Your Editors like to flash, too…

Michelle Elvy – Co-Founder & Editor

Then and Now

When the girl was ten, she wore patent leather shoes. Her mother thought they looked just right. The girl pulled at her lacy dresses, complained about the tight-fitting shoes. Once she tore her dress when she swung as high as she could and jumped – you know the moment when you are suspended in the air, just before you begin to fall away to the ground again, the moment when you know you can’t swing any higher so you catch your breath and think, I may as well jump? Well the girl jumped, and her dress was torn free by one small nail on the old wooden seat. She cried a little, red-faced and embarrassed, but the dress was mended by the school secretary with two neat rows of staples. She went home and told her mom about her very high jump and the way she landed on her feet.

The grown girl does not wear frilly dresses or Mary Janes any more, and she prefers boots or bare feet, one or the other. She has girls of her own now. One wears sneakers; the other adores shiny shoes. They both giggle when they swing. The girl sees their legs pump, their feet reach toward the sky. And just in that moment when they are suspended in air, just before the swing begins to fall away to the ground again, she catches her breath and smiles, because she feels it like they feel it: You may as well jump.

And now, two of Michelle’s flashes, selected by her co-Eds…

A Night of not Knowing – Week #6, Balance of Terror
for Jana

They say you are OK, but how am I to know, really? You were taken – taken – so fast, I had no say, and I’m left with nothing but your sudden silence, not the hot cry I expected. We had been one – breathing, feeding, living in unison – and then you were gone, lifted from me swiftly, rushed to a safe sterile place. And now you lie there in your own world of plastic and tubing and disinfected air, and I lie here in my world of pain, helpless to help you. They say you are ok but I know what I saw: a purple lifeless thing, sticky and wet and tiny in the surgeon’s hands, taken from me to keep alive. I want to take you back, but you’re an impossible fifty meters down the hall, a world away. So I wait, with my belly split by precision incision, my breasts landmines waiting to explode at the slightest touch, my heart throbbing because it cannot feel yours any more. I lie here alone with my searing scar, raw with fear and not knowing. I lie here sleepless and wait for the moment when I will touch your new skin, smell your new smell, see your tiny fluttering chest, and feel your perfect fingers wrap round my thumb with their miraculous might. I already know the hard suck of your hunger, and my breasts weep with nourishment that you may or may not ever know.

Island Comfort – Week #5, Lovelies on the Beach

Fun comes in large doses round here. Babies swing on tire swings, boys climb on wrecked hulls, girls fish with hermit crabs. Your North Carolina towhead is right at home among the island kids. She glances up at you from the water’s edge, her face happy for the first time since her dad died.

You sit on the porch, grating coconut just as Kalesi taught you. You steal a peek at her expert strokes and strong arms, want to do it just right, as if these small tasks will put order back into your life. She pours water into the bowlful of fluffy white clouds, dives in with both hands and pulls her fingers up through the liquid, and in that moment you see his face again, diving down one last time, his last wave and that optimistic grin. Just before he was gone, forever.

You break down completely now, soft coconut cream running in rivers to your elbows as you cover your eyes with your fists. Kalesi brushes back your bangs. You are glad for her tender touch, surrender to the sobs. And despite all the fury and noise in your head, you know you are safe here.

You climb into bed with your child, breathe in her sweet salty skin. You catch a glimpse of a black speck in her whiteblonde hair: lice. You sigh, think: it’s a small price to pay for the comfort of this place.

John Wentworth Chapin – Co-Founder & Editor

Christmas 1978

San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker: snooze. Fuck me.

Santa Rosa: first and last horse ride, ever.

Anaheim: I, personally, loved the topiary outside the Galaxy Motel. Inside, the artwork matched the bedspread in teal and copper – funky, futuristic, campy. My mother, sobbing to travel agent and desk clerk, clearly felt otherwise.

Disneyland: my little brother claimed my plush Mickey Mouse doll and shredded my park map, but when you’re twelve, you aren’t allowed to complain about shit like that because you aren’t supposed to like kid stuff.

Universal Studios: Jaws was the only cool part of the pond where they filmed McHale’s Navy and the parting of the Red Sea, and on that trolley my dad pissed me off so much that I intentionally knocked his coffee-filled styrofoam cup onto his khakis. Did you see what your son just did?

Knott’s Berry Farm: waste of an afternoon. My older brother was too much of a pussy to go on the FreeFall with me, so we rode bumper cars.

Downtown Los Angeles: ninety minutes in line at the movie theater to see Christopher Reeve in all his chiseled, bulging superhero glory, and I couldn’t catch my breath that night.

New Year’s Eve: The Village People performed ‘Macho Man’ on TV in a different but still futuristic motel while fireworks soared over lame-ass Disneyland. What a bunch of pansies, my dad said. My ears perked up.

Anza-Borrego Desert: dune-buggy ride to a dusk-darkened precipice over nothing. Cool.

Your son.

Here come two of John’s flashes, selected by his co-Eds…

Double Vision – Week #8, Corrected Vision

Angela knew the sensation she caused as she approached Jeanne’s casket carrying a white rose; it would agonize everyone at the gravesite to watch the identical twin approach. The girls had always been together, from moments after conception and first meiosis till 28 years later when the elevator decapitated Jeanne as she struggled to extricate herself from the doors, Angela at her side. Now the survivor faced the perished, those two identical faces brought together one last time. She knew the increased weeping from the folding chairs on the grass was as much for her, remaining in the world alone without her constant companion, as it was for Jeanne – always one life, one identity, one half. To conceive of them separated was unthinkable to every wet-eyed soul at the burial.

Angela imagined tomorrow: free for the first time. Neither had ever dared let the other out of her sight from overwhelming horror that one might secure an advantage, might get something that the other didn’t have. She dropped the rose on the polished cherrywood and prayed for there to be no God, for the stories to be just that: stories. The possibility that Jeanne had an afterlife refueled in Angela’s heart the furious hatred that had burned there bright for 28 years.

It’s Not Easy – Week #13, Space Camp

The droning of the ventilation system agitates him. He feels clammy: cold and yet sticky with sweat. He tries sleeping on his left side; when he rolls over, a small sigh escapes her lips. “Are you awake?” he whispers, squinting in the dim refracted halogen light. He feels bad for a moment: she is silent for a good long while.

“As if I could sleep,” she hisses, all venom.

“It’s loud and I’m hot and… well, I’m totally not comfortable.”

“We’re camping in space. What’d you expect?”

He doesn’t know what he expected. Not this. Not intense discomfort. He studies the far outline of some nebula-like shit; his contacts were bugging him and he had to take them out. He sighs, “This isn’t really camping.”

“Oh my God, Scott. You didn’t expect a tent?”

Again: he doesn’t know what he expected. He says, “Do you remember that time we had the RV in New Mexico? And we got stuck?”

She thinks. “And you thought there were mountain lions?”

“Right.” He thought a moment. “This is worse.”

She props herself up on her elbows. “How?”

“We were stuck, but it was better in the morning.”

“I think it’s exactly the same,” she says, moving closer and rubbing his back. “You’re afraid.”

He nods to himself, feeling her fingers on his back. But I’m more afraid. Her touch is relaxing, but it’s not enough.

Walter Bjorkman – Editor & Janitor

Just Like I Read the News

She stood in the doorway that day in fifty seven
on that warm bright sunny morn
leaning against the sill
told us what we didn’t want to hear
Children, dad died this night
we went on reading our comics
not wanting to listen

Here comes the son
there went the sun
out of my life

Grandparents and aunts perished thereafter
but it was just like I read the news, as a boy
I just wanted to hold his hand

Say, you want a revolution?

two died that year
well, you know . . . .
baby you can drive my hearse
it couldn’t get much worse

She sang will you still need me
when she was sixty
four years later
I thought I didn’t

I was heltered and skeltered all over the place
doin’ it in the road
no mother nature’s son
I got blisters on my soul
while my guitar loudly screeched

Hare Rama
I rode the pony
down the long and winding road
back to where I once belonged

She stood in the doorway in nineteen eight oh
on that cold bright sunny morn
head against the sill
she told me what I didn’t want to hear
Walter, John was killed

No comic books to block the pain
my guitar started to weep

and in the end
I got a phone call

no one in the doorway anymore

And last but not least, two of Walter’s flashes, selected by his co-Eds…

Brave New World – Week # 4, Cartography

Big brother was just short of twelve and this was his biggest job yet. “You are the man of the house now” they told him a year ago, in the weeks after the death of their father. Now he was entrusted to guide his younger brother across the Atlantic on a four-prop silver bird, with the occasional helping hand of an airline employee.

He was scared as shit. Sure subways, buses, even the last steam powered LIRR line had been in his past travels, but always with an adult watching carefully beside him.

The plane coughed. His younger brother, by only 19 months, had used both barf bags to perfection leaving Idlewild, and he felt as if he could use one right now. Young brother awoke as the plane buckled, swerved suddenly and started dropping. Big brother’s stomach rose over his head, and the eyes from the arm rest beside him, pillowed to sleep by Nordic stewardesses just a few hours before, awoke in confusion, fear and hurt never seen before that day a year past. Outside the window the far engine began to billow dark smoke. Anywhere but here, he thought anywhere but here.

“Allan, what’s happening?” the tiny tremelo voice asked, a voice once happy and strong.

“Looks like we are taking a side trip to Coney” Allan answererd with a laugh, his far hand’s fingernails tearing the stuffing out of the other arm rest, out of the sight of all, especially his brother.

Wraith of Wraiths – Week #9, Cigarette Smoke in the Car

“OK if I grab a smoke?”

“I like to smoke, not with cigarettes, but with chicks, hot chicks.”

I inch as close to the door on the right and as far from the driver as I can, have to get outta here, but how? I’m hitching into Salt Lake City for the night, and on this desolate run from Pocatello, there are no excuses.

An empty boat trailer rattles unexplained behind the monster Olds.

The smoke trails up over my head and out the crack in the window; if only it could carry me with it, out of this nightmare.

“You can close the window if you are cold. I like to be in a smoky room. With hot chicks.”

“Yes. Even if I die trying.”

Did this specter add “and take you with me”? I heard it, even if unspoken.

The deliberately slow words are ominous, spoken the way a wraith might call me to death. I get lost in the smoky haze of the shadow of gray memories protecting me, but the voice comes again.

The stranger pulls into a gas station in the center of town.

“Need to get gas, can’t stop on the way back.”

I lam off down an alley, go around back to have another Marlboro, making sure I cant be seen from the road, trying to not think about why he won’t be able to stop on the way back.


One Response to “Your Editors like to flash, too…”

  1. All great stories. And this site is really well done. It shows you put a lot of work into this. Looking forward to the next issue.


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