundred.

My art is taxing. There is so little time. But if I cannot keep up, and work and live in this factory…

I do not even want to dream of that.

                                                                   

Rolli’s latest book is The Sea-Wave

Buy him a coffee.

FLASH FICTION: London Fog

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I love London fog.

Yesterday I was walking in the fog and thought why not open your mouth wide and swallow the whole bloody lot of it?

So I did. Just one huge sucking in, and I ballooned up with fog.

I floated above the city. I was light as a cloud. The view of London! The Thames was the signature on a prescription. St. Paul’s was a cold breast.

Everybody squinted at everybody, rubbing their eyes. My god, they could see London. They could see each other.

A young man was walking with a youngish woman dressed like a young woman.

You’re not seventeen!” he cried, dropping her hand.

“Tee hee!” laughed the woman, lifting up the skirts of her gown, and running off.

Two men were committing a lewd act against an alley wall. This became the Heimlich Manoeuvre. “Are you still choking, my friend?” cried the one man. “Mmm hmm,” said the other. “Just a little more, please.”

The prostitute was a good deal cleaner and prettier than the man from the bank thought she was. “I should be getting back to my wife,” he said, slinking into the shadows.

Long ant-lines of rats tracked through the streets, up the walls, across men’s brightly-polished and laced-up shoes. One rat wrapped itself in the folds of a lady’s fur coat and stuck its head out—like it was wearing a fur coat, too. This made the lady so nervous that she started chewing on her furred sleeve. Like a rat.

The ghost of Winston Churchill was chasing the ghost of a cigar. It slinked into a man’s left nostril, and out his right. When Churchill tried to follow it, he got stuck. Ghost legs dangled out of the man’s nostrils, like a phantom stache.

People were screaming and passing out, now. They were vomiting and slipping in vomit. Some of them hit their heads.

This was no good. No, no, no.

So I spat a fog ball at the youngish lady. “Hello, gorgeous,” said the young man, taking her by the hand again. “How about some sex?”

I spat another fog ball, a nice big one, at the men in the alley. They breathed faster and faster.

A ball for the prostitute, balls for the rats, a ball for Churchill’s ghost.

I belched up every last scrap of fog, patched every last crack. Then I plopped back down onto the street.

Everything was exactly as it was before. People were happy again. You could feel the happiness. It felt like sunshine. Even though it was fog.

I love London fog.

                                                                                

Rolli’s latest book is The Sea-Wave

Buy him a coffee.

FLASH FICTION: “My Skull Broke”

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I was sitting on a bench at the ballpark, rocking it back and forth. When Big Jam cracked the ball, I tried to get up but the bench tipped over forwards and I fell backwards.

The sun turned into sequins.

When I woke up, I was thirty-four years old. I couldn’t remember who I was or who my family was or where I was. I learned how to talk and walk again. I learned my alphabet again.

Big Jam visited me in the hospital. He was an old man now. He autographed a ball for me and closed my fingers around it. He hugged me and cried. I cried. Then I dropped the ball.

I can see color with my right eye, but only black and white with my other eye.

My mom’s trying to get more money for me from the Star City Recreation Board. $20,000 isn’t a lot of money.

Every day, I lie down in my wagon and my mom pulls me to the pharmacy. People take pictures and cry.

I want to be an angel.

                                                                                   

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FLASH FICTION: “Bee Trees”

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I was wheeling through the park, just in awe of the trees, when I realized their new green leaves were actually black and yellow, and were actually bees.

Life is hard when you have no legs, but not as hard as wheeling away from angry bees.

They covered me. I was head-to-knee bees. I flopped out of my wheelchair. It felt like they were eating my skin.

After a few minutes, the bees flew off. But then one fat one came back and stung me in my right eye. A cat ate my left eye when I was a baby.

At the hospital, when I told the nurse with the teddy bear voice how it almost felt like the bees had eaten my skin, she threw her head back and laughed and said, “Oh, but they did eat your skin, silly! You have no skin now.”

Parents who feel guilty about having normal children with eyes and legs and skin send me presents. Every day, Gloria (the nurse with the teddy bear voice) dumps a fresh load of packages into my containment unit.

I appreciate these gifts. I do. At the same time, I’m hunched at the bottom of my containment unit, with all this stuff on top of me, trying not to get crushed to death.

Guilt is real. It’s a real thing. It weighs about 800 pounds, I’d say. And counting.

                                                                                    

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