flash fiction

Moon by Mrityunjay Mohan

Moon | Mrityunjay Mohan


Black. Skin flakes like rust from steel. I am housed in a bubble of fear. I am held in a cage up in the clouds. The oar is sunlight in the skies. A weeping tree bends, touches the earth to its forehead. It prays, twists, and I watch the branches unfurl like hair from a bun. The sea shudders like children in snow like it is in fear of my trip. The weeping tree looks over at me, keeps vigil, holds itself responsible for my safety. In small mud houses live small mud people. In rocking wooden boats sit mottled boys with leaking flesh and organs undone. I feel I am a wound. I drip and drip and drip.


Grey. In the moon, mother said, live two angels. They breathe helium (what is that?), they sit on craters (what is that?). The oar laps in the moonlight, a crescent-shaped scar on my left cheek. I am sitting between wood and the moon. I am closer to the stars than the sand. In little pieces of seashells, pressed to the ear, you can still hear my voice. On the shore of the sea, across brown sand, you can still see my face. I know the way like I know the strands of my hair. Black as the sea under my rocking, rocking, rocking boat. I want to reach the moon. That is why I row.


Green. Moss and vines climb upon the little wooden doors of little wooden houses. In the sea, algae and seaweed float like abandoned children in the playground. On the moon, a smiling face looks down at me. She is shrouded in white. The light from the stars glitter like dust in sunlight. Oars of moonlight filter into the sea, splash like sinking bodies, and thrashing arms. The moon is a watercolor on the black sea under the boat. Mama isn’t on Earth anymore. Mama is not alive on land anymore. Mama is in the moon. I see her in the craters (what is that?), breathing helium (what is that?). I quicken my pace. I will reach her soon. 


Brown. The wood tumbles like a clumsy man left ashore. It tips to the left, then right, spilling water like tea from a cup. Milk foaming at the top. The clouds cluster over the sea like cells over a wound. Form a group like they are little gossiping children. I know they are talking about me, saying things about the little boy on the little boat. Whispering their nightly prayers before disappearing into their rooms. The night is darkening around me like a blanket, cozy as a blister on the lower lip. Little children dot the moon like hollowed-out eyes, tiny sockets gleaming, a star on each round brown sea. Thin, shapeless skies. I am closer now. I can make out the little curve of the mole on my mother’s nose. I can smell her in the sea. She smells of sandalwood. She smells of wet forests after dark. She is the sweat that hangs around my forehead. She is the hope coiled around my chest like armor. I know I will get there in a few minutes. Closer still. 


White. I am swaddled in a blanket. I wrap the cloth around my shoulders and step out of the trembling boat. The boat is human; it aches, struggles, folds in on itself. I leave the boat at the steps to the moon. My fingers are curled into a fist, forming little crescent moons on my palm. The steps are rickety, old, warped, wooden planks. They are little talking angels covered in brown. I can hear them whispering about my arrival. I walk up the steps, and into a large crater (what is that?) and mama is here. She looks at me. She wears a white gown. I breathe helium (what is that?) and mama beckons me forward. I grab her hand between my own like a single oar in an abandoned boat, like I am to be saved from sinking in the sea, from sinking amidst the little talking angels. I am standing in a house of white dust. I am enclosed in thin-veiled fear. I sink into mama’s body like the moon sinking into the clouds. I am a translucent bag of wounded organs. I cannot talk anymore. Syllables wither and melt within me. They turn to solid husks of forgotten letters. Mama kisses my forehead. And rocks me to sleep. 

More about the author:

Mrityunjay’s work has been published or is forthcoming in The Michigan Quarterly Review, The Indianapolis Review, Oyster River Pages, The Masters Review, and elsewhere. He’s been awarded scholarships by Sundance Institute, The Common, Frontier Poetry, and elsewhere. He was a semi-finalist for the Copper Canyon Press Publishing Fellowship. He has worked as a guest editor, a reader, and an intern at various literary journals. Currently, he’s an editor for ANMLY, and he’s a reader for the Harvard Review and The Masters Review.

flash fiction

Rock, Shore, Thunder by Maria S. Picone

Rock, Shore, Thunder | Maria S. Picone

The nails chime as she hammers the boards of Rock Point Lighthouse. The record temperatures curve up and up, clingy fog along her back. The weather a tool wielded by a vengeful God—the year’s twenty-first named hurricane entering the Maine coast stage left. 

She ambles across her domain. In her eyes turns a kaleidoscope of patterns, brick, layered paint, iterated windows, metal. Her own turtle shell. 

The drizzle elongates. She pats the wall and goes in.


Slim, wiry, and freckled with brown curls, she does not fit the lighthouse keeper norm: wall-eyed, weather-battered men with few social skills. Still, her mouth has the same frown lines, carved in rough and dangerous conditions. She strips off her work gear. Darts in, out the shower, rubbing water and dead skin off her body with her towel. The frizzies in her hair tell the humidity.

Though most visitors never see the lighthouse as tourism has migrated so far from the seas, she imagines they would be surprised by the care someone has gone through to decorate it. An arrow sign that points to the “Beach” has been modified so that the arrow curves back into itself. 

It’s a mistake to check her phone; notifications flash three languages from concerned relatives and friends. Heard there was a big storm. You okay? Mother’s tongue and father’s tongue melding together with the interloping English they immigrated into. 

Her parents: They’re calling this a Cat 6 superhurricane. Slow moving

She starts typing but her thumbs have nothing to say. Her hair leaves droplets on the screen. Storm not yet come in.


With the progress of time, hurricane season swells into months upon months, waves devour the cliffs like Oreo cookies, lobsters migrate ever northward. It’s rumored that the last lighthouse keeper packed up one day and moved to the Rockies, a clear mistake given the plummet in air quality out west. 


Even though she knows the list like her native tongue, she counts by hand and touch. Her supplies sit like stuffed animals in easy to reach places—the couch, the countertops, even the bed. Filtered water and boring food.

Her duty is the captaining of a stationary ship: her joke to friends who couldn’t understand why she’d left the promise of it all: daily Starbucks dosing, corporate communications job, loving husband. After the divorce, there had been a cooling off, as they assessed what they knew. She grasps the silver packages that give life; she runs numbers in her head. Waiting, counting. 

Some friends who believed his mournful eyes kept the husband, and she kept the lighthouse. She would rather a vengeful God than a vengeful human who thinks he’s God.


They call them fish, the lighthouse keepers who survive when their charge does not. Sometimes they watch the destruction from afar via satellite imagery and hope; sometimes they wash up on shore like castoffs from a sunken ship; and other times still, they witness their curation deteriorate, called in front of a board to be informed of full divestment.


Like an old friend, the hurricane falls in and stays. The lighthouse cracks, rocks, rolls like a ship. Vertigo surrounds her. Thunder comes to sit in her heart, usurping its beats. Messages pour. Underneath, the implication. 

Why not come back to your old life. Why not start again from before you met him. Your father and I miss you.

Why not emerge.

The phone, on silent, is its own lightning. There’s a science behind this, like the ebb and flow of her matrimony. She waits on the edge of the bed, sweating palms braced against damp blankets.


In college, they’d studied the Ship of Theseus, a persistent identity quandary. A lighthouse was nothing more than a static example, linking historical past to nostalgic present. In reality, caulking, caulking, and more caulking. Discerning which available materials lay closest to authenticity, procuring them from her modest discretionary. Hosting various fundraising activities, from “Dinner Date with a Lighthouse Keeper” on socials to glitzy black-tie and lobster fetes with glitterati. Grant applications down to formatting and itemized budgets. It takes a crew to support a lighthouse. She dives in but stands alone, a beacon near, but never on, the shore. 

When inside a tempest, best to keep others at a distance. 


The morning hits like a fresh band of storm, a countershock of silence and light. A tentative sun has risen. She wakes mashing the phone screen, finding service enough to see that this was the eye, not the end. Walking, caulking what she can. Surveying slices of flesh the wind already sheared, putting visuals to sounds that orchestrated her sleep. The final message from her parents reads, This is serious. She types them a note, hopes it escapes the stifling sunlight.

It is alive, howling, every blow, every abusive word, each power play blasted in full lunatic moon, abraded with wind, derided by rain and it keeps her up, up where she cannot will it down and she holds the phone like a beacon and the generator goes and it is hot with fear and the smell of brackish water and the lighthouse loses its oneness its shelter its shell safety and comes down the way a tree crushes a car and dents, splits her resting place, holding integrity, batters her like a drunken night and her skin song dances bruises, sweats a second rain, water a gulp in the dark and the storm, the lighthouse over, a marriage can be in pieces a lighthouse too and it is time when the sun comes up Maine pink into boiled red on the final fermata of the storm and backpack in hand she jumps ship—


Thrash, swim. 

Waves calming, to shore, some resilient Mainer checking the coast to find her, the glow she’s moving toward those damn notifications, chimes of lives pinging her, to come home.

Inland, inland.

More about the author:

Maria S. Picone is a queer Korean American adoptee who won Cream City Review’s 2020 Summer Poetry Prize and Salamander’s Louisa Solano Memorial Emerging Poet Prize. She has three forthcoming chapbooks: Anti Asian Bias, Adoptee Song (Game Over Books), and This Tenuous Atmosphere (Conium). Maria was published in Best Small Fictions, Vestal Review, Orca, Reckoning, Cherry Tree, and more. She has received support from Juniper, Hambidge, SC Arts, Lighthouse, GrubStreet, Kenyon Review, and Tin House. She is Chestnut Review’s managing editor, and edits at Uncharted, The Seventh Wave, and Foglifter. She holds an MFA from Goddard College. Website:; socials: @mspicone.

flash fiction

Birds of Prey by Tiffany Promise

Birds of Prey | Tiffany Promise

My dime-store bouquet—stargazer heavy—and his mam’s old ring perch uselessly in my lap. Re-upped from my sister’s 2001 prom, my dress is snagged with disappointment and Zima. It fits just fine. 

We were supposed to get hitched today. But on the way to the church, Dusty squeaked clean: It was only meant to be a one-night thing. Not a lifetime. But he has morals.

We’re parked in the church parking lot, but I refuse to get out of the truck. I’d worked for an hour to get my makeup just so, and now my face is a swamp. Inky tears, loosened lashes. My fresh fuchsia mouth—a wound. 

I want to scream. To tell him that it’s all his fault. That our baby will have the beady black eyes of a beast. Veiny wings, wiry fur, a forked tongue. I know this like I know my own name. Our first time together—right here in this shit pickup—he’d almost called me “Betty,” but recovered with a quick “Birdie.” Close enough.

Perched on the tailgate, Dusty guzzles. One Coors after another. He tosses the empties into the truck-bed, forming a little golden mound. I think about climbing into that mound, settling down amongst the rest of his trash.

When Dusty finally comes around to my window, slurring, I roll it down. Just a few inches. “Birdie girl, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say that. I don’t not love you. It’s just…” He trails off and cracks open another beer, spits a brown gob on the concrete. I know exactly how his mouth tastes right now, just like it did that first time: foamy with spittle, bits of sweet tobacco clinging to his lips.

“My name is Nightingale,” I whisper into the tacky bodice of my dress. He’s already out of earshot.

We met at a Halloween Party six months ago. I was dressed as a fairy—wings made of pantyhose and coat hangers, a bunch of glitter. He was John Wayne. Or maybe he wasn’t, but I like to remember him that way: handsome and stout, a rugged scuff to his boots.

On my way to find the keg, I was sideswiped by Krispy Kritter who was headbanging alone in front of his boombox. My wings smashed the floor, my dress split up the side. See-through with shame, I froze. Until John Wayne reached down and took my hand. He walked me to the washroom and shut the door behind me.

“Just come inside so we can get this over with,” Dusty begs through the stuck-shut truck window. His voice is barbed. I always knew he didn’t love me, but I thought he would’ve been able to keep it hush. “Everybody’s waiting.”

I spit at the glass. Warble his reflection.

Surprised, he steps back and punches the tailgate. His knuckles split wide. Our baby’s mouth will be blood-colored, too. Shriveled and sulfur-stinking with fangs sharp enough to pierce a throat. 

Nursing his hand, Dusty mucks up the front of his rented tux. I think about going to him, wrapping his paw in a torn-off segment of my dress and cradling it to my chest. But I will never—not ever—again.

He’s singing an old Hank Williams song, losing the lyrics into the top of his beer can. His face looks green. He wobbles. Our baby will be a water balloon. It will smash the second it falls out from between my legs. No one will be there to see the burst—mostly clear, just a tinge of pink—so I’ll soak it up with old kitchen rags and bury them in a shoebox out back.

I hear a muffled thud and look back. 

Dusty is collapsed on the tailgate, his eyes closed against the sun. His pearl-snaps glitter and bands of wavy light stream from his body making him look like a saint. Our baby will be a god: cornsilken curls, plump red lips. I’ll pat down his feathers with baby oil every morn, fatten him up with my own creamy milk. 

Dusty is collapsed on the tailgate, his eyes closed against the sun. His pearl-snaps glitter, his neck is bent at an odd angle, his boots hang off the tail. He looks like a sock without a foot. 

Please, God, help me. I don’t know what to do anymore, I pray, twisting my hair around my finger. My eyes climb heavenward, right up the church’s spindly steeple.

I see a vulture circling. His heavy body thrums the air. It’s not the sweet, smooth glide of a nightingale, but a clumsy swoop, meant only for destruction. With his hooked beak, he’ll pick at a carcass until it’s empty. Til’ there’s nothing left but dirty white bone. 

Our baby will be dead before it’s even born. Probably dead already. A gaping, weeping hole shot straight through the center of my universe.

Birds of Prey by Tiffany Promise was selected as the winner of the 2023 HoneyBee Prize in Fiction by Roxane Gay. Here’s what Ms. Gay had to say about the piece:

Birds of Prey is a confluence of contradictions. There are events in a person’s life that are often joyful but as this economic story unravels, it is clear that there is no happy ending to be found here. Written with a bold and unique voice, this language-driven story about predator and prey is a masterful example of what flash fiction can be.

More about the author:

Tiffany Promise (she/her) is a writer, poet, chronic migraineur, and the mother of two wildlings. She holds an MFA from CalArts and has participated in the Tin House and American Short Fiction workshops. Her work has appeared in Narrative Magazine, Brevity, Creative Nonfiction, Okay Donkey, Jarnal, Francesca Lia Block’s new literary magazine, Lit Angels, and elsewhere. Tiffany lives in Austin, Texas.

flash fiction

Good Friday by Richard Stimac

Good Friday | Richard Stimac

His mother knew each storm told its own story. Above the farmer’s empty fields, the hard red spring wheat not yet sown, pillars of lightning cleaved the sky in two and pustulant-green columnar clouds flattened like anvils for God to forge his anger. The thunder of each hammer stroke echoed across the heavens as if an immortal blacksmith pounded out his own nails for a yet unnamed, yet predestined, divine blood appeasement of a prophet yet unchosen by this fickle jealous god.

“It rains every Good Friday,” his mother said. “Because of Jesus.”

She sat on the love seat of fake black leather fastened by rivets to staves. She slipped each bead of her rosary through the needle of her index finger and thumb. Her lips moved but no words ushered forth, as if she adored a dumb god of a bygone pagan race, a people that worshipped hewn stone and chiseled wood.

On the wall hung a crucifix that slipped open to reveal a vial of holy water and two wax candles. Bent like supplicants, palm fronds haloed the head of Jesus. In hours, these leaves would be burnt as offerings and their ash smudged upon the foreheads of the devout. But now, now, they were brown and dry and crumbled to the touch.

“Church in ten minutes,” she said.

It was not Mass, not on Good Friday. His mother knew better, and knowing better is the cornerstone of faith.

“Go,” she said, “wash your hands.”

He did as his mother commanded.

His father lay on the couch and watched football.

“Off to church?” the man said.

The boy nodded.

“Come here,” his father said. “Help me up.”

His father moved like drunk men move. First, he reached upward, to nothing, until his son took hold of the man’s wrists and helped him pivot upright to sitting.

“Help me swing my legs around,” his father said.

The son took one leg and then the other and helped his father place his feet flat on the floor.

“Get me a beer.”

“Tell your father he doesn’t need another beer,” the woman with the rosary said.

“Tell your mother that I’ll drink beer when I want to drink beer.”

“I pray to God for patience,” the woman said as she crossed herself, kissed the crucifix of the rosary, and wound it into a small plastic case that she placed on the end table.

“Pray to God to get me a beer.”

The boy stood between his parents. His father was a heavy, mounding rain cloud of the plains. His mother, the cold dark soil of the Midwest.

The mother nodded to her son, then disappeared down the unlit hall as if she were the high priest entered the adytum.

“What’s she praying to God for?” his father said. “Go on. Get me that beer.”

The boy went to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator door.

“Take one from a pack already open. I don’t like to have so many things open and not used up?”

The son brought his father a beer.

“Sit down,” the man said. The boy sat next to him.

Outside, a strong wind hummed. In a matter of seconds, the sun was blotted out and darkness descended upon the land. A bruise-blue glow from lightning dashed between the curtain gaps and danced like drunken Angels of the Lord against the wall.

“Let me tell you something,” his father said. “You hear me? Are you listening to me?”

By this time, the boy’s mother returned from the bathroom. She stood in the hallway door and watched her husband speak to her son.

“She don’t know,” the man said. “She, her Jesus. But she don’t know. If her Jesus can do so much, how come I can’t walk? Jesus maked other men walk. But he don’t make me walk.”

The drunk man downed the beer.

“Go get me another one.”

“Put your shoes on,” his mother said.

“I said, get me another beer.”

“He is not getting you another beer.”

“If I tell him to, then he is.”

“You are already drunk. At 11 a.m. On Good Friday.”

“When you’re drunk, every Friday is good.”

The boy looked at the floor. The shadows from the rain against the window mottled on the carpet as if a flood had come to the house.

“Beer,” the man said. He put his arm around the boy’s shoulders and pushed him off the couch. Instead of standing on his own two feet, the boy fell to the floor. In his mind, he sunk into a dark abyss.

“Don’t hit him.”

“I didn’t hit him. He’s just dramatic.”

The woman knelt next to the boy drowning in his own imagination.

“Get up, Goddamnit.”

“Don’t curse.”

“Woman, what do you want me to do?”

“Just do nothing.”

At that moment, one thunderclap literally shook the house. The lights flickered. Both the man and the woman paused and looked upward. The boy broke through the waves in his mind, stood upright, and ran from the living room, through the kitchen, and out the backdoor.

Outside, the rain fell hard, like small pellets. The boy sat in a dirt patch in the middle of the chain-link fenced yard. He took handfuls of dust and poured it over his head. Soon, mixed with the rain, black streaks streamed down his face.

His mother ran after him to lead him back into the house. His father wailed an apology barely audible through the storm.

About the Author:

Richard Stimac has a full-length book of poetry Bricolage (Spartan Press) and a forthcoming poetry chapbook Of Water and of Stone (Moonstone). He has also published flash fiction in BarBar (2023 BarBe nominee), The Blue Mountain Review, Book of Matches, Bridge Eight, Bright Flash, Drunk Monkeys, Flash Fiction Magazine, Half and One, New Feathers, Paperbark, Prometheus Dreaming, Proud to Be (SEMO Press), On the Run, Scribble, Talon Review, The Typescript, The Wild Word, Your Impossible Voice, and Transitions Sydney Hammond Memorial Short Story Anthology (Hawkeye Press).

flash fiction micro fiction micro monday

Dress Code by Kennedy Essmiller

Dress Code | Kennedy Essmiller

Gather round, girls—preteens, tweens, teens—crowd together. It is time for your annual women’s talk. You each are given two squares of tile with shimmering surfaces to stand, to sit. You can reach out and touch the shoulder of your best friend, the shoulder covered in a wooly sweater despite the Oklahoma heat. 

The Dress Code is in place for a reason, the administration says, the office ladies tell you, the women who give you Band-Aids and Tylenol, the women who are paid to protect. 

Pay attention. 

This year will be no different than last year or next year. Each girl, each woman, could say the speech by heart. You silently mouth along. 

No spaghetti straps—blouse straps must be at least three fingers width apart, but not three of your fingers, three of your male teachers’ fingers. You think that maybe we should use Mr. Stewart’s as his are the smallest, thinned with age, the skin sagging with the weight of wrinkles. The thought of his fingers on you bare shoulders make you squirm, and you shudder and spill out for a moment, briefly broaching the borders of your carefully allotted tiles.

The administrators continue. 

Do not wear skirts that are above your knee and don’t even think about shorts. Jeans or dresses, there is not an in between, not for the Daughters of Christ. You cannot wear such skimpy attire around the boys. You remember the-not-so-virgin Mary, they ask, like clockwork. Of course, you remember her, even those of you who were years behind her, those of you who never even saw her belly swell with life. Mary, whom they memorialize and vilify with each and every meeting, ever since she fell pregnant four years ago, back when most of you were in middle school, beginning to receive the same speech she had received. 

The road to pregnancy is paved with short skirts and spaghetti straps. If you get yourself pregnant, you will be asked to leave. If you get yourself pregnant, you will become a cautionary tale, told to future generations, the children you will carry. Your name will be heavy with shame, taste metallic in your mouths. They do not say what will happen if you get yourself pregnant and hide it, remove it, make your own choices about your own body. Your body, Mary’s body. 

Mary, who used to read Junie B. Jones to you when she babysat, who was forbidden from walking across the stage at graduation.

And still, it continues. The boys cannot control themselves—boys will be boys. You are women, the presence of blood between your legs declares it so. It is your obligation, your privilege, and your joy in life, to protect the boys, the students, your teachers, your principal, and your friends’ fathers. 

You think of the father of your best friend, consider his eyes on you, and you shy away from her, inching ever so slightly back, retreating ever so slightly into your squares. 

If your shirt is hugging your budding breasts, it is too tight. If your shirt is hanging low and revealing your collarbone, it is too loose. Show no straps, bras are a hidden delicacy, meant to be shared between a man and his wife. Embrace your femininity. Wear makeup and shave your legs. Be ashamed of your body. Cover your legs, only sluts wear red lipstick. Boys don’t like girls who don’t put out the effort. Adjust your cleavage or your male teachers will have no choice but to send you to the office. Be ashamed of your breasts that can sustain life, boys will view them as sexual organs. 

Their perception is the authority. 

Cross your legs, collapse into yourself, take up as little room as you possibly can. Remain in your two tiles, always. Boys like small girls, petite girls. Obey the Dress Code, or you will be sent to the office, sent home to change. 

Your education, your comfort, you are not valuable.

About the Author:

Kennedy Essmiller is a queer writer who earned her MFA at Oklahoma State University. Her short story, “Mountains” won second place in the University of Western Alabama’s 2017 Sucarnochee Review Fiction contest. Her nonfiction essay, “The Three Drinks of Christmas” was accepted for publication in Oklahoma State University’s online undergraduate literary magazine Frontier Mosaic. Her short stories, “Permanently Inked” and “Bittersweet” were chosen as the winner for the 2018 and 2019 Oklahoma State University Ruby N. Courtney Writing Scholarship, respectively. She is an academic advisor and dog lady. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @kennedywogan.

flash fiction

Mothers and Brothers by Gargi Mehra

Mothers and Brothers | Gargi Mehra

Things That Happened on Your Birthday 

Mother gasped awake in the middle of the night. Father’s slumbering hand cupped the small of her back, as his stagger trailed her waddle to the bathroom. Her palm cradled the curve of her swollen belly. Your sister kicked a pillow off her bed. 

Andre-Jacques Garnerin hooked a parachute to a hydrogen balloon and climbed three thousand feet above the earth. He pendulated wildly on his descent, but touched down intact less than a mile from where he lifted off.

In first period, your sister pried out a shard of lead lodged in the sharpener, and sliced her finger on the blade. No moans of agony escaped her lips. The school nurse dabbed mercurochrome, and hurried her back to the class.

A series of violent earthquakes rocked the island of Formosa. Dams broke, landslides severed traffic, and all forms of communication snapped. More than a hundred people died. 

The doctor delivered you from Mother’s womb. Father wrapped your inert form in his arms, then buried you beside his tears. Your sister swallowed the words that lived on her tongue, as she nursed Mother back to health.

Apollo 7 scuttled back to the home planet after a journey just short of eleven days. It splashed into the choppiest ocean, safely, triggering hope for the next spaceflight. 

I came into this world. Father bemoaned my flat nose, and Mother’s pillow soaked up the tear she shed, upon noting the lack of appendage between my legs.

A few hundred miles away, a galaxy of scientists fired a space probe to the moon.

Father ordered cake, Mother adorned it, your sister wrecked the name on it. The four of us lit a candle, and I blew it out, my wishes spraying on the mounds of icing.

Mother and I 

You light a puff like you’ve done it before, but it’s the first time I witness it, months after turning fourteen. I ask why, but really, I should know. The radio jockey tumbles three times while spewing my dedication for your anniversary – the wrong ditty, a mangling of my name, and completely wrecking my gender. The last one flips my heart over.

Your husband poked the bridge of his eyeglass right to the back of the nose when I prodded him to call the radio station. He draped files over his arms and coffined himself in the study. When the door swung closed on his towers of binders, I dawdled back to the living room and dialed the number. 

In the bathroom, I grab the razor and shave my jaws once more, hoping to coax fertile crop from barren land. 

Back in your room, you’ve moved on to the fourth one, scattering ash in the tray.

In one of my dreams, I lift the cylinder of death from your lips, blow out the embers, and park the stub upon one of the many ridges that line the glass salver. Your lips curl, you gaze at the whorls that could have been, but you never fill your lungs with toxins again.

In another, I grab one from the packet and set it to my lips. Your eyes follow my fingers as I lead the flame close to the tip, but you don’t sigh when I light it correctly. You don’t smack the butt away as I imagine you will, and we stew in silence, while Father wades through an ocean of legal memos.

In none of my dreams do I throw a haversack stuffed with cash and clothes upon my back, stuff my feet into threadbare sneakers, and slink out of the house.

Blood Brother

They sliced open a frosting-topped cake the day you shivered out from our mother’s belly – the first sonny to hoist the family name upon his shoulders. Our sister shrugged off her blanket of quietude and queened over you when the elders averted their gaze.

Father longed to break scientific ground in distant lands. Mother lingered by the corded telephone, but the call never came. The flames of fate doused their hopes.

They shook their heads when you rolled off the path of learning, and chose instead to trade fragrant erasers and spiral-bound books at the local stationery store. Across town, our sister’s research papers drew accolades. 

You unearthed love in the bottles of amber. It warmed your throat even when you alone manned the sunless shop. No one witnessed you stagger out of your chair. The pencils and sharpeners lay mute when your cranial base cracked against the corner of the shelf.

Neighbours buzzed around the ambulance. Someone threw a shroud over your body, while our family watched, their eyes bereft of understanding. 

But no – you had slipped out lifeless from the womb. Father mixed his tears into the earth where he buried you.

When the earth had spun once around the sun, our mother ejected me into the world. Our relatives mourned the missing muscle between my legs. 

The call came for Father, and we flew across the oceans to a continent so cold and distant that Mother’s tongue froze. Father and sister toiled in labs. Together, they brought home trophies that flooded our house with silver. I learned to swirl in a centrifuge while holding in my guts. When I hurtled through the air to the miles of emptiness beyond the earth, I glimpsed the remnants of the beautiful life we had weaved together.

About the Author:

Gargi Mehra is a software professional by day, a writer by night and a mother at all times. Her work has appeared in numerous literary magazines online and in print, including Crannog, The Forge Literary Magazine, The Writer, and others. Her short stories have won prizes and placed in contests. She lives in Pune, India with her husband and two children. Check out her website or catch her on Twitter: @gargimehra

flash fiction

Ersatz Coffee by Ernie Sadashige

Ersatz Coffee | Ernie Sadashige

Nebraska, November 1943

Frank Niekamp stirred Postum into his hot water, his expression as sour as badly brewed coffee. The mix of roasted wheat and molasses filled the kitchen with a smell like soy sauce. 

“Wishing for the real thing?” I asked Frank.

“Maybe they’ll stop rationing next year,” he said. “The Russians took Kyiv, but our boys are nowhere near Rome.” 

I poured Pet evaporated milk into my Postum, my spoon stirring the ivory liquid into the cocoa-colored mix the way a paddle churns silt in a shallow creek.

“Newspaper’s late.” Frank looked out the window. 

Our fields were still black in the twilight, the gray sky hemmed by white fog, reminding me of the fur coat my sister envied in the Sears Christmas catalog.

“You shouldn’t wait for the paper.”

“Man’s gotta have a straight head to do a day’s work.”

We always started our day with the Crawford Tribune, checking the Nebraska dead. The Army made mistakes. The Meiers saw their son’s name before the soldiers came. 

“Here it comes, Freda,” Frank said, walking to the door.

“Morning Mister Niekamp.” The paperboy handed Frank our copy. “Didn’t mean to be late. Been at Fort Robinson. The Kraut prisoners are here!” The porchlight sparkled in his eyes. “You hiring any?”

“Don’t need or want ‘em, boy.”


“The government is rationing butter and milk.” 

Frank shook his head after reading the top story. I held him tight as he neared the obituaries. Erik Raus. I gasped. Rudi and Ida’s boy. We weren’t close. They lived at the other end of Dawes County. And they were Methodists. But they were part of our community. 

“Wasn’t Erik in Jakob’s unit?” I asked.

Frank pecked my forehead, a quick kiss before he looked out the window, the one facing away from Fort Robinson. “The Army would send a telegram or chaplain if Jakob….” Frank wore the sad face he showed when he came home drunk from the VFW lodge.

I looked out the other window. There was a light—too low, too slow, and too straight to be a shooting star. It split into two when it turned down our road. Headlights. Even in the dim dawn, I saw the car was green, not black. Army cars passed this way all the time. We were near the base, I reassured myself. But this one was slowing.

“Frank.” I squeezed his hand.

The car stopped. A flashlight pointed at our mailbox. The car rolled up our driveway. Footsteps clattered on the porch, then a hand knocked on our door.

We froze.


We rose together. Frank opened the door.

“Mr. Niekamp? Lieutenant Holcomb of the Office of the Provost Marshal General.” The man wore a black armband: military police, not a chaplain.

Frank and I exhaled together.

“Sorry to come so early.” He held out a clipboard. “You haven’t contracted for POW labor. Forty-five cents an hour per man. Hard work will keep their minds off mischief.” 

He glanced to his right as dawn broke over the horizon. “Have you planted all your winter wheat? Most of your neighbors are behind with so many men off to war.”

“My son Jakob’s fightin’ in Italy,” Frank said, pulling me close. “And I saw enough Jerries in World War One. Don’t need ‘em digging trenches on my land.”


“We need help, Frank.” My husband sat stone-like, our last bottle of whiskey on the kitchen table. 

“Let me boil some water for Postum.”

We heard a rumble outside. “Deuce and a Half,” Frank said. A 10-wheeled Army cargo truck stopped just past the corner window. I rushed forward, pressing my nose against the glass. Frank went to our bedroom.

The rear gate dropped. Lieutenant Holcomb and another soldier jumped out, followed by six men in blue work shirts and jeans stenciled with ‘PW’. They looked so young. And happy. The group walked towards our neighbor’s barn across the road, emerging later with a plow hitched to horses.

Something bumped my leg. Frank was holding a war rifle. 

“What are you doing?”

“I’ll shoot anyone who comes on my property.”

“They’re boys.”

“They’re soldiers.”

“Not anymore,” I said as they began singing in German.

We watched them work. Hours passed. I asked Frank several times whether we should go. A crop needed harvesting. But his mind was elsewhere, watching ghosts from his war rise from their trenches and run across blasted fields.

The Germans finally stopped for lunch at about noon. They sat in a circle and ate sandwiches fattened with enough ham and cheese to cost us a month of ration stamps. They had nothing to drink. I went to the living room and took eight cups and saucers from the china cabinet. I boiled water in the kitchen and put the Postum and Pet milk on our big holiday serving tray. 

“I’m giving those boys a Cornhusker welcome.” 

Frank glared and opened the window. The rifle stayed behind the curtain.

I walked across the street. Holcomb met me. “Thought you boys might like something warm.”

“Much obliged, ma’am.”


“Freda,” he bowed, then said something in German. I placed the tray in the center of the circle and knelt. I poured a cup of hot water and added Postum and Pet milk and handed it to the nearest POW. He sniffed and laughed.


“Hey,” Holcomb yelled, “you’re talking to a lady.” The prisoner spoke rapidly in German. Holcomb translated. 

Mocca faux. Klaus says it smells like their acorn coffee.”

“Sorry. We don’t have the real stuff.”

 Holcomb’s eyes widened. “Got plenty of coffee on base. They’re spoiled.”

“Prisoners get coffee?”

He nodded. “I’ll bring fresh ground beans tomorrow. Please join us for lunch. Bring the hot water.” 

He shouted at the prisoners. “Told ‘em to mind their manners and drink up.”

I sat with the crew until lunch was over. “Hope my husband will hire them when you’re done here.” 

I rose and turned to our house, then startled. Frank had hung the American flag on our porch, something we only did on holidays. I crossed the street and walked inside. He met my eyes. 

“We’re having real coffee tomorrow,” I said. “Join us.”

About the Author:

Ernie Sadashige, CPA, is a Philadelphia-based writer. He was a Gemini Magazine flash fiction honourable mention. Find his work there and at The Write Launch, The Yard: Crime Blog and End of the Bench Sports. Follow him at @ErnieJourneys.

flash fiction

Where by Rhea Bryce

Where | Rhea Bryce

I am telling you this fact that I know well and you nod at first but then interrupt with something different, so I argue my point and tell you that I’m right, right?

You say it’s cute when my face gets flushed with blood red belief and then I feel my cheeks tingle because I don’t know if you’re making fun of me or being serious so I look up and ask, really?

You smile and get closer and ask will you go out with me sometime? 

Where should we go?

I keep asking that question for months even when I know I want food from that Korean restaurant at the end of the block but you don’t like kimchi and I don’t have strong preferences so I ask again, where should we go? 

To Paris! you tell me, eventually, one day, which makes me smile and you whip up an itinerary while you cook pasta carbonara which you are making because I said I don’t like white sauce but I don’t have a good answer when you ask me, why? 

We’re moving.

I tell my friend while we sip drinks we ordered one minute before the end of happy hour and she asks, are you happy? and I tell her we’re happy and she asks again, but are you?

We move. 

Didn’t you hate them?

That girl’s weird, don’t you think?

Why do you hang out with her?

Why don’t we stay at home tonight?

Why do you need anyone else?

My friend wants to visit and I ask if it’s okay and you say just a day but don’t I know that you don’t like people staying over because of your anxiety and I do know so I agree to just one day and ask, where should we go?

The three of us sit in the square that you like and you go to the bathroom and my friend puts her hand on top of mine which makes me smile and she tells me she hates you and I pull away and she says she can’t stay quiet any more so I tell her that you are nonnegotiable and she says that she loves me but that she’s worried and then you come back and ask what we were talking about and I say nothing because I’m a bad liar so you assume it was about you and then you yell at me in the square which makes me cry in the middle of everything and then you push over a chair and she puts her arm around me and pulls me back and you yell and I let her guide me out and she tells me we can take public transit to her hotel room and for all that I tell you that I am sorry, I am so so sorry, will you forgive me?

You go to visit your family far away and I catch you on the way out the door and say don’t forget that you love me and kiss you and then you’re gone and then the next day you’re still gone and then the next day I start to realize that the door won’t ask questions or demand answers and maybe I could just walk through and maybe I want to. 

I call my friend because she said I always could. 

She holds four boxes and I hold five and I ask where we should go and she says wherever I want.

About the Author:

Rhea Bryce is a writer and adventure-lover living in Bend, Oregon. She graduated from Stanford University, where she studied Computer Science and Creative Writing. She is currently working on her novel which explores rock climbing in Yosemite.

flash fiction

Love, Dad by Alex Sese

Love, Dad | Alex Sese

I dread opening that letter in your desk. 

In fact, every time I even have to open the lowest drawer where I keep my extra office supplies, a low wave of acid reflux plagues me the rest of the day. There it is behind a box of staples, tucked in a neat business envelope, unsealed. 

Of course it would be a business envelope, Dad. Even on your deathbed, life was but a series of transactions and invoices that needed to be taken care of. Instead of imparting wisdom and regretful goodbyes, you delegated the funeral arrangements to me and instructed me to bring you all the hospital bills to take care of before you go, as if you were just going on a business trip again and you were leaving me in charge. You even read your will to me without so much as a tremble in your voice. I couldn’t hear you past my sobs, couldn’t answer your questions about what else I needed. I couldn’t even begin to understand the prospect of being orphaned, and there you were, reading it like the agenda of a meeting about sales projections. There wasn’t much to leave behind anyway. Bit of life insurance, mom’s jewelry, the desk. The conversation was longer than it needed to be and not long enough for what I wanted it to be.

You were so adamant about the desk. For a moment, I was a senior again and you were dragging me to every college tour in the tri-state area like it was your job.

Then you died, and all I had left to worry about was grieving you. That was the job you left me. That’s also when I learned why the desk was so important. There’s a letter in it, handed to me like cash under the table. A secret transaction from a serious father to a carefree daughter who dropped out of college after all your efforts. My name was on the flap in a shaky script. Still yours, but without its straightness, its usual neatness, its no-nonsense, follow-these-instructions-to-the-letterness. Unlike the printed memos you sent me when I moved back in without a job or even a prospect of it, and you couldn’t even look me in the eye for weeks. I don’t know any other person who’s received memos from their father with announcements of upcoming family events, what I’m expected to bring, rent negotiations, advice on how to land a job, advice on how to find what I want to do, reminders of how to keep my new apartment safe, and a list of emergency contacts. Each memo tucked in a sealed envelope, left by my door, reminded me that parenting is a thankless job.

Not this time though, the envelope in your desk just had my name. No subject, no date. When I first held it, the flap came open and revealed several pages folded neatly inside. In the light, your handwriting in heavy black ink peeked through the paper. I put it back and shut the drawer. What else was there left to say between us? What last instructions would you leave behind? How else could I fail to meet your expectations now? I had to take an antacid after.

But sometimes when I’m feeling nostalgic and my work keeps me on your desk late at night, I take the envelope and hold it. I don’t dare open it. Its weight in my hands fuels memories of you before you took that job, before the business trips and missed soccer games, before conversations about futures and GPAs, degrees, and MBAs. You wrote, Dad. You sat on this desk and scribbled on notebooks and used a half-decent typewriter you and mom haggled for at the flea market. No matter how many deadlines loomed, and how many rejection letters littered your desk, you always found time to write me a bedtime story. Short ones, like the notes you left in my lunch. You remembered my tests at school and left me poems like a lucky spell. You wrote me little reminders when mom’s absence was all I could fill my mind with. You wrote about a path that the heart follows, the one that led you to mom and, eventually, to me. It was the last letter you had written that started with Dear Kit and ended with Love, Dad. The following year, you bought a suit for work and we moved from the apartment with the roaches to a house with a yard. You bought a car and traded the typewriter for a new laptop. 

It’s enough to make me want to unfold your letter, Dad, but I never do. If, for some reason, your old muse had returned to you in your last days and you wrote me goodbye and if, for every reason I can think of, it doesn’t offer the comfort you meant it to, how am I supposed to write you back?

About the Author:

Alex Sese is a full-time copyeditor in medical communications and a freelance fiction and nonfiction editor at Subtle Script Editing. Born and raised in Philippines, she now resides in Illinois where she gardens, reads, and goes to the occasional metalcore show. Her work was published in the microfiction horror anthology, 206 Word Stories (Bag of Bones Press). She’s on Twitter at @subtle_script.

flash fiction

Iphigenia Recounts the Sacrifice by Georgia White

Iphigenia Recounts the Sacrifice | Georgia White

It wasn’t so bad when it happened.

That’s what I’m supposed to say here, right? He was a good father, really. He loved me. He didn’t want to kill me. The story goes that I went to the temple smiling; they told me I was getting married; they told me I was going to a sacrifice; they would let me watch this time, even though they never let me watch; I didn’t understand until they asked me to lie down—

Or that I was gracious. I like that version more, I think. Martyrs always sound so pretty. Pretty white dresses that catch the breeze when you’re walking and pretty hair pooled out on the altar, and pretty words, too, they always get the best speeches. I got one. Well, Euripides wrote it, but I got to say it.

Hear me, mother, thinking upon what has entered my mind. I have determined to die and this I would fain do gloriously, I mean, by dismissing all ignoble thoughts.

Glorious. It was glorious, what I was doing, not just for me, but for Greece, and it would be beautiful. Heroic. Me, a war hero.

But I have this dream sometimes that I’m back in the temple. My father’s waiting for me. He had the best smile. You could see it all the way up to his eyes. And the incense is still too thick in the air, so much that I feel it clog my throat. It’s too sweet. I don’t like sweet. But he’s smiling at me, so I smile back, and he goes

sweetheart, lie down

and he points to the altar and I say

when’s he getting here

because you know I’m supposed to be getting married but there isn’t even a goat there for the sacrifice, but he just shakes his head and goes

it’ll be much quicker if you lie down

and then I look down. And he’s got the knife. Not his usual knife. It’s got a curved blade and a bone handle and it looks older than anything that I’ve ever seen and I’m like

is that for the sacrifice

and he nods. Doesn’t say anything.

And I realize that I always kind of knew my father would kill me.

It’s not—he didn’t yell. Not like they said, he wasn’t…big, you know, more he just saw things like a game. The kind where you lift something or throw something and test your strength and then you move on. You just move on. It’s fun. He liked those games. He liked to know what he could do if he wanted to.

Sometimes in the dream I scream and fight and yell, but mostly I just—

He’s there and he’s smiling, and I trust him, I do, so I just go

oh. okay.

When it really happened there were all these people there. That made it worse. That I knew they were all seeing it and didn’t. You know. One of the acolytes tied my wrists when I lay back. Another did my ankles.

But in the dream it’s just us. And I’m lying back and I look at my hands and realize that nothing’s holding them. I could just get up if I wanted to. I can’t move them, though, not even my fingers. It’s just him. Just me. And he nods at me again, and he says,

are you ready?

I’m not. I never am. The air is so heavy around me and I feel like a lamb, but I’m not; I’m a person, I was a person, and he says it won’t hurt I promise and then the knife is in my chest and it’s not beautiful anymore it’s dark and sticky and my dress is all red and he’s just looking at me and it hurts it hurts and I remember how he only did what he had to do I was going to be heroic I was going to be brave I was going to be remembered.

I’m hardly even in the story.

They couldn’t be bothered to write me down.

About the Author:

Georgia White is a queer writer based in Berkeley, CA, who is inspired by maligned women. Her previous work has been published in The Nasiona, the Santa Ana River Review, and the Nassau Review.