WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "Coyotes" by Cameron MacKenzie

Coyotes

By Cameron MacKenzie

My friend recently came back from a trip to LA where he stayed in a house with a deaf and blind dog. They called the dog Roomba, because it roamed through the place bumping into things and scarfing up food. It was old but not tired, and had settled into a low and steady rhythm of life that it seemed it could sustain indefinitely. But my friend wanted to tell me about the dog so he could actually tell me about the coyotes. 

The coyotes roamed the edges of the neighborhood at dawn and dusk, big eared, serene, drawn tight as bow strings. Coyotes love to trick domestic dogs, to play with them and draw them away from their yard and out into the hills, where they then set upon them as a pack, kill and eat them. From this time-tested game Roomba was immune thanks precisely to his handicaps, so he’d patrol the back yard--protected by a ten-foot fence--with his nose to the ground, the coyotes darting in and out of the brush on the other side, curious, I’m sure, perhaps even frustrated, that their natural charisma, their superior athleticism and streetsmarts and dark and exotic draw of the wild had absolutely no effect on the snuffling trash compactor who labored diligently just feet away.

I don’t know about LA, but when I lived in San Francisco I used to run out in the Presidio by the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s all pine trees and crumbling cliffs dropping off into the pounding sea and, as the park is generally empty, the place is a runner’s dream. There’s wide honey-golden routes that run you past the main attractions, and then narrower paths out to wilder places--to beaches you wouldn’t otherwise know existed, to unannounced art installations in the woods, to old bunkers and rusting ballistic missile sites and radar towers surrounded by barbed-wire, their gray paint peeling in the wind.

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I once found myself down one of these side paths that then opened up into another and another until I found myself on a trail that was just about as wide as my own foot, nearly overgrown by the grass. The further I took this back into a grove of eucalyptus the more I began to wonder if it wasn’t some sort of water runoff or deer track. I soon found myself in a part of the park I’d never been in before, the papery leaves of the high trees rattling against one another as I came to a clearing--no underbrush, no scrub--and here the path petered out completely before a circle of what could only be described as beds, as worn indentations in the grass arranged in a rough circle before me, each one about two feet long. They looked like little nests, and I wanted to bend down and touch one--just brush it with my fingers. But I knew it was better to keep my feet, better to keep my hands free and my legs beneath me, just in case they should decide--against their nature but still--just in case they should choose to come at me all at once.

Coyotes come across the Golden Gate Bridge at night, lured by the smells of the city, and they’re not the only ones--they’ve got cameras on the thing so they can tell. You got possums and raccoons and skunks and deer and snakes, but it’s not at all unusual for mountain lions to pop over at night for a dumpster-dive, nap in the park for the daylight hours, then head back over after the sun goes down.

Roomba’s limitations saved his life on a regular basis, but the local coyotes weren’t so easily dissuaded. They had watched their prey and learned its habits and had taken to killing squirrels and mice and throwing bits of the carcass over the fence for Roomba to find. The owner had seen the meat himself, pink and bloody and flecked with bits of bone, laying on top his rich green fescue like a prank, or a reminder. 

“God knows how they get that crap over the fence,” the guy said, “but once those fuckers set their mind to something, they tend to find a way.”


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About the Author:

Cameron MacKenzie's work has appeared or will appear in The Michigan Quarterly Review, Salmagundi, The Rumpus, and J Journal, among other places. His novel, The Beginning of His Excellent and Eventful Career (MadHat Press) and monograph Badiou and American Modernist Poetics (Palgrave Macmillan) were both published last year. He teaches English at Ferrum College and writes for The Roanoke Review.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit.

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "Wingman" by Tanya Whiton

Wingman

By Tanya Whiton

Wednesday, February 7, 1973: The plane was already on fire when it hit our building, and the pilot was already dead.

I learned this fact many years later, after I’d tracked my father down. He relayed the story over pints at a pub in South Boston as if it were part of a logical continuum—fate was already in motion. Everything had been decided. Rumor was the pilot, Robert Lee Ward, was smoking in his mask. Twenty-eight thousand feet over San Francisco Bay, his flight leader flying alongside, and he just dropped out of sight. The other pilot radioed Oakland Air Traffic Control to say—here, my dad got a little choked up—he’d lost his wingman.

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I was pretty boggy by that point in the conversation. But I had some questions that needed answering, and they weren’t about the payload a U.S. Navy A-7E Corsair II could carry, or which squadron it had belonged to. I wasn’t interested in bandying dusty Vietnam-era acronyms, or discussing the unique qualities of the A-7E’s flaps. He’d been a civilian, anyway—even if all his friends at Alameda Naval Air Station were enlisted guys.

Dirtballs, was what my mom called them. Turds. She’d protested the war.

The bartender set another round in front of us. My old man looked me over, and lifted a pint in one swollen, cracked claw.

“My buddies, you know, they got to go to all these exotic places.”

They’d been on carriers in the Gulf of Siam. They’d taken leave in Bangkok. They’d haggled with tiny Korean ladies in the Seoul markets, picked up some jungle bug while marooned on Guam. They had stories to tell. If things were shitty—if, for example, a guy lived in a lousy apartment building that smelled of other people’s cooking, well, it was all temporary. But not for my dad. He could never get away.

“Must’ve been tough,” I said.

An American Airlines Boeing 727 departing Boston was framed momentarily in the bar’s one narrow window.

Did he know the Island smelled like burned flesh and jet fuel for months after the crash? Did he know that my friends and I found shards of metal in the trees? Or that mom and I slept on a pile of blankets on the floor of a neighbor’s house? Every day, I circled the blackened hole in the ground where Robert Lee Ward’s oxygen mask and parachute vest were found.

And fifty four days after the A-7 plummeted out of the night sky, the remains of an unknown white male between the ages of thirty and forty were discovered. It was decided they belonged to my father.

And yet here he was. What did he have to say about that?

He exhaled and shook his head. College hadn’t taught me anything.

“The plane was already on fire,” he repeated. “It—you have to understand, son—it made an opening.”


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About the Author:

Tanya Whiton’s fiction has recently been featured in The Cincinnati Review, Al Pie de la Letra, and Fanzine, and is forthcoming in Collateral. Her story “Up” was nominated for the 2018 Best Microfiction Anthology, and she won second prize in Zoetrope: All Story’s 2017 Short Fiction Contest. Her short story “Atlantic Window in a New England Character” was selected as a finalist for the 2019 Tennessee Williams Contest. She is also the co-writer and an associate producer of the documentary feature THE ZEN SPEAKER: BREAKING THE SILENCE.

The former Associate Director of the Solstice MFA in Creative Writing Program, Tanya has taught creative writing and professional development skills for writers for the Lesley Seminars, Stonecoast Writers’ Conference, Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, and the University of Southern Maine. 


About Weekly Flash Prose and Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit.

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "Ghosts” by Nicole Lacy

Ghosts

By Nicole Lacy

My grandfather existed in one of three places: stretched sleeping on his worn recliner, downing shot after shot at Sal’s bar, or late in the evening, sitting alone in the cellar—all the lights out. He’d descend silently, never explaining the reason, and remain there for hours. Each time he disappeared downstairs, my grandmother shooed me from the stairwell and warned me not to follow. 

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One night before bed, as Grandma watched reruns of The Lawrence Welk show, I crept close to the top of the cellar stairs, cracked the door, and waited. Shifting uncomfortably on my knees, I heard him stumble into a piece of wayward furniture, muttering “cocksuckers” as he did. The legs of a chair creaked under his weight, followed by the crack of a can of beer being opened. A moment later, my grandfather began talking to himself in the dark.  

It started off quietly enough—muffled murmurs and tittering—but before long his voice rose upward in anger. All was peaceful for a time, then peals of laughter shattered the silence. As I stared into the stairwell concealed in black, I tried to make out his words, but they were unintelligible. Soon I began to imagine the sounds slithering from the mouth of a demon. 

Terrified, I ran to my grandmother to demand explanation.

“Sometimes Pap-pap just needs to be alone,” she said.

I went on, trying to tell her about words I couldn’t decipher, and she told me he was speaking Hungarian. 

“Who’s he talking to?” I asked.

“Himself,” she responded. 

“Do you know what he’s saying?”

“No—only his mother would understand.” 

I thought of my great grandmother, sitting alone in her cluttered house in Munhall. I always dreaded visiting—the rooms smelled sour and there was not enough light. She seemed rooted in the same spot, seated upon a tattered floral recliner in the living room, frail body wrapped in a crocheted throw, hair concealed by a babushka. There was no television, or if there was, it was never turned on. No cartoons or coloring books. She didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Hungarian so we never spoke to each other, though my grandfather sometimes translated simple phrases like, “Look at those fat cheeks!” as she pinched me, leaning so close that I could count her chin whiskers. She died the year before, having been a passenger in her daughter’s car when it lost control and slammed into a telephone poll.

As I gazed toward the cellar, wishing I could understand my grandfather, I wondered if he was speaking to his mother in the darkness—telling her all of his secrets.


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About the Author:

Nicole Lacy holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from Carlow University in Pittsburgh. Her work has been published in Tin House Online, Word Riot, and The Los Angeles Review and is forthcoming in the anthology Waves: A Confluence of Women’s Voices.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit.



WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "Laze" by Lucian Mattison

Laze

By Lucian Mattison

Tadeu’s arm sank like a plumb line, taut between the couch cushions, not reaching for anything, but blindly rolling crumb-like grit under his fingers. He touched something like a hay needle. The television swept across a panorama of Pacific Islands. It looked just like the tops of mountains poking out over dense cloud cover, atoll an open top volcano of blue lava.

Jo talked about an ex who he was texting again. He picked up the lighter, flicked the wheel, flame licking on and off. He tapped the cigarette on the glass ashtray balanced on the couch arm. It nodded with him as he fell silent.

Tadeu waited for him to continue. He didn’t.

“We’re leaving soon anyway,” Tadeu said, putting his head on Jo’s thigh.

Jo agreed and turned back to the episode of Blue Planet on coastal waters. A billow of salt steam and laze erupted from a knuckle of lava, its frayed edge like wet dough, baked solid by cold. The ocean hissed back, mineral turned brittle in its newness. Tadeu sunk further, now up to his shoulder in the cushions, unable to pull away. The further he sank into the couch, the more lava cooled somewhere else on a coastline, expanding the reaches of the far islands on TV. 

“I don’t know what’s going to happen with him when I’m back. Obviously, I want to see him again,” Jo said.

“I know. I can’t stop you.”

Jo didn’t mention anything about the people who would fill his place while Tadeu finished up his last year. Jo wanted open endedness or people with expiration dates. 

Tadeu sunk, most of his body disappearing into the couch. He raked at the leather cushions with his remaining hand. Jo went on, tapped his cigarette into the glass block. Lava hit the ocean, more steam, volcanic glass shattering into acid plume. 

The ocean enshrouded Tadeu. 

Jo’s muffled voice murmured above him, as if being pushed through a pile of wet laundry. A list of fish broke formation, caved in as they swam past, evaded the tumble of hot rock settling like toothpaste in a sink basin. The ocean was electric blue, hotly violent. Tadeu watched as words piled atop him, more liquid rock. Waves smoothing it over him like thumbs on cracked clay, until all light was locked out. 

The inside of the rock was silent. The television showered Jo’s sleeping body in swatches of color. He’d wake up while it was still dark outside, gather his keys and wallet, and leave the house for good. For months, the ocean bristled around Tadeu. Algae began to cling to his surface. Then, a nest of bivalves. Later, small crustaceans. Life swelled around him. A force, now farther away, raised the earth below, pushed him up above the water’s surface. Ribbons of wind and waves broke over the top of him, and the crustaceans gripped tighter, laid flush against the exposed pieces.


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About the Author:

Lucian Mattison is a US-Argentinian poet and translator and author of two books of poetry, "Reaper's Milonga" (YesYes Books, 2018) and "Peregrine Nation" (Dynamo Verlag, 2017). He is based out of Washington, DC, where he may or may not be living among the ghosts of long-deceased reptiles. His poetry, short fiction, and translations appear in numerous journals including Hayden's Ferry Review, The Offing, Puerto Del Sol, Sixth Finch, and Third Coast. Read more at Lucianmattison.com.
You can also find him on Twitter (@luciannumerouno) and
Instagram (@luciannumberone).

About Weekly Flash Prose and Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit.

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "Yellow Sac Spider" by Cameron Morse

Yellow Sac Spider

By Cameron Morse

One morning I find on the kitchen counter a torn piece of a paper towel with the word spider in green highlighter resting atop my empty jar of Barilla pesto, unscrew the cap and walk the partially rinsed jar to the flowerbed, army green flecks of basil still slicked to the inside glass. A yellow sac spider, indeed, lay at the bottom of the translucent rink. Who left the name of its species, any of the predaceous arachnids of the order Araneae, I can only infer from the neatness of the script to have been my mother. With whom my wife and I have lived all these years since the year of my first seizure and subsequent treatments for brain cancer. I can only guess my spider, for upon my reception of this missive it became mine or at least mine to dispose of, crawled into the jar of its own volition only to be discovered there by Mom because she has in her life squashed her fair share of spiders and would not have hesitated to expunge another, especially one caught trespassing on the immaculate quartz countertop. For my part, understanding how arachnophobia is presumed to be genetically hardwired due to troubled prehistorical relations between us and them, I prefer to extend pardon and proffer a life unfettered among phloxes. I set the jar down and walk away as I once dropped two pet turtles in a campus pond because I was tired of them and breaking up with the girl with whom I carried back their terrarium from the wet market to my sixth-floor apartment at the Shandong Institute of Business and Technology, the girl I could never get rid of, who later became my wife. 

A week or so has elapsed since I returned my tallow little friend to what constitutes for eight barbed legs and miniscule brain the wild or at least a more natural habitat than a six-ounce jar of various ingredients including but not limited to grana Padano cheese, potato flakes, and cultured milk, salt, enzymes. Deciding it may be time to pay a visit, I step out into the stillness and heat and intermittent breeze of mid-April sun rising at the birding hour of morning to find alas the poor soldier in still the same position as the one in which I first made his acquaintance, the legs alongside one half of his abdomen twirled together, the other half’s legs splayed. 

Everything for naught, the note, the period of captivity, the release to the wild, all of it: the return visit from Beijing, family meeting vacation to Florissant in which I fell as if struck by lightning and convulsed at the foot of the wardrobe, the ambulance ride butt cracks of EMTs moth beating at the headlamp CAT scan and subsequent MRI, all of it for a drowned sailor, a disembodied member of a species generally hated by members of my own and maybe even murdered by my own mother. What joy is this, devoid of content, what empty joy. 


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About the Author:

Cameron Morse was diagnosed with a glioblastoma in 2014. With a 14.6 month life expectancy, he entered the Creative Writing Program at the University of Missouri--Kansas City and, in 2018, graduated with an M.F.A. His poems have been published in numerous magazines, including New Letters, Bridge Eight, Portland Review and South Dakota Review. His first poetry collection, Fall Risk, won Glass Lyre Press's 2018 Best Book Award. His latest is Terminal Destination (Spartan Press, 2019). He lives with his wife Lili and son Theodore in Blue Springs, Missouri, where he serves as poetry editor for Harbor Review.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit.

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "La Paz Porta-Homes" and "Sitting with My Wife's Urn in My Lap" by Jace Einfeldt

La Paz Porta-Homes

By Jace Einfeldt

When me and Trev were younger, we went Christmas window shopping with mom. Most years, looking was all we could afford to do with her habits and all. We had always wanted a bike. The wind in our hair, the freedom. Doesn’t get much better than that. Just pedaling, balance, and total control. Just you, the bike, and the road. 

Christmas Day usually consisted of presents wrapped in pages from the National Enquirer topped with a bow. The days between Christmases got longer when money was scarce. One year, mom noticed me and Trev trading basketball cards with Kenny Farnes two trailers down. That year, Trev got a City Rec League Basketball T-Shirt (size XL) with ketchup stains on the design: a picture of a man hanging on a basketball hoop with the words “Rim Rockerz” across the top in graffiti. Even if we didn’t like the gifts, we had to say we did. She was thrifty in all the wrong ways.

We had a paper shredder in the trailer that mom brought home from her job at Staples, and when she said we had no money I wondered if she just put her paychecks through the shredder. I remember sifting through the shreds hoping to piece together a dollar bill.

Even though we were poor, mom threw parties like we weren’t. Our trailer was full of people and got smaller when guests came over. They always stayed overnight. Sometimes we stayed out late because we didn’t want to walk in while she was conducting business. When me and Trev left for school, we played “the people sleeping on the floor are lava.” When mom was out, we played “guess when mom comes home.” Loser cleaned the living room, gave mom Tylenol, and got her to bed. In the end, we both dealt with mom’s hangovers. We played our games and made our own traditions. Mom revered our traditions and games as much as she honored and respected routine drug tests at work. 

One Christmas, me and Trev were eleven and nine years old respectively. We wrote Santa a letter. We were 99% sure he didn’t exist, but on the off chance he was didn’t want him to miss us. We wanted to cast a wide net. We even sent a letter to the president. We told Santa we had been good boys all year. We cleaned up after mom’s parties. When she forgot to turn off the light in the living room and fell asleep on the futon, we turned it off for her and put a blanket on her. When the police came looking for her, we said she wasn’t home because that’s what she told us to say. When she needed us to pee in containers for her so she could keep working at Garth’s Food Mart, we peed in containers. We talked a lot about it and decided to ask for a bike. We’d use it to be paper boys so we could help mom pay rent. We weren’t asking for stupid things like mom always said. We just wanted something nice. We signed it “Sincerely, Kirby and Trevor Davenport.” We even wrote the address: La Paz Porta-Homes. We knew Santa made it to La Paz. Last year, Silvia across the way got an easy-bake oven, and Scotty Philips got an RC monster truck.

We put the letter on the kitchen counter praying mom would take it to the post office.

Mom got laid off from Garth’s for sneaking dried mango slices out in her bra. We didn’t expect Christmas this year.

Mom went out a couple nights before Christmas looking for a miniature tree but ended up blowing the tree-money on a bag of weed. She told us that marijuana comes from trees, so she actually got what she had set out to get. We ended up making a tree by gluing Andes Mints wrappers together on a piece of paper, using brass pushpins to hold it up on the wall. On Christmas morning, we sprinted to the living room to see if Santa got our letter. Mom was up. A bedsheet was draped over something in the middle of the room. 

We couldn’t remember if she had come home. She told us that Santa came with something last night. She said that if we wanted it, we had to promise that we’d use the gift to help her. We nodded with excited resolve to help. She pulled the sheet. It fluttered to the ground. In its place was a yellow two-seater bike.

We didn’t breathe. One breath and the bike would crumble into powder and mom would snort it up.

I imagined flying down a hill with Trev in the back-seat, air soaring through our hair, tickling our ears. We swore we’d do anything to help. 

She handed us a heavy backpack and an address on a piece of crumpled up lined paper. She told us to take the backpack to the address. 

We lumbered forward through the narrow dirt path leading to Jacinto Drive tipping over twice. The chain caught hard with ever pump of the pedal as we agitated it with our constant gear shifts. Just as we got a rhythm figured out a kid bolted across the street right in front of us. Santa definitely made it to his house last night. He had a bike; his was new. He probably didn’t have to pee in containers for his mom or tell the cops that she was gone when she was actually wasted on her bed with a glass of water and three Tylenols waiting on her night stand. He probably didn’t have to pretend people were lava or keep guessing when his mom would be home even though it was well past midnight. This kid, who could still believe in Christmas miracles, shot a smile our way. Trev returned it with the bird. We rode off down Jacinto Drive glancing back as mom and the trailer got smaller and smaller.


Sitting with My Wife’s Urn in My Lap

By Jace Einfeldt

Does “on my lap in an urn” count as never leaving? If not, do I have any moral or legal obligation to hold my end of the promise?

Do other lifeforms have urns? Is cremation an option for extraterrestrials? Do they make their own urns in a pottery class? Are they unnervingly aware of their own mortality? 

Do other lifeforms mourn? If not, how do they express grief? Is it through tears? Self-inflicted solitude? Running for hours down the same paths that they once walked with their loved ones? If these aren’t options, do they have therapists? Supportive families? Close friends? Children? Religious leaders? Do they believe in God? Or gods? Or an afterlife? What would it be like? Would it be in the sky? Composed of clouds? Or would it look like a refurnished, restored version of their home planet? Would they see their loved ones again? Or would they simply just be? Or cease to exist? Float in limbo, directionless, cold, and alone? Would they find solace and peace in such ideas? If not, where would they turn? Are they afraid to die? Afraid to think about death?

Are there spaceships that can take individuals into space to clear their minds? How big would they be? Do they have private space shuttles? Would it be considered littering if I dumped ashes into space? Isn’t all life carbon based? Would I be fined? Would the Interplanetary Recycling Agency arrest me for improper disposal of an organic substance? Do I need a permit to dispose of organic substances? Does the permit cost more than $5,000? If so, where do I sign?

Part of me wants to be arrested.

To be fined.

To be found.

If I get arrested, would an agent of the Interplanetary Recycling Agency dispose of the ashes for me? If the agent is reluctant, could a bribe change their mind? If the bribe doesn’t do the job, would they take pity on me? Or would they look past me? Get tired of my questions: “why me?” and “why now?” Take the urn off my hands, and shoot me into space as punishment for not doing more? Would they blame me like I blame myself? Or would they seek to understand? Would they let me talk? Would they listen? Would they validate my weary soul?

I would take pity on me. 

Would they believe me when I say that I was just keeping a promise made years ago? Do they believe in promises? Are promises protected by interplanetary legislation? Just because a promise is made with a pinky, does it make it invalid?

Do they have doctors? Do their doctors discover malignant brain tumors in their perfectly healthy patients? Are tumors even a worry for more advanced lifeforms? If so, how big do they get? Do they start as the size of a marble? Would these doctors provide false hope? Would they be told to be “cautiously optimistic”? Would the tumor grow to the size of a ping-pong ball? Would they play ping-pong in the waiting room to keep their mind off reality? Would it be inoperable? How would they break the news to the patient’s loved ones? Would they be blunt? Straight-forward? Cut to the chase? Would they, hopefully, try a more humane approach? Would they offer condolences? Or would they just move on?

How do you properly say good-bye to a pile of ashes? Can you just open a lid, say good-bye, and shake the contents out? Like emptying a vacuum cleaner? Or should it be more intimate? Meaningful? Ceremonial? Should I offer a prayer? Give a eulogy? If so, what would I say? With only myself to hear, would it matter? Is this even my wife anyway? How does the song go again? Ashes to ashes, dust to dust? This is what she wanted, so why I am still clutching the urn?

If I empty the contents into the “EJECT ORGANIC WASTE” chute, will I feel less guilt? Would she be offended if I used the chute? Should I find another avenue of release? Is there a less offensive “EJECT ORGANIC SUBSTANCE” chute? Does it really matter in the end?

Once she’s released, will I be able to see the ashes drift away? Or will they blend into the blackness? Is it cold out there? Will I be able to see her again? If so, will she recognize me? Will I recognize her? Will I be able to tell her how much I miss her? Does she miss me? Does she know I’m here? 

If I’m in space, how many days could I survive? Weeks? Months? Does air go bad? What if I ran out of fuel? What if the pod’s battery dies? Is the oxygenator connected to the battery? How much oxygen is left in the reserve tank? If there’s none left, would I asphyxiate? Should I just I pull the “EMERGENCY ESCAPE” lever? Would there even be an “EMERGENCY ESCAPE” lever? Does being a widower in a one-man spacecraft count as an emergency? In case of an emergency, what should I do? Is there a limit on emergencies before pulling the “EMERGENCY ESCAPE” lever? Three? Two? One? Would I be a terrible husband if I left my wife alone in space? Would it be any worse than leaving her on earth? Will she be waiting for me on the other side? Once she’s out there, I wonder if she’d appreciate company? 

How can I know unless I pull the lever?


About the Author:

Jace Einfeldt is a native of Southern Utah and is a senior in Brigham Young University’s English program. He is an avid reader and writer, specializing in contemporary American literature and short fiction. When he’s not knee-deep in class work, he works as a writing consultant with the BYU Research and Writing Center and BYU Writing Fellows. After graduating, he will be pursuing a master’s and PhD in American literature. Aside from his accomplishments within the English program, he plays the cello, is fluent in Tagalog, and has the most awesome wife.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit


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WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "Excerpts from 'B-Flat Clarinet Fingering Chart'” by Ryan Mihaly

Excerpts from “B-Flat Clarinet Fingering Chart”

By Ryan Mihaly

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About the Author:

Ryan Mihaly is a poet and musician who recently completed the BridgeGuard residency in Štúrovo, Slovakia. He graduated from the MFA program at Naropa University where he was an Anne Waldman/Anselm Hollo fellow. His work has appeared in or is forthcoming from: 3:AM Magazine, DIAGRAM, Crossing the Dissour, Asymptote, the Massachusetts Review, and in Ilan Stavans' anthology On Self-Translation: Meditations on Language. A multi-instrumentalist and composer, he has played in a number of jazz, rock, folk, funk, punk, and experimental groups over the years, and frequently collaborates with dancers and poets.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: ""Bully" Comes From The Middle Dutch Word For Lover" by Skylar Alexander

"Bully" Comes From The Middle Dutch Word For Lover

By Skylar Alexander

Bill Havenhill and I grow up piss-ants in the same piss-ant town; we both have sisters named Cheyenne; we both are aliens in an elementary school named after a spaceman—him because he is too fond of magenta markers and me because I am dirt poor and smell like it. Michael Maynard, the third in our trifecta of little green men, lives over the bend in the wilderness toward McCausland. His family reuses paper plates and he  only wears sweat pants.  He is the husky to our prepubescent thinness, and thus  bears the brunt of  the beatings. Michael Maynard has a body like a bear and a dad who hits a lot harder than the pretty tanned jackass who  beats us, whose name I write  in a black ink heart  on my headboard;  Michael Maynard takes it like a man, but Bill and me—we take it like the sissies we are. We  all  bleed, but my bleeding is different.  

We all grow into our adolescent bodies. Bill Havenhill gets a girlfriend with a lazy eye; Michael Maynard gets a girl pregnant after bending her over the prep table at McDonalds on the overnight shift, but they pay to get her womb cleaned out; I get an hourglass figure early enough that my daddy’s friends label me “an old soul” before pulling me into their laps and slip me money like they used to when I was little. After we throw our square hats in the air and do the picture thing, Bill enlists in the military; Maynard tries his hand at professional wrestling; I try to get married, to anyone, several times, to my ruin. 

Bill Havenhill grows into a Rocket Specialist; Michael Maynard grows into his father, drunk and angry; I grow weary of men and take to carrying keys between my knuckles. Bill Havenhill does Kuwait, then does Killeen; does gay marriage, then does gay divorce. Michael Maynard does the chain store circuit—tours Walmart, then Menards, then Lowes’ as head cashier; Michael Maynard nails himself a little red-haired wife and red-haired son. I am nailed, repeatedly, a crown jewel in too many men’s exotic butterfly collections. I do the hokey pokey with every major religion after my man  (reformed, not like the  rest, he swears)  hits  me, then leaves me with nothing. Bill Havenhill takes to Trumpism, Michael Maynard takes to Trumpism, I take to puff-puff-pass; I take to vows of refuge; I take to anything that makes me disappear.  

Bill Havenhill gets into cockatiels, moves to Ft. Hood alone. Maynard gets into LARPing, goes by  Morg  now; he dominates the  fifteen-year-olds  in the park. I get clean—so clean I gleam like new pennies. I tie myself to a helium balloon and watch them as I float away, waving like Princess Di, until I too am but a blip in the atmosphere, blip-blipping into the black.    


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About the Author:

Skylar Alexander is a writer, teacher, and graphic designer living in Iowa City. She is the assistant director of the Young Emerging Writers Program at the Midwest Writing Center in Rock Island, Illinois. Her writing has appeared in Smokelong Quartely, Forklift, Ohio: A Journal of Poetry, Cooking, and Light Industrial Safety, Hobart, Poetry City, USA, PromptPress, Mantra, and elsewhere. Her first collection is forthcoming from Forklift Books.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "Talent vs. Genius" by Patrick Nevins

Talent vs. Genius

By Patrick Nevins

Talent borrows. Genius steals. Talent collects $200 when passing Go. Genius takes Free Parking. Talent brings a sharpened number two pencil on the day of the test. Genius cuts class. Talent pays his library fines. Genius shoplifts from the local booksellers. Talent is a Boy Scout. Genius is Goofus in Galant’s clothing. Talent finds a 1-Up. Genius uses the Konami Code. Talent advances on a wild pitch. Genius steals home. Talent requires prescription glasses. Genius swipes your hearing aid. Talent wants to know if you’re not using your ketchup. Genius has already filched it. Talent stays six car lengths back. Genius passes on the right. Talent adheres to MLA style. Genius plagiarizes. Talent consolidates student loans. Genius accepts grants from the school of hard knocks. Talent goes underwater on an adjustable-rate mortgage. Genius squats. Talent would like your feedback in a brief survey. Genius is ruining your good name. Talent gets consent. Genius assaults. Talent begs the judge for mercy. Genius gets held in contempt of court. Talent lives on borrowed time. Genius lives on Talent’s dime. Talent withers in a retirement-home bed. Genius smashes every tooth in your head.


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About the Author:

Patrick Nevins is Associate Professor of English at Ivy Tech Community College in Columbus, Indiana. His fiction has appeared in The MacGuffin, The River, Gravel, and other journals. He is on Twitter @Patrick_Nevins.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "Playing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time On The Nintendo 64" by Adam Crittenden

Playing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time On The Nintendo 64

By Adam Crittenden

When I arrived at Kakariko Village, chickens flapped to the lazy music and the villagers sat outside of their cottages. I rolled to get around—because rolling around as young Link is faster than running—and stopped occasionally to talk with villagers. I had no idea that the amount of fucked was so rich in this village initially, but when I became older Link I saw the village for what it truly was: a facade for the sins of all of the villagers who lived there. Who knew that so much death and decay hid behind the cemetery and under the ground? As older Link, rain constantly pelted the abandoned village, but the rotten ReDead corpses masked with wooden faces still lingered. They never went away; they couldn’t because they had nowhere else to go. The first time I approached one (as young Link), it crept slow and froze time—as the ReDead do. No buttons could save me, and it approached while I stood, hypnotized. It grabbed my chest and hugged. This was like one of those bear-hugs my father gave me growing up as a child. I hated them. He wouldn’t let me go until I began to cry and struggle to breathe. When he released me, he would laugh and I would somehow be okay again—at least until the next hug. Sometimes I think those hugs were his way of saying, “I resent you. You are a burden.” At other times I think those hugs were his way of saying, “I don’t want you to be weak. You can’t be weak.” Those strange hugs. How odd to forgive someone we love. How odd to move on so quickly after pain. How odd to never really move on.  

After I finished the level, I sometimes returned just to look around, even though the village had the same corpses waiting in the same places. 


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About the Author:

Adam Crittenden holds an MFA in poetry from New Mexico State University where he was awarded an Academy of American Poets Prize. His writing has appeared in Barrelhouse, Bayou Magazine, Tupelo Quarterly, Barn Owl Review, Whiskey Island, and other journals. Blood Eagle is his first full-length book of poetry and is available from Gold Wake Press. Currently, he teaches writing in Albuquerque at Central New Mexico Community College.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "As Through a Sieve" by Jad Josey

As Through a Sieve

Jad Josey

You sift and I sweep. I move the broom close to your feet, the bristles poking your toes, cranberry-red nails with unpainted crescent moons near the cuticles, because you haven’t been to the salon since your mother called, since she choked out the words about your father, since you said Daddy over and over until I wrested the phone from your hand. 

The sifter glimmers with newness. Three birthdays ago, I wrapped it in newspaper, the worst wrapping job ever, you’d said, the corners of your mouth turned up, teeth showing. You tore the paper, cheeks flushed with wine. Afterward, the sifter lingered unsifting through three different Ansel Adams calendars on the wall. I will never tire of Half Dome strafed in that light and those shadows. 

You sift and I wait. You used to turn a whisk in careful circles, and I would excavate clumps of cocoa powder with my fork. I wondered if you found them in your cake, too. Now you pull the trigger on the sifter and the kitchen is a windless field, flour falling quiet as snow. I worry at your feet with the broom, trying to bear something out. Trying to shepherd something back in.


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About the Author:

Jad Josey resides on the central coast of California with his family and one very large cat. His work has appeared in Glimmer Train, Passages North, Reed Magazine, Little Fiction, and elsewhere. He is currently at work on a collection of short stories. Read more at www.jadjosey.com or reach out on Twitter @jadjosey.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "The Swimmers" by Elizabeth Paul

The Swimmers

By Elizabeth Paul

Since a lot of things didn’t make sense to me as an American living in Kyrgyzstan, or perhaps because so much seemed to reference the past more than the present—the faded signs on crumbling buildings, the silent and vacant factories, the statue of V.I. Lenin—I did not think too much of the fact that there was no swimming pool at the Swimming Pool bus stop. Perhaps there had once been a swimming pool, I thought, or maybe the name referred to the Ak Buura River in a colloquial way; the river ran parallel to Isanova Street, and near the bus stop was a popular swimming spot, where a wood-plank bridge provided access to the grassy left bank.

But in fact, there was a swimming pool near the bus stop. I couldn’t see it from the road because it was set back on the far side of the river and in the ground, with nothing surrounding it to suggest a swimming pool. Perhaps if I’d noticed how the Russian word for swimming pool, bassein, resembles the English word “basin,” I might have had a better idea of what to look for—a simple 100x300 foot concrete pit with grass growing right up to its edges.

I was finally initiated into the secret of the swimming pool through Lyalya, the aunt and second mother of my then-boyfriend and now-husband, Stas. Lyalya, Stas, Stas’s mom, and his sister were one of the few ethnically Russian families still living in their Central Asian town. They’d watched most of their Russian neighbors and friends leave since the end of the Soviet Union, and I wondered what that was like. Did their hometown still feel like home? On what terms did they feel they belonged? 

Lyalya loved to swim on summer evenings, and one late afternoon she invited me to join her at the pool. I knew it would be awkward—I was a beginner in Russian—but it was time to get to know Stas’s family.  

Lyalya’s habit was to do the breast stroke—keeping her head above water—about two-thirds of the length of the pool and back. So she had left her thick, rose-rimmed glasses on and clamped her orange hair up with a black claw clip before leading me down the slimy, slick ramp into the water.

There was no smell of chlorine and no dancing of light over a cerulean blue liner. In this rough container, the water appeared dark and opaque, and when I let my legs drop, weeds dragged across my ankles and brushed my toes. There were no kids with goggles and snorkels. There were no swimmies or noodles. No diving boards, life guards, or lanes. There were no deck chairs or concession stands. No trash cans stuffed with empty soda cups and neon-stained nacho trays. There were just a few people—mostly boys in their underwear bobbing in the water or standing around the perimeter—and a few cows—some grazing nearby, others passing through trailed by a skinny child wielding a long, thin branch.

Our pale legs glowed in the water, and I wondered what kind of spectacle we provided. The kids at the pool had never experienced the multiethnic empire of the Soviet Union. Did our white skin look as unusual to them as it appeared to me in the dark water that had been diverted from the river? Did I look American even in my swim suit? People could always tell I was American. I was never taken for a Russian.    

I don’t remember what Lyalya and I talked about. I did more listening than talking and understood more than I could express, though there was much that eluded me. Still, Lyalya seemed to understand most of my awkward, accented Russian, which took patience and faith. What I remember well is our walk down the slippery ramp before watching eyes, our synchronized shock as the mountain-river cold chomped down on our flesh, our pinning of shoulders to ears and elbows to ribs as we waded in to our waists, our pinch-faced lunges into the first stroke, our parallel wakes, the bob of our torsos and the dip of our chins, the eventual warming up, and the final emerging. I remember the water, the fresh air, and the sunlight surrounding us like amber does an insect, suspending us in a luminescence apart from the inevitable flow of less remarkable moments. 


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About the Author:

Elizabeth Paul’s work has appeared in Cold Mountain Review, The Carolina Quarterly, The Briar Cliff Review, Sweet Lit, The Indianapolis Review, and Duende, among other places. Her chapbook Reading Girl is an exploration of the art of Henri Mattise. She served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kyrgyzstan and currently teaches at George Mason University. Her website is elizabethsgpaul.com.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit


WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "Prayers on Friday " by Aiysha Malik

Prayers on Friday

By Aiysha Malik

He leans the entire length of his body against a geometric garden carved into the standing oak panel. At three feet high, it is still one foot taller than him. You watch his fingers travel over the intersections of the pattern, feeling for edges, delighting in the hollows. They find an open octagon.

He aligns his head and peers through. He places his eye against the tiny aperture as steadily as a gunman places his eye against the sight. As tenderly as a filmmaker holds his eye against the viewfinder.

The Imam, wearing jeans under his robes, approaches a man standing by the entrance. They hug and their eyes scan the spaces behind each other’s back. 

Sometimes a gunman and a filmmaker can be the same person. This morning you heard that sometimes that happens. That sometimes they can shoot two things at once—a human and a livestream.  

The mothers huddle together like points in a seven-fold tessellation, purposeful but unnatural. They whisper and their eyes triangulate the distance between themselves, their children and the exits.  

You turn to search for your tiny observer and find him still pressed against his precise peephole. The relief you are ashamed to feel stretches up to be held and you gather it against your heart, safe and warm on your chest. It wasn't you and it wasn't here. Not today.


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About the Author:

Aiysha Malik is an ever-curious writer and designer. Originally from Canada, she now resides in the United Kingdom. In 2016 she co-founded Mamanushka, a popular lifestyle blog devoted to the experiences of being a mother and Muslim woman of colour. Find more of her work and inspirations on twitter and Instagram @goodonpurpose.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit


WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: Flash(back) to the Winners of the Spring 2018 Big Sky, Small Prose Flash Contest

Water

By Allie Mariano, Winner of the Big Sky, Small Prose Flash Contest

The cement steps disappear into Pontchartrain brack and Mississippi mud. A flock of shock-green parakeets roost on the rail. Our kayak is chained to its posts. We’re lucky we built houses seven feet off the ground. The higher the house, the closer to God. Murder is down; petty crime is up. This is a roguish, half-governed place.

A little skiff approaches with three teenage boys. They hold a sousaphone, a trombone, a snare drum. They look ahead, somber. The snare drummer raises one stick in greeting. The sousaphone player takes a deep breath and presses his lips to the mouthpiece. His cheeks dimple. “St. James Infirmary” moans from the horn: slow, mournful, in a minor key. Let her go, let her go. God bless her.

When the water started rising, the rich by the lake with their nice brick homes and their carports were SOL. The rest of us lifted our shotguns. We scooped sand and lifted and scooped sand and lifted, and a couple people made a few more feet. Then, they rounded us up, they made us leave; they told us the city would soon be gone.

Today, we climb in the kayak and follow the band. We pass the cemeteries first. As the water rose, the crypts stayed put. Bodies seeped out, bone laced with remnant flesh floated amongst the graves. Now, statuesque angels stand tiptoe on the water, a concrete stag looks out over the water-imbued city. A popular tourist attraction, these cities of dead. Now there is nothing, and the tourists won’t be deterred, enchanted as they are by the ravaged. A parakeet flies overhead and settles on the nose of our craft. Three more follow suit. The brass band speeds up; the sousaphone player keeps playing. When I die, please bury me in a top hat. The sky is gray and threatens rain.

Down the street, Canal, as it is, past the half-submerged pedestal where Jeff Davis once stood. The corner bar, the Holy Ground, took water and held it. Its doors are gone; its insides fully flooded. Past the hospital complex, under the highway, must and mildew scented. Fat droplets fall on our heads. Ahead, the tallest buildings rise from the water like lifeless cypress. On the left, the Quarter, deader than it’s ever been.

We came back, like we always come back, even though they said it was gone. All the wood was damp and spotted black, nothing bleach couldn’t cure. They told us we couldn’t take any more water, not for a decade. This flood will just drain into the coast. It sounds like bullshit.

Ahead, the levee separates this lake-city from the river. Once dirt and grass, it is piled high with sand bags. On the other side, a Mississippi steamboat bursts with people. They shoulder each other to see the drowned city; those in front clasp the rail and look out in wonder. They look well fed. It’s early, and this band is smart. The tuba has stopped its solo second line, and the boys don’t look at each other. The snare player counts off, steady, and they begin. Joyful. You’d never guess the tuba warmed up on a dirge.

The tourists clap. An older man on the boat knows the lyrics and claps his hands. This is all we’ve got. Everything is water. They throw food into the boat: packaged cookies, apples, cans of Coke. We can taste the syrup. We could climb on board, abandon ship, find a new place. Somehow, the water suits us. The scavenging and the singular pursuit of survival. It seems better to stay. The parakeets fly up and land on the boat’s awning. It feels sad, but they will come back.

Originally published in CutBank 88 and featured online here.


Holding His Fire

By Daryl Scroggins, Runner-Up in the Big Sky, Small Prose Flash Contest

Before he died from spilling bug killer on himself, Mr. Gallardo would show us neighborhood kids his command center. If you knocked and offered to mow his lawn or clean his gutters, anything, he would open his door and tell you to come on in. Most of his house never had any lights on. 

What he liked to show off was in a room with a world map on the wall, where bright tube lights made you squint. There were racks of rifles and shotguns in there, and a long table that looked like it was made out of pistols. He made his own bullets at a table on the other side of the room, and he showed us special kinds he had invented himself—some he said could never be sold, even in America. He had a 4 gauge shotgun shell he said was filled with glass eyes. He had a pistol cartridge with a star-shaped slug that he said would turn into metal spaghetti on impact. I think he had some magical beliefs too, because he said he had a shell that Would Not Fire unless you said a secret word before pulling the trigger, and a pistol that, if stolen, would fire the first time the muzzle lined up with the thief’s face.

We compared stories after he died, and we had all asked him what gun he would use on a Tyrannosaurus Rex. He had it in the crawl space under his closet floor. The barrel was as long as he was tall, and instead of a stock it had a trailer thing with wheels that unfolded, and it had chains and metal stakes to keep it from rolling back too far when it was fired. Whenever someone asked him if he had ever shot it, he always said he would not have a gun he had not fired. I was the one who had to go and ask him how that could be true, if the new gun you buy has never been fired before you shoot it, you own it and haven’t fired it. I think that hurt his feelings. He stopped letting me in, and everybody says that was the start of him not being so friendly. I said I was sorry, but they all said who could tell what might make a guy like that go twitchy.

But I think maybe a question can kill you. One that has the magic in it that has a way of slipping up on a person like a little piece of dirt in your mower’s gas tank.

. . .

An ambulance came, and they him out of there, and then the bomb squad came for the gunpowder. There was yellow tape all over the place and extra locks put on all around, but Mr. Gallardo had shown us The Tunnel. A tunnel works both ways if you know where the booby traps are, and we did. He had said he didn’t have any family, so we figured it would be a shame to see the police get everything when they already had a SWAT team.

Someone said the funeral home director let a story slip out about what happened when Mr. Gallardo was cremated. There were some loud popping noises while he was in there going up in smoke, and when they raked up the ashes to put in an urn they found an almost melted .22 derringer. It was a mystery, but we figure he knew he’d be going to the hospital when he called 911, and he didn’t want to go unarmed. So he, you know, did what people do when they hide drugs.

As far as I know, the T. rex gun is still there. It would be hard to get it through The Tunnel, so you would have to take it right out the front door. I bet there’s at least one pistol still in there too.

. . .

Sometimes, I dream about that big gun in the crawl space, and it’s always the same dream. There’s a family like mine living in that house, and aliens are invading, everything blowing up and people screaming, and everybody runs to hide under the floor. Someone shines a flashlight on boxes and boxes of ammo stacked up all around. They are wondering what it’s for when the spotlight finds it—the only gun that will make you feel safe again when you don’t know what world the trouble is coming from. 

Originally published in CutBank 88 and featured online here.


A Posture of Grace

By Kim K. McCrea, Runner-Up in the Big Sky, Small Prose Flash Contest

April shattered at my feet, a barnacled shell salvaged from a maze of days, days battling kelpies at the bottom of the sea. This morning, I look up to see it is May. The grass is thick, riotous and defiant. The buds of the honey locust tree, the last leaves to unfurl, open fists of gold, the misers. Rosemary is blooming and the rhododendrons shine like starfish. A black crow flies east against a white cloud, blue sky. I am prone to seasickness. I am back on land.

On the first day of April, I sat at my father’s cluttered kitchen table and clutched the edges like a tipping raft, fighting to keep my balance. 

In my father’s house, keeping watch. Walk him, faltering and wizened, to the toilet. Inspect his leavings expecting to read an oracle: tea leaves, this is, omens found in flights of birds. In two weeks, he will be the same age as his own mother when she died, died at last, alone and unmoored in a house of strangers caring for the old and unanchored. Stand watch. Old men enduring assaults on their flesh to repair the rending of time threatening to choke the bowels. Slipping backward, further under the waves, with each incision and intrusion--glasses of water, pills of different colors, oatmeal and soup, laundry to wash away the blood and urine, a cane, a heavy walker, a cane, a slow recovery, if it comes, silver hair a broken halo from hours upon the pillow, bandages on his head where he slipped and fell and bled. I sit alone and keep watch. Three days ago, a tiny golden bird hit the window above me and broke its neck. I put it in a box to see if it would survive, somehow. Later, I wrapped it in a shroud of paper towels and whispered a small prayer for forgiveness, for the waste, my sorrow. Ask pardon.

My father was sinking below me, fading into the distance, sifting down in the murk at the bottom of the sea. I tucked him in bed and kissed him goodnight. I stood watch. The next day, I maneuvered him somehow back into the hospital. Each morning, I stopped at the hospital cafeteria and cheated the self-serve espresso machine into adding an extra shot to my latte. I tipped the cashier extra because I felt guilty. I drew the curtains around the hospital bed, straightened the blankets, and consulted the nurses. I asked for clean towels and soap, filled the plastic tub with warm water, and swished a washcloth through it. I sat beside the bed and read my book. Gradually, Dad got stronger. Kicking toward the quivering surface, we struggled upward.

Some hours, while I sat with my father, I read from Home by Marilynne Robinson. The novel is set in Iowa, in a small town called Gilead. The author’s spare language, with lines as lean as an Amish chair, is often difficult for me to grasp. I must read a paragraph several times to take its meaning, sounding out each sentence like a primer. Perhaps it’s a difference in vernacular, a syntax of rhythms that is unfamiliar to me, or the gentle piety of Midwestern pastors that is foreign. I’m still working my way through the book.

It is the idea of grace that Robinson returns to like chaining psalms. “Assuming a posture of grace,” is a phrase I read and ponder as I sit with my father. I conjure Isadora Duncan draped in a sheer pale gown striking an arabesque. And what is grace? What does it mean to assume a posture of grace?

Recovery was slow, yet steady. In the middle of the month after he was discharged, we celebrated Easter and his 85th birthday together. With a posture of grace, first comes the possibility of forgiveness. And, with forgiveness, then comes the possibility of understanding, Robinson goes on to write. I have come to realize a posture is not a pose, but a raw and persistent readiness, that grace is simply, but not only, a tender embrace of mercy. I return to the idea as I stand in the garden, pondering how we broke the surface in our embrace and found footing again. As I’m pulling up long blades of grass, I notice the grape leaves are unfolding. The new green leaves are edged in rose.

Originally published in CutBank 88 and featured online here.


About the Authors:

Allie Mariano lives in New Orleans. Her writing has appeared in Saw Palm, Day One, and in New Orleans’ Times-Picayune. She is the nonfiction editor for Midway Journal. She is working on a novel, and she’s happy to be here.

Daryl Scroggins lives in Marfa, Texas. His poems, short stories, and creative non-fictions have appeared in magazines and anthologies across the country, and his most recent book is This Is Not the Way We Came In, a collection of flash fiction and a flash novel (Ravenna Press).

Kim K. McCrea worked as a system analyst for 25 years, building out the internet of things, before returning to letters. In 2017, Kim won the Treefort Wild West Writing Prize and was a finalist in both Proximity Magazine’s Essay Prize and the Barry Lopez Creative Nonfiction Contest. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in Tishman Review, Thoughtfuldog, and Watershed Review. Kim lives in Eugene, Oregon, where she wrangles her Labrador in the rain and scouts for Great Blue Herons.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "Prayers for the Lost " by Melissa Goode

Prayers for the Lost

By Melissa Goode

Benediction

We are, all of us, dust. The priest reduces us to sinners and ash. You didn’t believe any of this, I know. The ceiling is dense heaven-blue. Bless me and keep me safe (surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life). The priest calls upon the saints, the angels. He blesses you (eternal rest give to them, O Lord). We pray for you and so we should because who knows where the fuck you are? I want it again, the first touch of my tongue to you. I will lick you clean, you are a knife, and I will curl my tongue and protect myself until I cannot anymore. On the altar, the candles burn and burn, they smoke. You aren’t here. This is where I think you are—you wait by the river for me in gold-white light. It is glorious, isn’t it? Tell me. 

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Burial at Sea 

At the bottom of our street, the waves crash over and over, and they will not stop. Last night in my sleep, the sea gathered itself into a tsunami and collided into our house. In our bedroom of water we drowned, our heads pushed against the ceiling. People sunbake on the beach, they swim, and I don’t know how they aren’t terrified. I wasn’t always like this. Once, we stood in the sea. You pulled me close, my ten toes left the sand, and you were hard, rigid against the centre of me. Right. There. Water lapped at my lips, and I tasted salt, and you held me up as if I weighed nothing. I didn’t think about sharks or whales or any other thing. I should have. In the depths of the ocean there is the survival of the fittest which only means the survivors are eating everyone else. A school of sharks encircle a baby whale, separating it from its mother. Blood blooms in the water, and new bones descend to the seabed. The mother whale swims away, and I don’t understand that either. 

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Act of Contrition 

I build a body of pillows in our bed. In the dark, from the corner of my eye, it is you. Hello, beautiful. You pull me down, your arms band tight around me. Your heat (you are my furnace). We don’t talk about this enough—the astonishing headiness that comes from lying on a body, being carried and being consumed. I hold your face as if that will keep you here longer. You look over my shoulder, and now I know—you cannot look me in the eye. Don’t say sorry, and I won’t say it to you. Bury yourself into me. Call me love. Drop your mouth to my ear and say, keep still. I will. I promise. 2AM. 3AM. 4AM. Every hour is another hour closer to you. You are at the river. Baby boo, sweetheart. Take my shoulders and push me under the surface. Do it. 

END


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About the Author:

Melissa Goode’s work has appeared in The Penn Review, Best Small Fictions, Superstition Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, Wigleaf, and Monkeybicycle, among others. Three of her stories were chosen by Dan Chaon for Best Microfictions 2019, including her story “I Wanna Be Adored” (CHEAP POP) which was also chosen for the Wigleaf Top 50 for 2019. She lives in Australia. You can find her here: www.melissagoode.com and at twitter.com/melgoodewriter

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "Monsieur Kim" by David Aloi

Monsieur Kim

by David Aloi

Monsieur Kim had a birthmark the shape of the Eiffel Tower in the center of his neck, or at least that’s what he liked to tell us. I always thought it looked more like a regular triangle, or at my most imaginative, the state of New Hampshire. What I liked about him, and what I told the police, is that he created a totally immersive setting for us each day we walked into class. Played us Edith Piaf and François Hardy, drank café au laits, tore apart baguettes to pass around, held his chalk like a cigarette.

Je m’appelle Monsieur Kim, et vous? and Quelle heure est-il? and Aimez-vous le pamplemousse?. He did the throaty thing with his r’s and encouraged us to take our index and middle fingers and press on our throats as we annunciated r-focused phrases like mercide rienje parle français.

“If you feel that vibration, like you have a bee caught in there,” he said. “You’re doing it right.” 

Matty Grapuso and D.J. Friedman, who sat in the back of the classroom near the cardboard cutout of Céline Dion telling the world to Étude!, would make chokey blowjob noises, as though they knew firsthand what getting one sounded like. Monsieur Kim, the professional he was, just ignored them or asked them to do the noises en français. When Matty and D.J. asked him how to say “fudgepacker” in French, he told them, which ultimately was a mistake because they ended up carving the word into snow on the windshield of Monsieur Kim’s Jetta. 

*

Here are a few other things I know about Monsieur Kim that might be useful: he has a pastry chef friend named Paul who, on “Crème Brûlée Day,” came in and blowtorched some vanilla pudding for us. I know his parents, both city workers, recently visited for the holiday from Seoul because he mentioned his excitement to finally show them his new life. I know that at lunchtime, even when the Indiana winter is at its most bitter, he burrows out into Parking Lot C to eat liver sausage sandwiches and cornichons in his car. I also know that on the weekends, he drives 40 miles out of Bluffton to Fort Wayne to go dancing. I only know this because my Aunt Brenda works the graveyard shift at one of those roadside diners where the coffee tastes like gasoline and she’s seen him a bunch, all sweaty, wearing tank tops in a blizzard. She told me Monsieur Kim gets everything à la mode, even his beef hash.

On the day we all returned from Christmas break and the last time we ever saw him, Monsieur Kim was dressed like a mime. Black and white stripes, suspenders, a beret. No stinky cheese or grape juice for us to try, no Godard or Truffaut trailers for us to watch, not even Amélie on a muted loop. He sat at his big teak desk in the front of the class with his head down on a pile of old vinyls. When Matty masked some obscenity in a cough, Monsieur Kim looked up and made a desperate frown, his face covered in a thick coat of white paint, two black tears falling from each of his eyes. Half the class laughed uncomfortably. My own breath quickened. I saw Katie Zimmer bite the eraser right off her pencil.

Monsieur Kim moved slowly to the chalkboard and wrote, in large loopy letters, au revoir. First he made me stand. I repeated the phrase a couple times: au revoirau revoir. He touched my neck, gently, signaling for me to roll my r’s. He went around the room and made everyone do it. Stand. Repeat the phrase. Annunciate. Au revoir. He placed his fingers on our throats until he heard the chokey sounds. He stayed silent and in character, just like a mime is supposed to, and we all just played along.


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About the Author:

David Aloi is a writer living in Los Angeles. He received his MFA in fiction from California College of the Arts and has worked at McSweeney’s, ScholarMatch, Medium, and Grindr. His writing has appeared in The Rumpus, Flaunt, INTO, Cuepoint, and Switchback. In 2019, he was awarded a LAMBDA Fellowship for Emerging LGBTQ Voices as well as a MacDowell Fellowship. He is currently finishing a book of stories about modern (gay) life.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "Active Fault" by Grace Campbell

Active Fault

by Grace Campbell

The town roller rink is always scaled in the grime of hopeful, hormone wrapped anxieties, drugstore perfume, the offal of viscous nacho cheese, and the immanent potential of a fistfight. All of these things come free or five-finger discounted, and you never leave without reeking like the entire combination.

My older brother's fifteenth birthday consists of a long streamer-laden table flanked with burled knots of boys too big for their behavior and a sheet cake squiggled over in gooey, rushed cursive by some bakery employee in his own age bracket but with a verifiable income.

We are poor, and it is the first party we've hosted anywhere but our own home, so it's the big time. The Stoketon Roller Rink, where Whitney Houston's love-pumped ballads make the place bounce like a restless leg over an active fault. I wear my velour baseball-style top with some gold flowers printed across the front because velour is fancy and it makes me look what I suppose is rich. I even brush my hair, something no one notices and something cast in culpability once I see the photos, days later, where my brother's friends crouch behind me, all making the finger-down-the-throat vomit gesture toward the back of my gleaming, snarl-free head. Was the hair brushed too much or not enough? Was the shirt too tight or not enough? Was the smile too broad or not enough?

Maybe not velour, next time. Maybe never velour, in the interest of no Next Time. Maybe no smiles or only those at half-mast so they fall on the indifferent side of the anger/shame blade. Maybe no more roller rink, where, no matter how fast on my feet, I still fail. 

Maybe no more gleaming eyes toward the flat-white of the cake that tasted like nothing real and distracted me, eyes affixed to the sliceless perfection of it, from the stinging clutch of older boys. Behind me, they chant words that will later pivot the blade into other, sharper words, all the way from the hilt to the point, many times, no matter how baggy or snarl free. 

Eventually no one will be able to read what the whole glistening length spelled out or remember that I wore my last unfettered smile on the ride to the rink, wondering if they would play Whitney, please play Whitney, both my legs restless for some damn Whitney. I will skate away from the business of girlhood with my grin atrophied as a torn streamer, reeking like the whole combination caught in the photograph taken at exactly the moment I was lacing up my twelfth year.

My mother sees the whole scene happen, captures the shot anyway. 


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About the Author:

Grace Campbell is a co-founding editor and writer at Black River Press and Fiction editor at 5x5 Literary Magazine. She is the author of the flash chapbook Girlie Shorts (2018). She was awarded a June Dodge fellowship at the Mineral School in 2018. Her work has been chosen for inclusion in Best Small Fictions 2019 (Sonder Press) as well as earning finalist status in competitions at Split Lip and Atticus Review. You can find her work in Brevity, Joyland, Gravel, Foliate Oak, New Flash Fiction Review and elsewhere. She's got a soft spot for tinted lip balm and corgis. 

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: Three prose poems by Steven Cramer

By Steven Cramer

Jamaica

In Jamaica, if you live in the mountains, the slim, hairpin turns are relentless as Jehovah’s Witnesses. You honk so much the mechanic replaces your car’s horn along with its brakes.  Everywhere, people smell the sea in the air.  Not the ocean, the sea.  They keep watch on the horizon as it might be listening.

In Jamaica, it’s good to write good poems, better to be a good poet.  So thought my dear dead friend, Wayne—whose name doesn’t mean “invisible giant” but does to me; whom I loved but couldn’t tell I loved.  He wouldn’t hear of it. He’d rather sail. A thermos of rum and coke in one hand—Is there anything more sacred than a child reading a book?—in the other, his cap he’ll set on my young son’s head, whose name all afternoon will be First Mate.


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Two Roma boys stuck tulips in the front pockets of my jeans.  A Roma girl tried to lift my wallet, but I swatted the scrubbed little urchins away. If they’ve grown up, maybe they’ve matured into a trio of neurobiologists.  You and I had been visiting our favorite passion: Brunelleschi’s crucifixion in the Santa Maria Novella.  The sun shone on the street thieves’ faces, olive-skinned as Christ’s mortified flesh.  The third time our train was announced and you hadn’t returned from the newsstand, I briefly lost my lifelong craving to be in a headline.  For the time being, this memory curls up, searches for a safe enclosure, like a dog that’s learned to trust its crate.  Then you touched my shoulder.  For the rest of our honeymoon, I kept staring at you, as if a band of kidnappers had just set you free.


Written During a Depression

There once was a man with no imagination.  He never even dreamed.

Neuroscientists claim that when you wake convinced you haven’t dreamed, you’ve actually forgotten four to six excursions into a mailbox the size of a covered bridge, where a family of scorpions affix price tags to paperweights.

In this way, you’re like the man—call him Man II—who forgets to tip his daughter for Thanksgiving dinner.

As for Man I, nothing: no keel-billed toucan on his shoulder when he looks in the mirror; no sonic puns on fatigued and graffiti; no grandmothers, in the guise of cats wearing Balinese masks, performing shadow dances to The Funeral March of the Marionettes.   

Man II, as a boy, had fantasies of eloping with a trapeze artist.

There she is now, swinging back and forth between the Niagara and Victoria Falls.  Just try calling her a dream.


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About the Author:

Steven Cramer is the author of five poetry collections, most recently Clangings (Sarabande). His work has appeared in AGNI, The Atlantic Monthly, Field, The Kenyon Review, The Nation, The New England Review, The Paris Review, Poetry, and elsewhere. Recent poems have appeared in American Journal of Poetry, Barrow Street, Carolina Quarterly, Massachusetts Review, and Plume. He founded and teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Lesley University.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit


WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "Hunger Pangs" by Matt Tompkins

Hunger Pangs

By Matt Tompkins

I came home hungry and he had already started cooking. He was hungry too, he said. He made a feast: rack of lamb, whipped potatoes, braised greens. We ate it all. We ate it fast. And we washed it down with a nice pinot noir. Feeling festive and restless, and still hungry, we made a pot roast. I chopped the carrots and onions and garlic while he salted and seared the meat. When that was done and gone, we pulled cheese and grapes from the fridge. Water crackers from the pantry and a second bottle of wine, a halfway-decent Sauvignon blanc. We made short work of that, then moved on to some single-barrel bourbon and Salvadoran cigars—his boss gave him the bottle and the box with his last bonus. He wondered aloud what he had been saving them for. It was only ten and we were wakeful and we were hungry and so we kept on. A half-carton of orange juice, extra pulp, we passed back and forth, alternating with swigs from a gallon of sweet tea; a punch bowl full of corn flakes with two serving spoons between us. We found things in corners of kitchen cabinets we didn’t know existed. Things we must have bought, but who knows when. A tub of chocolate frosting. A tin of dried sardines. A few packets of ramen, chicken flavor, reduced sodium. Before long we were scraping bottom. Scooping baking soda from the box. I emptied the salt shaker into the back of my throat and he knocked back the last of the almond extract and he looked at me like, OK, what next? Nothing was left, the shelves were empty. The kitchen was unkempt. The litter of boxes and jars left us up to our ankles in drift. So we ordered some pizzas and Buffalo wings and pad kee mao and saag paneer, and when the bell rang we waded toward the door. We didn’t waste time with plates or forks, we just tore open the cartons and gulped it all down. When we’d called all the restaurant numbers we knew, when we’d finished the takeout and tossed down the boxes, we wiped at our mouths with our fists and went on. We slipped off our shoes and gnawed at the leather. Tore off our shirts and shredded the cotton, which pilled in our teeth and got stuck in our throats. Swallowed the buttons like vitamin pills. Then we took to the bathroom and bedroom and den: ripped white feathers from pillows, tan sheets from the bed, pulled out coils and batting and memory foam, digested the lampshades and lightbulbs alike. And from under the bed—where the bed had been—we grabbed the dust bunnies that hid. Squeezed out tubes of toothpaste, shook vials of mouthwash, and shampoo and hand soap and painkiller capsules. When the faucets and fixtures and fittings were finished, we paused for a moment, then dug further in. We pulled up the carpet and splintered the floor. Picked our teeth and kept picking. We stripped off the paint from the walls and dissolved it in water and drank by the pitcher and still we were hungry, still we weren’t full. We dug into the walls and munched hunks of plaster, slurped wires like spaghetti and ground down the pipes. Our teeth were half-wrecked and our eardrums were ringing but neither of us had an endgame in sight. When even the blocks of the concrete foundation were dust in our stomachs, we went for the cars. We twisted off pieces of headlights and bumpers and stretched out our jaws and jammed it all in. Then we turned our sights out to the houses around us and thought of the people inside, and we looked at each other and knew without speaking that, yes, we were thinking the same.


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About the Author:

Matt Tompkins is the author of Odsburg (Ooligan Press, Fall 2019) as well as several fiction chapbooks. His stories have appeared in the New Haven Review, Post Road, and online at the Carolina Quarterly and Puerto del Sol. He works as a copy editor and lives in Virginia with his wife and daughter.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit