FLASH FICTION: ELQ

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I have six flash fictions in the new issue of Exile Literary Quarterly, all extracts from my new flash novel, The Sea-Wave. You might like them.

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THE WHALE WITH THE HARPOON EARRINGS

I’m quiet and still and the trouble with being quiet and still is that people will occasionally mistake you for a toilet. It’s easy to take things out on me or blame me for things. Mom does this pretty much daily. She used to love me. She’s like the dolls with the smaller dolls in them, but she forgets they’re there, that one of those moms really loved me. Or she could never hurt me. I’m a different kid now, too. But I still remember the smaller kid, in her sarcophagus, who loved her mom and felt pretty loved. I still feel her, sometimes. I guess life would be easier, if I couldn’t.

 

Occasionally my dad stands up and whispers to mom not to say this or that in front of me but it doesn’t matter. I can hear her from the kitchen. I can hear him. He doesn’t talk much about me so I have to listen.

 

What are we going to do with her? What will happen to her? What’s, going, to happen?

 

Then I’m swallowing water and sinking. I’m listening and I’m sinking. I’m the whale with the harpoon earrings. I’m sinking.

 

When my parents are suddenly alone I try to get to my room fast but the elevator doors don’t always close fast enough. Or they open and drop me in the middle of something, a storm cloud that I thought was just fluffy nest material. I listen and I watch my parents roll out of the kitchen like smoke, looking only at the space exactly above me or beside me. Then I look at them sinking down on the two big couches and I think, What have I done to these people?

 

I’ll bet they ask themselves the same thing.

 

CORAL

Artwork by RolliMy fat aunt Coral is a riot and a lousy person. She is just so pink and fat. She laughs too much, and wears too much enormous jewelry. She is like a pig on a pearl leash sniffing out gossip then trotting up to your table and vomiting. I like her gossip because it’s so malicious, and it’s nice to know who’s dying. She is shallow and destructive.

My dad and Coral are siblings but don’t talk much. When she comes over he likes to say hi then take a nap or run errands. Then Coral will put her feet up, and talk to my mom for hours. She asks for tea, but mom knows this means cake.

I typically avoid my family but with Aunt Coral I don’t mind hanging around and listening. It’s great listening to people gossip because it’s the one time they mean what they’re saying. It has to be a huge relief to people. Aunt Coral likes to kick off her tight shoes – it probably feels like that. She just gets so comfortable, it’s like she’s lounging on her skeleton. And then she says the most shocking things about everyone I ever heard of, and never stops smiling.

I like Aunt Coral, though it’s hard to guess why. She’s maybe the only person in my family who has a sense of humor. She’s healthy-looking, though she can’t be healthy. Mostly, she talks to me without changing her voice, like I’m an everyday person. She even talks to me when other people have left the room. That’s a small thing, but it means a lot.

One time she told just me that her one daughter wasn’t even her husband’s daughter, but just from some fling with the butcher. I thought why are you telling me this, but I guess it was because she needed to tell someone and that I likely wouldn’t tell anyone. In reality, I could easily go out of my way to tell someone, it’s just that I wouldn’t, it’s not me. I might tell my memorandum book, that’s it. Believe me, I can keep a secret.

The last time I saw Aunt Coral she was maybe fifty pounds heavier than the previous time. She wheezed just coming up the front steps, and right away sat down. She doesn’t leave her house much now but sits in her armchair with the phone in her hand. “I tell people the truth,” she told my mom once, “but I tell my telephone everything.” All day she sits there soaking up gossip and getting fatter and fatter. She needs a cane now just from the knee strain, and soon might need a wheelchair, too. That’s sort of pathetic. But I’ve kind of been looking forward to it, too.

                                                              

Artwork by Rolli

Rolli is the author of the new short story collection God’s Autobio (Vancouver: N.O.N.). Visit his blog (www.rolliwrites.wordpress.com), and follow his epic tweets @rolliwrites.

MRS. RAMSHAW

Like most kids with no friends I’ve had imaginary friends. I used to have a cat and a friendly octopus but now I just have Mrs. Ramshaw. She’s an old lady with swollen legs who I imagine lying in the guest bedroom, which is the next bedroom down from mine. I’ve never really pictured her face, just her swollen legs projecting over the edge of the bed. I guess she’s that tall.

I can’t fall asleep without first thinking of Mrs. Ramshaw in the other room. I think of how old and sick she is, and how her fat legs stick out. It doesn’t make sense but I only feel comfortable and ok if I know she’s there. She doesn’t say anything or do anything, just lays there breathing. My mom takes pink tranquilizers. Mrs. Ramshaw’s legs are my pink tranquilizers. I just think of them sticking out and I drift to sleep.

I guess I try not to think about Mrs. Ramshaw’s face because I’m worried – it might be my face. In the morning when I wheel past the guest bedroom, I always check. I can’t go by without checking. But I know if I ever really saw Mrs. Ramshaw lying there with my face I’d flop over dead. It’s unhealthy, but it’s always how I imagined I’d die.

It could possibly be a lot worse.

 

                                                  

Rolli’s new collection of 70+ flash fictions, I Am Currently Working On a Novel, is available now.