Get Lit, Round 1: Flash Fiction
Atticus Review compiles 23 pieces of flash fiction from its first four months of weekly issues.
Table of Contents FLASH FICTION 3 FDR on Overcoming Adversity│Jarred McGinnis 5 Things Worth Saving│Foster Trecost 7 Before the Bloodbath│Marcus Speh 8 The God of Unknowable Reasons│Carl James Grindley 10 Cooler by the Lake│Hobie Anthony 12 Dear Id│Christopher Linforth 14 Naked│Len Kuntz 15 Everyone’s Gone to the Moon│Gregg Hubbard 19 Where the Dust Went│Sarah Malone 22 Robesh Contemplates Life Outside the Market│Michelle Reale 24 A Woman Rides a Train│Meg Sefton 26 Oven│John Oliver Hodges 29 Cadaver Lab│John S. Fields 30 Breathe In│Martha Williams 32 Invasive Species│Susan Rukeyser 34 Baby Agave│Rachel Howell 38 The Last of the Dragonflies│Matthew Dexter 40 The Bad That Can Happen the Day Jesus Rose from the Dead│Kevin Catalano 43 Shoelaces│Barry Basden 44 Paper Lungs│Lauren Tamraz 46 Citric Acid for Borsch│Valery Petrovskiy 48 Fugue No. 1│Simon Kearns 50 Bug and Deck Job│Joseph Gross Flash Fiction FDR ON OVERCOMING ADVERSITY By Jarred McGinnis FDR comes to me in my dream. We’re in a small mail room. The walls are lined with pigeon holes crammed with letters. We sit across from each other in our wheelchairs, our knees almost touching. He has an erection. Between his polio-shriveled legs, it looks huge, straining against the fabric of his trousers. It’s unnerving at first, but you get used to anything in dreams. Of course I ask him what death is like. He says death is boring. More boring than you can imagine. Death has no smell, color, texture. Death is gray cardboard. FDR complains that he forgets what pussy smells like. I try to comfort him. I tell him it’s like fresh raw oysters heated to 99 degrees Fahrenheit. He likes that answer. He sighs, pussy. The word slips from his lips like a promise. After a while, he asks what my problem is. I tell him. It depends on the day, but it’s usually along the lines of being a cripple is exhausting. He relates whatever problem I am having with some anecdote about getting one over Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 3 Flash Fiction on Stalin. It’s always about how FDR had to swing his dick around to get some concession out of the Russians over the Curzon line or whatever. He riles himself up until he’s yelling about how he was one comment away from throwing his crippled ass across the Tripartite dinner table and chewing off Stalin’s mustache. I guess Stalin was always making comments about the Bill of Rights or FDR’s legs. Two sore spots for him. He calms down quick enough and, after a deep breath, he dishes out the advice I am seeking and the dream ends with FDR saying, “I shit you not.” It sounds like an Amen when FDR says it. The power and the glory are yours. Now and for ever. I shit you not. And you know I wake up with my head swirling with facts about Germany’s post-war denazification and a sense of peace with my lot. FDR is like that. Despite his obsession with pussy and fucking Stalin’s mustachioed trash hole, he has some good advice. FDR’s advice for putting up with able-bodied people’s bullshit: 1) Visualize launching yourself from your wheelchair and grappling with the patronizing cunt. Cling to his throat with the impressive strength you’ve gained in your arms from pushing yourself around his inaccessible world. See yourself biting off chunks of flesh from his shoulders and face. After you spit out each mouthful, hear yourself telling him what abuses you will heap upon his corpse. This should start with, but not be limited to, the war cry, “I will fuck your dying trash hole.” 2) Eat out their wives at the first opportunity. FDR said this kind of positive visualization is what got him the presidency. I shit you not. Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 4 Flash Fiction THINGS WORTH SAVING By Foster Trecost It felt like I was in the wrong house, one that looked like mine, but belonged to someone else. When she found me drinking a glass of water in the kitchen, her eyes glazed over. It was my house all right, but I was there at a time when I shouldn’t have been. “Don’t cry,” I said. “How much do we have?” She always cut to what mattered most and in that moment, what mattered most was money. She didn’t care how I lost my job. I stood in our kitchen at nine-thirty in the morning and that was enough. The how didn’t really matter. “Some,” I answered, but saving money is hard when there isn’t any extra. “Don’t worry, I’ll find something.” I didn’t know how long it would take, but I said it anyway. “And then?” She was angry but not at me. “I’ll find something,” I said again, matching my tone to hers. “Where are they?” “Out back.” I walked to the window and envied the innocence. “Who are the others?” Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 5 Flash Fiction She shook her head. “Friends?” “Where’s the camera? I want to save this.” “We sold it,” she said. “The last time.” We sold it. About a month later, I was working again and with my first check, I bought another camera. Nothing too fancy, just something that worked. Some things are more important to save than money. And easier, too. Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 6 Flash Fiction BEFORE THE BLOODBATH By Marcus Speh The bonnet of the man on the chair in front of the white wall. The smell of beer on the table. The laughter of the toddler standing up on the synthetic leather stool. The girl crawling across the lino covered floor. The musicianâ€™s smile behind his accordion. The dog lifting its leg next to the photographer. The careful retraction of the camera eye and the sucking noise of the lens tunnel. The lustful hostess on the other side of the room. The smoking excavator driver outside in the dugout. The walk of the village beauty on the street. So many abandoned compact cars. A coil of coins in the hand of Timothy the cash transport driver. The scent of diesel and sweat all the way to the house of worship. The priest behind the church door with the tight dirty collar. The widow Flannagan kneeling on the stone-cold tiles below the image of the Lord. The open fly of the sacristan dozing in the pews. The organ sounds quietly dripping down from the gallery. Atticus Reviewâ”‚Get Lit: Round 1 Page 7 Flash Fiction THE GOD OF UNKNOWABLE REASONS By Carl James Grindley The Guidebook says that the temple was built on a circular plan and for reference, includes a measured survey, but what little remains today, takes no real form whatsoever. Not to be outdone, the Diary carefully documents several dozen Turkish Pines, Laurels and Kermes Oaks crowding for space in broken clusters around a flattened, perimeter or well-tramped earth. The Diarist includes a list of the chief headlines taken at random from the old copies of Le Monde and Corriere del Marche that he found in the scrubby bushes near the walkway. Then he spends two pages in a supposedly exhaustive accounting of spent ammunitionâ€”from antique .69 and .704 caliber smooth bore musket balls, to .792 mm Mauser cartridges. At some point, the retreating soldiers had hung an effigy from a makeshift gallows and, according to the Diarist, the ground was quite littered with spent percussion caps and the filth of a hastily broken camp, including the wreckage of several 1916 Mosquetons, apparently cannibalized in an Atticus Reviewâ”‚Get Lit: Round 1 Page 8 Flash Fiction attempt to construct one that would work. But now, all these years later and except for the off-white stump of a single, carefully fluted marble column, the only real feature of the temple which remains is the broken base of what was once a low, red sandstone altar, one that had been defaced by several centuries of bored travelers. The guidebook laments that even the Temple of Dendur, with its tedious dates and unremarkable names boasts a better quality of graffiti. Indeed the Temple of the God of Unknowable Reasons is unremarkable in nearly every aspect, but you check it off from your list with some satisfaction. You were both tired when you arrived at the dusty slope and since the column’s severed end was just right for Lora’s perfect, heart-shaped ass, she sat down and took a can of soda out of her backpack. Looking over the rise and out at the Aegean, she sighed. To cheer her up, you sang “Winter Wonderland,” but she was having none of it. Placing the soda can carefully to one side, she kicked off one of her white Reeboks, peeled off one tennis sock and unhappily examined her toenail polish. From across the site, you could see a small Leopard snake sunning itself. Somehow a voice draws me back. —It makes one’s will enough receipt from the remainder of the body. I have no idea what anything means, so I just remain silent. Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 9 Flash Fiction COOLER BY THE LAKE By Hobie Anthony Our newborn was quiet for the whole bus ride; he lay on my breast, sighing half-sleep. Your face glistened, your stubble swam in sweat. My back was drenched. You said it would be cooler by the lake; it wasn’t. At least there was no tar roof to radiate heat, no fan spinning futility. Chicago was burning; I swear it was a hundred and twenty. Half the city sought relief at the lakefront, but the air was just as still as in Lincoln Square. There were no waves, a breeze eluded us. Some call 1995 the Summer of Death. We found a spot by the sea wall, near a small grove of trees. You cast a line for fish which I swore I’d never eat. If anything lived in that dead water, I didn’t want it. The baby suckled me. His mouth drew life-milk in stagnant heat. I remember how he smelled; I kept some of the pictures and I look at them when you are gone. The shade didn’t help. His body against mine, more sweat and suffering. His heart beat strong. His diaper stank; I changed him. You threw your line as far as your body could launch it; your hook came back stripped of its worm. Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 10 Flash Fiction The sun went down. The air didn’t move, the temperature stayed constant. The trash cans were overfull and diapers floated in the water, ours ripened in the camp. All the lights around us went out. The night became pitch-black and for once we could see stars in the sky; the transformers had blown, blacking out much of Uptown and the lakefront. In moonlight, you pointed out the Big Dipper, the hunter Orion, and the North Star, a beacon leading us to coolness and comfort. I pointed out that when you looked South, the lights were still on in the Gold Coast. I didn’t sleep that night, but our son did, you did. I watched over us in moonlight and decided his name, Sol. The night dragged, his breath was soft; three vagrants shuffled by. Around midnight, I heard a single fish flop in the water. My breasts still ache and yearn thinking about it. Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 11 Flash Fiction DEAR ID By Christopher Linforth Dear Id, I know after last night’s fight you may be hurting, perhaps angry at my accusations that you’ve mellowed and become middle-aged. I’m sorry for my tone, but, you see, you’ve changed. Blame the post-college blues, or, as you said, the classical development of my super-ego. Either way, each explanation still feels like an excuse. Now don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the recent glass of Hungarian Merlot and the days-old whole milk with my cereal. But kasha? I don’t even know how to pronounce wholegrain buckwheat. I remember that week in Vegas with the Reese’s Puffs and shots of cheap whiskey. In those days, we didn’t even think of the consequences, never giving a second thought to the stomach pains and sugar crashes. I admit I’ve been lenient. You were in a slump, scraping the barrel with your Italo Calvino novels, and letting the TiVo choose History Detectives and Wallander. I know it’s partly my fault. I made it easy for your relapses into hot yoga and vigorous afternoon walks. But I need you, Id, and you’ve been aloof. Something tells me it’s a passive-aggressive act, like your current attraction to Wittgenstein’s Tractacus, and yesterday’s reorganization of my childhood memories. Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 12 Flash Fiction Years ago, you threw yourself into your work. Your maniac energy swamped my thoughts. The vigor you had, the excesses of the Pleasure Principle you sought, debauched me on every single level. State College U. had never seen such parties. Thinking of the times we shared makes me sad, Id. Your partners-in-crime, ego and super-ego, are no better, but at least they still refuse to pay their part of the rent. I want things to revert to how they were: buttered popcorn and hookers, a season of Glee on demand. We need to forge forward, work on that Death Drive, if we are to go anywhere in this life. Sincerely, Christopher Linforth Atticus Reviewâ”‚Get Lit: Round 1 Page 13 Flash Fiction NAKED By Len Kuntz She looks at the image and thinks this is something I could do, this is someone I could be if I were more creamy-skinned and blonde instead, if I had a face shaped like a guitar pic and if my breasts were swollen and upraised next to my tanned arms. She is not the jealous type, does not covet or envy, but here is the perfect woman, a model, probably an actress, too. Would it be so awful being a model, smiling on demand, disrobing at the hint of a handler’s disappointment? She flips through the magazine. She’s memorized the entire spread. She imagines countless other men have done the same. She doesn’t like thinking of the men and their staring which is a confused and hypocritical thought because if she could trade places with the model, she would. She flips to the magazine’s cover shot of the woman wearing bunny ears and pink fuzzy balls where her nipples and pubic patch would be. The woman is winking. The date on the magazine says April, 1970. She wonders how far in advance photos are typically taken before they’re paginated inside a publication. She’s thought about that ever since she found this issue. She’s wondered if she was inside her mother while the photographer directed her to pose this way, throw back a pout, wink. She wonders if she was a fewdays-old embryo, floating directionless in her mother’s womb, the two of them both naked, but both still alive. Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 14 Flash Fiction EVERYONE’S GONE TO THE MOON By Gregg Hubbard If you ask me, the moon was full. It was a weeknight in the middle of summer and I stood barefoot on the waffled white plastic swing of our backyard swing set, looking up at the moon. My brother, two years older, had his battery-operated transistor radio set up and his sleeping bag laid out on the ground. (Need I mention that he was the one who made it to Eagle Scout, and I was part of an entire Cub Scout troop that mutinied after just one year because the snacks sucked?) My mother stood on the concrete step outside the door that opened into our backyard. She was almost hidden by the hibiscus on either side of her, but I’m sure she was twisting her wedding ring around on her finger with her thumb, the way she did when she didn’t know what to say. She wore her blue housecoat and her J.C. Penney silk sleep bonnet, which she wore to protect her Andrews Sisters hairdo. (Mary Pat Morrison rolled and set my Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 15 Flash Fiction mother’s hair every Thursday afternoon in the beauty shop in the back of her house. Mary Pat has long since passed away, and my mother’s hairdo no longer reaches up quite as close to heaven, but she still goes to the beauty parlor every Thursday afternoon.) She stood alone when she first came outside, but eventually went back inside and woke my father. She persuaded him to come out and look at the sky with the rest of us. It was hot and muggy and the air stood as still as we did as we stared through it. I stood up on the swing and watched the moon. “What have I told you about standing on the swings like that,” my mother said. She worried that I would topple the whole thing over because my father had not anchored the swing set into the ground with anything. For my mother, even with big goings-on in the sky, the rules here on earth hadn’t changed. “I think I can see them,” I said. My brother gave me that look—the look that older brothers have given younger brothers throughout history. Well, maybe not the look that Cain gave Abel right before he picked up the shovel, but certainly the look that says, “You did not just say that.” It’s the look my brother gives me now when I tell him that, yes, I really do believe that Bono cares about Africa even if he wears really expensive sunglasses. It was July 20, 1969 in Lakeville, Florida, and Apollo 11 had just landed on the moon. Neil Armstrong had taken his first steps and spoken his nowfamous line, only it wasn’t history yet; it was just the moment—and we had all just watched it happen live on TV. Well, my dad had slept through it, but that’s another story. I had never seen Walter Cronkite seem at a loss for words, but then Walter Cronkite had never seen a man walk on the moon before. After Neil Armstrong stood on the moon for a couple of minutes, my brother and I were the first ones into the backyard. I was sure I would be able to see something on the face of the moon that would let me know that we— notice I say we—were up there. *** Just a week earlier, my brother and I had stood right there in our backyard and witnessed the rocket launch. We watched the rocket carve its way Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 16 Flash Fiction through the sky leaving behind nothing but a trail of smoke, a trail already vanishing as the booster engine dropped off and fell into the ocean—the very same ocean that we had splashed around in. The rest of the rocket ship soared on, leaving the rest of us behind in the grip of gravity. In celebration of the real moon launch, my brother and I had sent up—or blown up—five Estes rockets. We cupped our hands over our eyes and watched the cardboard rockets fight against the sky. They didn’t fight for long, but at least some of them made it off the ground. Now we were watching men on the moon. This was in an era when folks in central Florida would pour outside when a rocket launched, looking to the sky in amazement. Our vantage point seemed perfect since Cape Kennedy was only a couple of hours away. If a launch happened on a school day, classes were let out and teachers and students alike piled out amidst the jungle gym and monkey bars to watch the astronauts do what most of us would never do—get the hell out of Dodge. Oh sure, folks in my tiny hometown went to Orlando ten miles away or to the beach an hour or two away, but Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins were going to the moon. The moon! It takes more than a Rambler station wagon and a six-pack to pull that off. I wondered what that kind of getting away felt like. I was nine years old. *** A million miles from the moon, my mom was back inside the house turning off the television. She was leaning against it (the thing was about the size of a freezer) when my brother and I came back inside. Latching on to a soonto-be-classic quote as only an English teacher can, Mom looked at us and repeated, “ ‘One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.’ Boys, who knows what might happen next.” She had tears in her eyes. She gave us each a hug and told us that, man on the moon or no man on the moon, it was time to call it a day. She went right to bed. I hope she had good dreams. It was her thirty-ninth birthday. My brother and I stayed behind in the Florida room. The television crackled with static electricity, still with a faint glow across the screen—like it couldn’t let go of what it had just seen any more than we could. My brother stretched out on the green corduroy couch, the one with the fabric that left you all striped and grooved when you napped on it, and I sat cross-legged on the floor. Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 17 Flash Fiction After a minute-long eternity of silence, I asked him, “Now what?” As the glow on both the television screen and on my face started to fade he said, “Tomorrow you and I send up another rocket, that’s what.” With that, he got up and headed off to his room. He stopped at the door and told me, “You and I aren’t staying here forever. Mark it down.” I did. I can’t swear that I knew exactly what that meant, but I knew that my brother meant it. I lay there in my bed that night thinking about what I’d heard. It wasn’t Neil Armstrong’s words that were running around in my head. It was my mom’s and my brother’s. “Boys, who knows what might happen next?” I knew I didn’t. “You and I aren’t staying here forever.” OK, I thought. My brother was my trusted guide, my Neil Armstrong, and I was ready to follow. I lay awake, my Western Auto fan whirring against the quiet and the summer heat. The moon wasn’t in my window so I fell asleep watching the window screen dice the night into a thousand tiny black holes, just big enough to let some moonlight in if it came my way. And I hoped it would. I fell asleep dreaming. I’m sure of that. Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 18 Flash Fiction WHERE THE DUST WENT By Sarah Malone In Beijing it dimmed everything faraway and lodged sharp and fine at the corners of their eyes and in splits deep under their thumbnails. At the airport the book she bought had dust pressed in its red vinyl cover and opened with the scent of a basement. She felt the book in her inside pocket, half as light as a Bible. What are you going to do with that thing, John said. We had to have one, Debra said. They’re going to be history. In New York her skin stuck to everything it touched; subway seats, newsprint. The real estate agents were all out to rob them. Everything ran late. The least crooked-seeming agent met them at a factory they could get for cheap. It was blocks out of sight of the bridges. Children were kicking a soccer ball under the expressway. The factory had once made lamps, or something. John ran his finger along smooth potter’s wheels stacked along an inner wall, and pressed the trigger on an arc-welding machine. Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 19 Flash Fiction We can line that wall with books, Debra said. They could afford it, if she worked. She had stopped marveling that she did their accounting. He built the shelves, the entire wall up to the ceiling, and a ladder to reach the top. She filed her college books and his law books by author. Where will the red book go? He said. In travel, she laughed, and they filed no more that day. The lowest shelf would be their daughter’s, and the next shelf, when she was tall enough, so their son could take the lowest, cars and trucks. John bicycled to work over the bridge. Debra painted scrolls for doctors’ waiting rooms and restaurants in Flushing Meadow. Their son’s first year at college she merged everyone’s books by author, Richard Scarry, Walter Scott, William Shakespeare, magazines separate; thirty years of Gourmets she had rarely cooked from. Maybe now I have some time, she said. Anything you cook, John said. All you need is that red sauce. You’ll like it, she said. I promise. She found a recipe for spinach croquettes, only a tablespoon of safflower oil. John did like them, with extra salt and pepper. He kept mayonnaise marked JOHN in the office fridge, and a packet of English muffins, until in June a bakery opened, out of Debra’s sight. You can bring in your bike, the register girl said. He chose a hard-crust roll—no; two. Everything that week was on grand opening special. The register girl had her hair bandannaed the way Debra did when she was painting. We’re too little to be grand, the girl said. Never, John said. Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 20 Flash Fiction Atlantic Avenue was hot as car hoods. John was looking ahead to the girl’s gap tooth and Debra’s freckles, long faded except the one she’d had to remove, when a taxi, gunning a yellow light, threw him left across two lanes into the Jersey barrier. The children helped Debra pack, and paint the place to sell. That would cover her, for a few years. They sweated over takeout pizza. She would move out near her son. She couldn’t imagine, all the way to her daughter’s. It’s only San Diego, her daughter said. At the top of the bookshelf ladder, smiling, her son held up a red cover. Did you guys buy this at the beach? He shook it out, and Debra knew. Your father got it for me, she said. Once, when we were traveling. Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 21 Flash Fiction ROBESH CONTEMPLATES LIFE OUTSIDE THE MARKET By Michelle Reale Yogi laughs and tells him, in braying falsetto, that the first breath of fresh air is invigorating and Robesh is immediately in the divorce lawyer’s office as the man with the comb-over tells his mother exactly the same thing. She held his hand so tight he didn’t think she’d ever let go. Yogi likes to pick on Robesh whose name is not Robesh at all. He tells him that when he comes back from La La Land he will need to stack the generic feminine products in aisle two then scoop the potato salad. It is an American holiday, after all, and they will want their potato salad and such. “Picnics there will be,” Yogi says, finger pointed solemnly. Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 22 Flash Fiction Robesh can hear the undertone of brass instruments and feels a strange thrum in his chest that is part heart and part anticipation. There is a parade in town. He doesn’t smoke, but thinks it might be a good time to start. He grabs a pack from behind the register where Yogi’s wife Sarita, her bindi like a third eye, talks a mile a minute on a tiny phone to someone far away. Robesh has been looking outside of the door all morning, but needs, right at the moment, to be on the other side. Yogi watches him from inside and mimes a newborn baby encountering light outside of the womb. Robesh is not his real name anyway. His mother always said “never, ever a junior.” It simply wasn’t meant to be. Yogi taps his watch when Robesh looks his way. He is just getting the hang of his cigarette, looks at it smoking itself between his thick fingers, feels the burning coolness that he would find hard to describe. Back inside, Yogi asks, do I know you? Who are you? He points to aisle two. Robesh can hear the pumping volume of the parade, a sad backdrop to the day, but now his break is over. He hears the bell over the door as someone comes in for a lottery ticket, a six-pack of cheap beer. When the door opens he hears the marching band play the notes he remembers from when he was a kid. His mother held his hand tight then, too. When the door to the market closes, he forgets everything all over again. Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 23 Flash Fiction A WOMAN RIDES A TRAIN By Meg Sefton She had long since forgotten what it felt like to have a man’s eyes on her. She was forty-two, still passable for her late thirties, but had grown used to the fact that men weren’t going to look at her when she walked into a room, that she would be ignored no matter her capabilities, her joie de vivre, her “soul.” How she laughed to herself to remember her past reassurances of older female friends when they mourned their changing looks. These reassurances, she knew now, would have seemed as specious to them as her beliefs about the “soul” itself. How could she have known that so much of happiness was tied to what she had once thought was superficial? One morning a year after her baby was born, she took the metro to the D.C. Mall. She wanted to spend a quiet day in the National Gallery looking at paintings, letting the silence and the beauty change her or refresh her in some way. She and her husband had lived in Gaithersburg for a few years but she had rarely followed through with her plan to get away from the house, to entertain herself with this rare private indulgence. She closed her eyes as the train sped away from the station. She settled into the jostling car as it whirred along the rails. She was grateful that even the small decisions involved with driving a car were not hers to make, that at least for a while, there was little reason for vigilance. As the stops rolled by one after another she had to rouse herself to pay attention. Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 24 Flash Fiction And that’s when she saw him standing by the door opposite. She hadn’t been sure what made her look at him, of all the men standing in the car, with their identical suits, grasping their briefcases and newspapers. He was watching her. She met his gaze. He did not look away. Was he really looking at her? she wondered. Maybe she was mistaken. She turned, saw the car was filled with people reading, dozing, talking on phones. She resumed watching his blue, almost gray eyes. He smiled at her then, just a small turning up of his lips. He knew what she was thinking. It made her uncomfortable to think he knew something about her just from this one gesture and yet she felt something in his gaze that was innocent, that was merely curious, intensely curious. She had to think about her breath and to make herself focus on her metro stop. When it arrived, she pushed herself up from her chair. She lurched forward. How very unattractive, she thought. She felt her face burning. She looked at his face once more before stepping out of the car. He was still watching her. He was still smiling. She stood on the platform while the doors closed and he did not let his eyes move from her face. She wanted to cry. She liked him. Or she liked the idea of him, that’s what she realized later when she thought about wanting to cry as she stood there watching some stranger being pulled away from her. He was curious and he was handsome and there was something shy in his gaze too, something that made it safe for her to like him, and she wished she had stayed in the car and hadn’t been so true to her plans. Years later, when she thought of the day the man had looked at her, she realized a part of her feelings of loss about becoming invisible had been about a lost identity but also a great deal had been about something else, that something that would never return to her in the shape of her yearning, in the empty space that is left when she finally became no one and everyone, both at once. Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 25 Flash Fiction OVEN By John Oliver Hodges Caroline knows that when her belly growls, Larry knows that his knobs will be fingered, that he will grow hot inside, that a pepperoni pizza or crème brulèe, maybe even a late night meatloaf, will be produced with his help. The growl is what Larry most loves to hear, Caroline thinks, and squats beside him close and intimate. “Hear it?” she says. Caroline fingers Larry’s racks, turns him on. As she stuffs him full of Idaho potatoes, she sings to Larry. Caroline eats her baked potatoes while watching the Monday Night Movie, just an awful movie. Her potatoes are drenched with butter, and very delicious, but when she finishes eating, she feels sick. She should not have eaten so much. Why does this always happen? Caroline doesn’t know. She needs to put smaller portions on her plate. Caroline needs help. She isn’t obese, but still. She decides to do something about it, so goes to Overeaters Anonymous. “My name is Caroline,” Caroline says, “and I am an overeater.” She tells these people that she speaks to her oven, that she calls him Larry and that his knobs are shiny and black and that she doesn’t clean his glass because the burn marks around his corners give him character. Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 26 Flash Fiction “Get rid of him at once,” the great large huge man says. His name is Gary and Gary is from Vermont originally. Gary says, “I have a truck and I’m sure that my son Kent will help us load the oven. We can drive it to the landfill.” “I would never dream of it,” Caroline says. The enormous woman beside her puts a hand on Caroline’s arm. “It’s okay, dear.” “No,” Caroline says. “I’m not getting rid of Larry.” “She said she wanted to stop overeating,” Gary says, looking to Evelyn, who is the leader of O.A. Evelyn says, “Caroline, the fact that you talk to your oven is proof enough. You’re going to have to kill this fantasy. Please listen to us. We are your friends and we care about you.” Later that night, Caroline watches a movie on TV, just an awful movie. She has not eaten a thing since dinner, and when her tummy growls, she cries out, “Did you hear that, Larry?” Caroline turns her head to the side. She lifts a hand to hold off the sound from the TV, and listens. When Larry does not speak, she stomps to the kitchen, flips on the light, and stares at Larry’s burners. “You heard it, didn’t you?” Larry just sits there. “Say something,” Caroline says, but Larry is too good to say anything. Larry has all the character, the spirals of his burners nicely textured, but mute. Caroline would like to make Larry her lover, but one does not take an oven to bed. She’d rather make love to Larry though than Gary. It is their last night together. Caroline undresses in the bathroom, showers, puts on lipstick, then makes love to the oven. Next day Gary comes over with his son Kent. Kent, a muscular young man with a crew cut, is on the football team at Ole Miss. The young man’s thick neck reminds Caroline of the biscuits that would grow inside Larry, the plump rising of them, golden, and she would like to touch the young man’s neck, but she is not crazy. Caroline is a normal thirty-five-year-old woman with a normal nine-to-five job. She was married once. Her husband left her for a thinner woman, but that is neither here nor there. Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 27 Flash Fiction “Nice blouse,” Gary says, and Caroline notices afresh how large and huge and big Gary is. Massive. Gary is like the blob in the movie The Blob, but Caroline curtsies. She is a genteel southern woman. She says, “Why thank you, Gary.” Out from the duplex comes Kent, pulling Larry along on the dolly, bouncing Larry down the steps. Caroline just doesn’t want to see it. Earlier, as Kent unhooked Larry from the wall, Caroline noticed some lipstick smears that she had neglected to wipe from Larry’s smooth steel body. It was shameful. She’d blushed and was feeling nauseous, so left the house. Now she tries not to look at Larry at all—it’s true, only a strange person could feel emotion for an oven—but her head snaps Larry’s way and she just feels awful. What kind of cruel person would do such a thing? It’s like looking the other way while your children are sold into lives of slavery. “You’re doing the right thing,” Gary says, and he says, “I’ll keep you company while Kent does the honors. When Kent is done he’ll come back for me.” Caroline looks at Gary standing in the yard in the full sun and wishes the ground would open up and swallow him. “No, please, I’ve got a ton of paperwork to do,” Caroline says. “I see,” Gary says. “It’s nothing personal,” Caroline says. “Well, if you start to overeat, you know who to call,” Gary says, and leaves with Kent. Caroline watches them drive off, Larry in the back of the truck. Caroline goes inside and pretends to feel fine, but she is thirsty. When she enters the kitchen for a glass of water, there is the empty space where Larry once was. She breaks into tears. She runs to the bathroom, holds her face over the commode, and heaves, but nothing comes. She sniffles. Her tears fall into the water, breaking her reflection. The porcelain is very kind, she notices. “I am a miserable woman,” she says, and hears a little sound down deep in the pipes. She holds her breath and listens. Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 28 Flash Fiction CADAVER LAB By John S. Fields “We’ll start by revealing the tendon.” Dr. Dominguez placed his cup of coffee on the gurney and tugged at the dermis of the big toe with forceps, exposing the flexor hallucis. Standing by the skull, Hakim recognized Max smiling through a tear in the body bag. Jules wore a bow tie. He touched his index finger to his tongue to turn a page in an anatomy text. “You have to know the anatomy and physiology of the ankle,” he said. Hakim tried breathing through his mouth to avoid the putrid stench but the surgical mask made it difficult. He stared at the floor, convulsed by dry heaves. Dr. Dominguez rotated the leg of the cadaver—now Meredith wearing the blue dress—until it cracked. “Let that be a reminder to get your daily allowance of calcium. Now Hakim, I want you to expose the quadrates plantae.” Hakim slowly examined the partially dissected foot. He made an incision in the sole, revealing a stringy yellow substance. It was tough, hard to cut. A frustrated Dr. Dominguez took the scalpel. “Let me show you.” He sliced at the tissue forcefully until a piece flew up into his mouth and he instinctively swallowed. Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 29 Flash Fiction BREATHE IN By Martha Williams Kiss, kiss. Your lips pucker up, dredging the air for the next chink-chink, the next illicit drag, the next famous smile. God should have given you gills, that way you could be all suck and no blow — that would fit you well. I’d fuck you if I wasn’t so angry. If you wouldn’t tell your friends about it after, seeking their approval for your one-off side-step. You’re straight as a drip’s drop but you’d screw me for the dinner party story and God knows, I’d give you one. I’d kiss you so reluctantly you’d have to lean forward, I’d walk backwards breathing out and you’d follow me with your mouth open, desperate not to be rejected. Desperate to prove you can do girl on girl if you want. I’d look you in the eye but you wouldn’t catch a clue, your skull full of smoke and me me meeeeeeee as it is. I’d smile and stop and close my lips. What would you do — initiate? Or stand there with your mouth open? Hah. I’d take my jumper off. I’d put another on. I’d whisper in your ear — almost, “-” Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 30 Flash Fiction Then take a call. I’d smile and kiss you — no, I’d smile and kiss the air beside your ear. Later. I’d walk you, like you led him. One minute a leash, the next leaving him crying, torn apart because you have the attention span of a fucking tomato. One squeeze and you’re all blown out, leaving nothing more sustaining than slime and a stain. You said once, it’s so much easier being the woman — we lead the real dance. And what are men but trinkets? Brothers. He could have been yours, he’ll always be mine. His tears were for you. They fell on me. It took him a year of gasping to manage the words, “I never stood a chance.” “No,” I said. “No.” But here you are and I know you can’t resist a prize. So wear your dares, my love, and hitch up your skirt. You’ve long been watching my name, you’re clearly watching my smile, and I’m already walking backwards. You open your mouth, as if to speak, and you step forward. I breathe out. You breathe in. Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 31 Flash Fiction INVASIVE SPECIES By Susan Rukeyser Regret sounds like a rubber band pulled taught, then snapped. Sara holds her breath, what they say not to do. Her leg sweats against the plastic chair. The goggled doc scrolls the laser across her anklebone, following an artistâ€™s line. She wanted a Kudzu vine, emerging from toes and wrapping her foot. Drew missed the South, so they moved down here from Boston, where they happened to meet. Sara has a habit of rearranging her life, not always for men. Early on, they canoed the lazy Chattahoochee. The Kudzu-wrapped riverbanks seemed to shift, vines squeaking as they passed over one another, knots tightening beneath. New shoots extended with a pop, then burrowed taproots into clay. Native life smothered, inch by inch. When Drew leaves for work, Kudzu taps at the window. By lunchtime, a vine fingers its way in through a gap where the glass sits crooked. At sunset, Sara dons gloves and steps into mosquito clouds. Cicadas perform their shimmering swell, males vibrating their ribbed abdominals while females crouch and click. In this lusty humidity, Sara chops. She draws Atticus Reviewâ”‚Get Lit: Round 1 Page 32 Flash Fiction herbicide across the windowsill. But it only delays the inevitable. Vines thicken, turn hard. Southern air is bloated, Sara thinks, with words withheld for the sake of manners. Drew warned her: “No politics, no religion.” But she isn’t good at small talk. Her only friends are his, but she did try—She chose this tattoo, didn’t she? Beneath the laser, her skin boils and the design blanches, becomes its negative. Regret feels like a dull blade thumped into her, withdrawn and thumped again. This doc usually deals in warts, moles, and pustules. “Skin is an organ,” he says, above the noise of the machine. “It deserves respect.” He tells her what will happen: A watery blister will balloon from skin burnt raw. The pain will become an itch. She’s leaving, of course. Drew and the South. She does tend to hold a grudge. Her regret bubbles up with ink, poked in deep by another man she trusted too soon, without good reason. Most of the ink will be reabsorbed by her body, the doc says, eventually pushed out as waste. But first it will travel her bloody canals, regret flooding her, seeping through cell walls, into marrow. “This green,” the doc frets, pushing a button to stop the machine. Silence booms. “It’s tough. But I can lighten it, at least. Make it easier to hide.” Sara’s not sure yet if she’ll head back North or somewhere new. She’s not sure how life will rearrange this time, or what deserves to leave a mark. Not Kudzu—she’s learned this much. Kudzu is no emblem of the South. It’s an invasive species. It won’t coexist with what belongs here. Like her, but more determined. From now on she’ll heed the doc’s advice, show some respect. He hands her a different pair of goggles and switches frequencies. And although it only makes it worse, once again she holds her breath. Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 33 Flash Fiction BABY AGAVE By Rachel Howell Caleb has only been awake four minutes when the refrigerator calendar alerts him that his wife is ovulating again. Though he is comforted by the predictability of her body, its rhythms and cycles, he knows this guarantees nothing. Just as the disturbance in the tropics is not a guarantee that it will rain, no matter how badly the city needs it, no matter that people have begun praying for a hurricane to thrash some poor island in the Gulf in the hope that their own trees might benefit. Caleb pours himself a glass of milk. When he returns the carton to the fridge, he is reminded, by the absence of a circle around todayâ€™s date, of the water ban the city has imposed to help combat the drought. Though their lawn is scorched and thirsty for it, Caleb and his wife can only water the grass two days a week, and today is not one of those days. Caleb briefly considers adhering to the rules, but then he is outside on his front porch, the lawn he has seeded and soiled brown and begging. He uncoils the hose, throws it like a buoy to the grass, then checks to see that his neighbor across the street is not watching through her old lady blinds, ready to report him. He plays out the scenario in his head. If anyone were to question his behavior, Caleb would be ready with the following defenses: he works fulltime while also attending graduate school and therefore lacks the flexibility to tend to his home on someone elseâ€™s schedule; his next door neighbors, who are allowed to water their yard on Saturdays, do not have a need to water on Saturday or any other day because theirs is a yard made of rocks; and lastly, he does not make a habit of breaking rules. Caleb is considering Atticus Reviewâ”‚Get Lit: Round 1 Page 34 Flash Fiction this last defense when he notices that the sprinkler attachment he uses to water the lawn is gone. Caleb walks around the side of the house, checks the part of the yard he cannot see from the front door. He considers waking his wife to ask if she moved it, but he is certain she hasn’t. Almost as certain as he is that she does not want to be woken to be asked about a sprinkler attachment unless the question is accompanied by a prepared mug of coffee and an offer to deposit his sperm inside of her body. He returns to the front porch. The sun is already working overtime, sending out smaller suns to do its work. There is one on the roof of Caleb’s car, on his wedding ring, on a piece of tinfoil stuck in the asphalt. Even with his hand as a visor, he can only make out the white shadow of things, the things themselves obliterated. In his peripheral vision Caleb spots his neighbor, a man who Caleb almost never sees working outside, kneeling beside his driveway with a small shovel. To Caleb’s surprise he appears to be digging something out of his yard of rocks. The neighbor waves. Caleb nods. “You didn’t happen to see someone run off with a sprinkler attachment?” The neighbor swipes his forehead with his forearm. “Don’t think so,” he says. “Any interest in a couple of these baby agaves?” “No, that’s okay,” says Caleb, wondering if possibly the sprinkler has fallen over in the grass somewhere and he just can’t see it. “You sure? I’m just gonna dump them.” The neighbor stands facing Caleb, his shovel at his hip. “Last chance.” Caleb realizes he hasn’t been listening. He rewinds the sound reel in his head several seconds. Somehow he locates his neighbor’s voice, which sounds mysteriously like his own. Baby agave. The words register separately, then together. Though it is a new sensation, one that he is still getting used to, it is almost impossible for Caleb to hear the word baby without feeling a simultaneous kick in his throat, or more accurately in the hollow groove just below his Adam’s apple. “Sorry, what?” Caleb asks. “I’ve got these baby agaves. Just shoots from the bigger plant, but they’re taking over. Figure I’ll toss them if someone else doesn’t want them.” Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 35 Flash Fiction Caleb waits for the kick but this time it doesn’t come, perhaps because he is anticipating it. It is not unlike a hiccup, or the feeling that he hasn’t fully swallowed a pill. “Nah,” he says, “I mean thanks though, that’s—” “I think your wife might want them.” This Caleb hears directly from his neighbor’s mouth. He wonders how this man knows what his wife might want. He does not think his wife is the sort of woman who shares her desires with near strangers, even superficial ones in the name of small talk, such as the wish for more rain. He is not sure what disturbs him more, that his neighbor assumes he knows what Caleb’s wife might want, or that his neighbor is right. For months now his wife has indeed envied the large twin agave plants presiding over their neighbor’s pebbled yard. Ever since the day they were offloaded by truck and placed in the ground, she has mentioned them at regular intervals, how graceful they are, how their strong broad leaves seem like swords smooth enough to sleep on. That same day she accused Caleb of lying when he told her how much, given their impressive size, the plants must have cost. On a different day, his wife took pictures after noticing one of them had bloomed—like something out of a science fiction film, she said, and Caleb arrived home to confirm the appearance of an asparagus-like stalk at the plant’s center shooting skyward. The day after that, the two of them reclined in front of Caleb’s laptop screen after lovemaking, his wife’s legs in the air in a last-ditch attempt to seduce gravity. They looked at the pictures of the alien yellow sprouts that sat bird-like on the branches, then went outside to look at them again. Later the same day Caleb decided against telling his wife what he’d read on the internet, that the agave blooms only once, at the end of its life, leaving behind small shoots at its base before it dies. Though he is no longer sure he agrees, Caleb remembers thinking what a wonderful way to go. Caleb’s neighbor crosses his yard with a mound of the small gray shoots. They sprout from his open palms like fingers. “Please,” he insists. “They’re taking over my lawn.” Caleb thinks, but does not say, that baby agaves are not taking over his neighbor’s lawn. For one thing, his neighbor does not have a lawn. If he did, he’d have weeds to contend with, missing sprinkler attachments, the problem of when and how often to water. Caleb says, “Our yard isn’t really suited for—” “You’ll be fine. Keep ‘em inside.” Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 36 Flash Fiction “Don’t they need a lot of sun?” “Nah,” his neighbor says. “You know.” “Right.” “Where should I put them?” Caleb looks helplessly around for a container of any sort. “The ground is fine,” he says. As he watches his neighbor deposit the plants at his feet, he is amazed by the surreality of the transaction. Four minutes ago he was a man who sometimes thought about one day purchasing one or more agave plants. Now he is a man who owns several. Only later, when he is driving to the store to buy a new sprinkler attachment for the lawn, does he imagine his wife’s reaction to this new discovery. On the way home, he drives faster. Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 37 Flash Fiction THE LAST OF THE DRAGONFLIES By Matthew Dexter After sprinkling some of my father’s ashes into a blunt, butterflies gathered around my head, their wings tickled my ears as I lay at the edge of the river and licked it, dipped it in a half-empty formaldehyde container borrowed from the basement. Dizzy with sadness and euphoria, dancing with sunset reflections I listened to the crickets giving life to the embalming fluid as it drifted into my lungs. The smoke sailed lower, borne down by the breeze as if by some nefarious puppet master pulling the final ethereal curtain over the scene, an obstinate purpled rippled demon which made love to the orange moon, all the while as fluorescent caterpillars come out from the dampened moss. “What are ya doing down here Jay?” my sister asked. She was little and didn’t realize Dad was a fraud, afraid of offering his body to the earth. “Can I hold that urn?” she asked. I handed her the fancy last wish of our father. His written instructions were to dump his ashes in the river, sell the house, and enjoy our lives. The Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 38 Flash Fiction elaborate labyrinth of his existence a tangled mess of strings, a miserable yet necessary business, all the while getting richer with the money of corpses, forcing us to commiserate with strangers willing to offer their everything to Dad; yet he would never trust his soul in the hands of another man. “What ya smoking?” She asked. “Sherms,” I told her. The way the world came to his door, spent my whole life living in this funeral house adjacent to the water, watching the dead drift by like feathers on the surface, never knowing whether to curse it or burn it to the ground. Either or, yesterday filled the gallon gas cans to their brims and walked home a ghost, stuffed them in the back of his closet behind the trophies and bowling balls, all the while waiting for this opportunity, the house empty, that time of awakening when everything goes up in flames. “Can I try?” she asked. A dragonfly made love to her face. She aged ten years overnight. I handed her the blunt. The sun sunk beneath the mountains and the moon took over. I reached into the urn and tossed a handful of ashes into the water and began to repeat the process, saying a little prayer, when instead of releasing the remains into the air, lifted them into my mouth. “How’s it taste?” she asked. A dragon was having an orgasm in my esophagus so I fed it some more fuel. Handfuls of ashes swallowed as fast as possible, offering them to my sis in exchange for the blunt, we watched the stars and rolled another one, pouring out some formaldehyde as a sacrifice to the distant sea. Then we walked back toward the house and sat beside the flow of a raging fire until the trucks arrived, all the while closer to God than ever before. Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 39 Flash Fiction THE BAD THAT CAN HAPPEN THE DAY JESUS ROSE FROM THE DEAD By Kevin Catalano Bush tore me down the middle of Sweet Lane and I chased him my knees all blooded up calling him Low down. We sprinted through the peach orchard, my Easter dress raked once by his hands now again by the blooming branches. I cornered him at Ruin Lake, brown like caramel and Bush’s dark shoulders. “I’ll bust you up,” I screamed knocking him over as he was getting a leg out his trousers. “What Mom gonna say about my dress?” “She’ll call you a clumsy twit for falling all over yourself before church.” All gums and crooked teeth he was down on the dew-grass the sun glowing him beautiful. It made me hate him even more for leaving tomorrow for Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 40 Flash Fiction juvie. Last week he gutted Miss Hinshaw’s poodle with a butterfly knife. I didn’t see him do it, but that night he came into my bedroom when I was sleeping. I made space for him thinking he’d get in bed as he sometimes did, but instead he handed over the knife. It had white tufts of hair stuck to it, the blood sticky like syrup. He said to hide it, and so I wrapped it in a pair of my underwear and buried it in the back of the drawer. Didn’t matter though, since Miss Hinshaw was witness to the killing and the police came by next afternoon. Judge gave him 90 days, starting tomorrow. From his back, Bush kicked out my legs and I crashed stupidly. He scrambled into the lake and splashed me. “Fool,” I spat. “You gone to hell.” He took out his noodley penis and peed in the water. He cranked his shoulders backwards and made the pee arch like a fountain. I pretended not to look but looked. Mom was hell-bent on getting Bush’s soul right with the Lord. She been talking about the Lamb of God all Easter weekend, and talked the pastor into baptizing his sorry butt before he went away. Now, in only a few hours, Pastor’s going to dip Bush’s head in pee while we all sang Angel Band. Bush jumped like he’d been bit and he cussed the water. He scurried out and studied the lake. “What is it?” I got beside him to look. “A gi-normous scorpion, I swear it.” “Go on.” Just as I said it, a thick cloud of gold-flecked mud kicked up and when it cleared, there was the curled-up tail of a huge lobster-looking thing kicking around just under the surface. It was the size of a dog, not including its horrible red legs and claws. Its tail whipped and snapped, spraying both our shins. Then it crawled deeper into the lake until it disappeared in the depths. My whole body budded with hives. “Come on Sis.” Bush was trotting to the old aluminum rowboat upside down in the highgrass. “We’re going to chase that thing. I want it. I could win something for having it.” Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 41 Flash Fiction He flipped the boat and pushed it into the water and got in. I stood in the grass with my arms folded. “There’s no way I’m getting in with you.” “Might be others crawling round in the grass,” he said pushing off. “Bush!” I caught up to the boat and climbed in. “God knows I hate you.” But He knew contrary. The sun shone his snapping muscles yanking the oars. His body looked different in the light, different than it felt in the dark. I kept my eyes on the thread of his arms because I didn’t dare look into the water. I repeated Lamb of God in my head. I thought nothing this bad could happen the day Jesus rose from the dead. The middle of the lake Bush yelped “Good night” and pulled in the oars. He was big-eyed looking over the boat, and I couldn’t help but to look too. The lake around us bubbled and spit, and there was a swelling buzz like a million cicadas just under the water. This swarm of whatever they were rushed the boat, pecking the sides and belly, the metal pocked like shotgun fire. Bush was frozen, not even breathing. I began to pee myself, and bunched the dress between my legs to sponge it. I scrambled into Bush’s lap. Pressed my face into his sweaty chest tasting its metallic saltiness, pleading with his body as I had done on the nights he came into the room when he’d hush me, promise me it was good love. His arms draped me; his heart slammed my temple like God had gotten into him and was punching to get out. Water coming into the boat licked our ankles. His heart it thumped fiercer than when he had claimed to love me, and the water was the same cool of the butterfly knife that still lay hid in my drawer. My heart suddenly sprouted its tail which, seething poison, sought its victim. I pushed myself from Bush, and lying back on the bottom of the boat, fired both feet smack into the chest. The loud white of his eyes caught the sun as he fell backwards into the lake. I sobbed as I watched the electric swarm bubble around him, his arms waving like mad, his screams going from jagged to gurgle. The peach of his palms were the last things I saw, descending quickly into the dark. As the lake went once again peaceful, I thrust my torso over the bow and reached for the water, screaming his name. Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 42 Flash Fiction SHOELACES By Barry Basden She never knew how to love him, she guessed. Couldn’t give him whatever it was he needed from her and slowly their bed turned to stone. One night after dinner he told her he was moving to Toronto. They talked about it calmly, civilly, then all at once she was on her knees in front of the sofa, looking up at him. He didn’t move. In the expanding silence she felt her mind dissolving. She wanted to hug his legs, lay her head in his lap, bite him maybe. But all she did was take hold of the crease in his pants and press the soft cloth between her thumb and forefinger. The wall clock chimed the half hour. She looked into his face and tried to think. Then something broke loose and she was sobbing. “Please,” she said. “Please. Tell me what you want. Please.” He watched her, not moving, looking like some kind of trapped animal. “I don’t know,” he said finally. She let go of his trousers and sat back on her heels. There was light from the hallway shining on carpet, the ticking clock, his shoelaces neatly tied. Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 43 Flash Fiction PAPER LUNGS By Lauren Tamraz They used to listen to records in a room with red carpet. She thought he wanted her when he’d talk about the future. She overlooked that he always said, “I.” He was self-conscious when she would put her nose in his armpit in bed. Then he would ask to drive her someplace in her car because his was not stick-shift and how he loved stick-shift. Then she thought he was in love again. In a grassy hick parking lot, the kind that is not a parking lot any other day except that one, that is why it is so grassy, she was walking with a six-pack. If the red carpet had been her bleeding out into a small jar he could uncap once in a while when he was lonely, then the dirt and grass were that desert he always talked about with “I.” But they could still share the beer. They were both alone in the kind of place where people ran in packs. They didn’t know if their aloneness was strength or devastation. They became a pack again, sat slump-spined on a split-rail fence in the middle of all that grass. She didn’t look into his eyes because she didn’t want to cry or take Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 44 Flash Fiction her clothes off. She knew he wouldn’t ask, but that she would offer. He had cut his hair. She wished she had been there to weave all the fallen pieces into a blanket. The blanket would have been small and damp as patience because his hair had never reached his shoulders. But it would have been strawberry blond: a rare hair blanket color. Pack mentality overtook them in this bullfight of strangers, even though he might have treated her like one if they were back in their own town. They shared what they had: alcohol, intense lion’s breath humidity. Then she looked at his sandcastle face. She wished to finger the turrets and moats of his profile, plunge her hands in cool recesses. She had before only concentrated on his ankles, slender and lovely as doves’ feathers. He was a bigger man, but his legs had been beautiful to watch if you had always been the one walking behind him. Then he looked away. Small folds accordioned around her heart, her lungs, her tongue. She did not breathe, could not for the organs folding, bellows’ groans. His gazing away took a pair of scissors, paper-dolled the fleshy tissues all. She hoped he had at least cut well, cleanly. That way, when she unfolded them later she’d find something beautiful; the years would not be a total loss. Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 45 Flash Fiction CITRIC ACID FOR BORSCH By Valery Petrovskiy I treated her to borsch. Borsch was fine though not made by me. The borsch was cooked by another woman. The woman had a desire to make it. Whenever she cooked borsch she thought she was in love with me. She didn’t go on well with her husband and she posed as a possible good wife to me. I disliked the borsch beforehand when she’d asked for some citric acid for it. You’d better slice a lemon in. We need proper ingredients, – she announced. In order to be a nice husband to her, I went out for the acid. I can be a good one sometimes. And that girl was quite different. In silence she was taking borsch, for one is not supposed to make love immediately. She uttered no word. She just sat neatly on a chair and was having borsch in an ordinary way. She never asked me a question. That’s why we parted later on. The borsch had ripened perfectly well, it was as strong as beef tea, flavored and particularly red. She tasted it and was aware that we were to make love. And I was aware of it too. That’s why she came up and was eating my borsch. I didn’t cook it myself but she never asked. I don’t remember if there were any olives in it. As far as I know, there shouldn’t have been. The fact that she didn’t ask me any questions vexed me, the same as how there were no olives in the borsch. We didn’t drink up, but what for? There was no reason to be in a fog. Sober I liked to watch her going mad in bed, slowly and steadfast. And step by step as ever she went crazy and made me believe that it was on me to Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 46 Flash Fiction recover her mind. She was conscious yet breathed somewhat effusively. But I got used to her breathing in such a way when she was making love to me, and then there was a what felt like an earthquake. Smoothly we flew off, birds darting off a twig, still in touch with each other. Then in ten minutes or so we woke up enlightened. - You smile when falling asleep… She was the only one to make me feel this way. Like a child high on a tree, feeling so sweet and scared at the same time, not knowing how to get down. It was inexplicable how she could stand up calmly and put on her clothes after all that. She dressed herself up slowly and neatly, little by little, hiding the light she had filled me with. The kind of light shed from a nun’s face but she was not a nun. She was my woman. She was always the only woman of mine, but then she didn’t ask me about it. Slowly she dressed and slowly she went off the peculiar light she filled me with. We were slow to walk down the dark stairs. There was no need to join hands; in the dark, the sense of each other still lasted. Behind my shut door a radio started broadcasting “Aum senruke” series. It was about everlasting love, rejection of wrath and the way one chose. Еvery Thursday, late in the evening… In half a year the broadcast ceased. Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 47 Flash Fiction FUGUE NO. 1 By Simon Kearns SUBJECT Antonia was running. Johan chased her. DEVELOPMENT - Antonia was running along a dried out riverbed. She ran over stones of every size and shape, slipping on drifts of pebbles, skipping rocks, and clambering boulders. Johan trailed her from the air, his eyes running over these stones, and pebbles, and rocks, and boulders. - As Antonia was running, she realised it had always been thus; she ran, Johan chased. Along pried out streams of consciousness, over stories of Atticus Reviewâ”‚Get Lit: Round 1 Page 48 Flash Fiction every size and form, tripping on shifts of meaning, the ticking clocks, the clamouring elders. RECAPITULATION Every time he was just about to catch her, they began again. But roles had been reversed. Johan ruined, Antonia chaste. He would never catch her. She would be forever alone. Tired out. With only reams of stories left, sifted for meaning, stammering, elderly. Antonia was running away from herself. And Johan chased her there. Atticus Reviewâ”‚Get Lit: Round 1 Page 49 Flash Fiction BUG AND DECK JOB By Joseph Gross Steve has a great job. It’s a job where he works for this bug guy, a job where he would just go to a house with some dust or some juice and kill bugs. He makes twelve bucks an hour from the bug guy, whose name is Hank, but the guys all call him the H-Bomb. Twelve. Bucks. An Hour. From March to late fall and then it’s back to The Dole. And it’s hard to get canned. Like one time at a house that was near 3rd and Oak, close to the lake. A brown, ranch style house that don’t look like much at first from the front, then when you go out back you see that the way it’s built on a hill, the first floor is the top of at least three. At this hill house he sprays in the john for ants, where they make him take his damn boots off, and then out for flies. Not one bug on it. While he sprays the juice he sings a Led Zep song, the one where the girl gets drunk all day and won’t be true, and so he don’t hear the H-bomb come up next to him. Steve turns with the wand in his hand, and then the H-Bomb, the juice sprays close to him and he jumps the fuck back like he just got punched in the face. The thing is, Steve wonders what the bug juice might do to him, and he’d been at the H-Bomb for a mask or a shield for weeks and the H-Bomb was all No, that shit’s safe as salt, blah blah blah, but here he is, so tweaked he jumps like a spaz at the thought of the juice on him. You got to keep an eye on that dude, twelve bucks or no. Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 50 Flash Fiction So, when he can, the H-Bomb likes to make a buck or two more with stuff like deck work, like where you wash the mold off and then stain a deck. The H-Bomb can smell a deck that needs washed a town away. He says he talked to the guy who owns this hill house Steve’s at, a guy who flies planes he says, and the guy wants his huge ass deck done. Mold washed and then grey paint. Close to when Steve’s done with the bug juice, Paul and Jay roll up in the work van with all the stuff for the wash job. The guy whose house it is comes out and shakes their hands. One hard shake each. He’s all squarejawed and his hair gelled up. He’s got a pair of gold wings pinned on his shirt, like the wings they give kids on a plane, only big. And I know you guys will watch the lawn, right? he says with this big white grin. By this, Steve knows he means the guy thinks they might fuck up the grass. When the guy goes back in, they start to call him Wings. Wings says watch that lawn, they say and laugh when the thick green soap spills out onto it. They wait a day or two for the deck to dry out and then Steve rides in the van with Paul and Jay to do the paint. The van is great with how big it is and the way no one can see you in the back. So Steve and the guys smoke a joint back there, parked on Wings’ white new drive. They blow the smoke into clean paint rags. They light up cigs to hide the smell on their hands and breath. They wear shades. The paint cans come out the rear doors, a brush for each guy, tarps. It’s cold out still from the night and the guys go to look at the deck, to see if there’s dew on it that needs to dry. The deck is fine, but they’re baked now and they don’t want to start so they say, Yeah, there’s some dew there by the house still, and Paul says he wants a Coke. A Coke seems good, and you can’t paint a deck with dew on it still, so they go back to the van, shades on, and get in. Jay sings, On the wings of love, la la la la and they laugh as Jay starts to back the van out and there is this bump and a loud crunch and Steve knows Fuck, it’s the paint. Jay throws the van in Park and they jump out and see two full cans of paint spread out in pools like grey brains on the drive. Atticus Review│Get Lit: Round 1 Page 51 About the Authors Hobie Anthony has an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte, NC and writes fiction and poetry in Portland, OR, his latest port of call. His work is in or forthcoming in The Los Angeles Review, Crate, R.kv.r.y., M-Brane SF, Prime Number M, and Prime Mincer, among others. Presently, he is working on poetry and a novel (or two). Barry Basden lives with his wife and two yellow labs in the Texas hill country. His writing has appeared in many fine places. He is coauthor of Crack! and Thump: With a Combat Infantry Officer in World War II and edits Camroc Press Review. The river has stopped flowing through his little hometown. Kevin Catalano's fiction has appeared in PANK, Prick of the Spindle, Emprise Review, Pear Noir!, Metazen, and others. For two consecutive years his stories made the 'Notable' list for StorySouth's Million Writers Award. He was also a finalist in Terrain’s inaugural fiction contest in 2010. Kevin teaches writing at Rutgers-Newark, where he is also pursuing an MFA in fiction. He lives with his wife and daughter in New Jersey. Matthew Dexter lives in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Like the nomadic Pericú natives before him, he survives on a hunter-gatherer subsistence diet of shrimp tacos, smoked marlin, cold beer, and warm sunshine. John S. Fields recently discovered a passion for writing, and has had fiction published in Full of Crow, The Camel Saloon, Atticus Review, Conceit Magazine, and Enigma Magazine. John receives encouragement from his lovely wife, and enjoys playful interruptions from their two rowdy boys. Carl James Grindley grew up on an island off the West Coast of Canada, and studied in the US and Europe. He has taught creative writing at Yale University, and works at The City University of New York. Three of his novellas were published in 2008 by No Record Press under the name Icon. He has upcoming work in A Bad Penny Review, Eunoia Review, and Anastomoo. The author would like to thank The City University of New York's Research Foundation for its generous support. Joseph Gross holds a Master of Fine Arts from Western Michigan University. His stories, essays, and poems have appeared in a variety of national journals, including Alaska Quarterly Review, Fourth Genre, Mid-American Review, and Redivider. With his wife and two young children, he lives in Kalamazoo, MI. He likes bikes, guitars, and quality beer. John Oliver Hodges lives in New York. An adventurer since birth, he seeks out uncomfortable situations in which his life is put in danger. His works in writing and photography have appeared widely. His novella, War of the Crazies, was released this year from Main Street Rag. Rachel Howell grew up in Nashville and is now a reluctant Texan living in Austin, a city she loves in the six months that aren't summer. Though she misses rain and green things, she finds a certain beauty in the desert-like aspects of the landscape, and could not have written this story without it. Rachel received her MFA from Queens University of Charlotte where she began a novel that she will someday finish. This is her first publication. Gregg Hubbard lives in Nashville, Tennessee—or that's where his bills go, at least. A full-time musician and sometime teacher, his writing can be found in print and on the radio. He still has four years of college football eligibility. Simon Kearns grew up in the North of Ireland and currently lives in the South of France. His debut novel, Virtual Assassin, explores personal responsibility in a corrupt society. His next will be published in Spring 2012. He enjoys flash fiction as a means of experimentation - examples can be found at spiralise.blogspot.com Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State. His work appears widely in print and also online at such places as Moon Milk Review, Juked, Unlikely 2.0 and also at lenkuntz.blogspot.com. Christopher Linforth is the editor of The Anthem Guide to Short Fiction (Anthem Press, 2011). He also has work published or forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, Notre Dame Review, Permafrost, Camas, and other literary journals. Sarah Malone's fiction has appeared in Open City, The Awl, Interrupture, and Wigleaf, among others, and is forthcoming in Keyhole Magazine, Fwriction Review and elsewhere. She is Editor of UMass Amherst's MFA journal, Route 9and Assistant Director of the Juniper Literary Festival. She blogs at sarahwrotethat.com. Jarred McGinnis is an American living in London. He is Wicked to Mock the Afflicted and a co-founder of The Special Relationship. Valery Petrovskiy is a journalist and short story writer from Russia. He is a Chuvash State University graduate in English and has completed graduate work in journalism at VKSch Higher School, Moscow. He has been writing prose since 2005 and is the author of about 100 short short stories. Some of his prose has been published in The Scrambler, Rusty Typer, BRICKrhetoric, NAP Magazine, Literary Burlesque, The Other Room, Curbside Quotidian, DANSE MACABRE and WidowMoon Press in the USA, and one in Australian Skive Magazine as well. He lives in a remote village in Chuvash Republic, Russia with his elderly mother, dealing mostly through internet as a freelancer at local, national and foreign magazines. Michelle Reale is an academic librarian on Faculty at Arcadia University in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Her work has appeared in a wide variety of venues. Her work tends to focus on the inherent flaws in just about everything. Currently she is working on a collection of prose poems featuring the experiences of North African immigrants into the indifferent society of southeast Sicily, where she has witnessed their struggles first hand. She is currently pursuing Peace Studies. Her short fiction collection, Natural Habitat was published by Burning River in 2010. Susan Rukeyser had laser tattoo removal and, yes, it’s that bad. Her current home is the American South but she’s only half-American and not particularly Southern. She earned her MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, UK. She’s the author of the as-yet-unpublished novel Not On Fire, Only Dying. Her short work appears in PANK, Eclectic Flash, Short, Fast and Deadly, Ink, Sweat and Tears and others. She does her best to explain herself at susanrukeyser.com. Meg Sefton's work has recently appeared in Best New Writing, The Dos Passos Review, Dark Sky Magazine, Aminor Magazine, Emprise Review, and other journals. She received an MFA from Seattle Pacific University and lives in Orlando, Florida with her family. Marcus Speh lives in Berlin, Germany. He blogs at marcusspeh.com, curates One Thousand Shipwrecked Penguins (speh.tumblr.com) and serves as maitre d’ at the Kaffe in Katmandu (kaffeinkatmandu.tumblr.com). Lauren Tamraz likes her tacos and pit bulls with good bite. Her work appears in >kill author, Metazen, Fix it Broken, Housefire, Thunderclap, Chronogram and others. Her novella, Broken Ocean, is forthcoming from Housefire Books. She lives in NY's mountainous Hudson Valley where she edits awostingalchemy.com. Foster Trecost started writing in Italy and he still writes, but now from Philadelphia. Sometimes he works paying jobs that involve corporate taxes. When he’s not doing that, he usually goes back to Europe. Martha Williams is a mother, a scientist, and a writer. She lives in a small house by the sea, where she spends her days chasing children and catching stories. Her fiction appears in Writers’ Forum Magazine, The Linnet’s Wings,Metazen, The Pygmy Giant,Camroc Press Review, Blip,Thunderclap! and others. Martha blogs at marthawilliams.org and tweets as @martha_williams. Photo/Art Sources FDR on Overcoming Adversity: LAist Things Worth Saving: DieselCrew Before the Bloodbath: A Catholic Notebook The God of Unknowable Reasons: Dina at Vagabond Quest Cooler by the Lake: Starts With a Bang! Dear Id: Highlight Health Naked: Aawaken Everyoneâ€™s Gone to the Moon: Solar Views Where the Dust Went: 10 Block Walk Robesh Contemplates Life Outside the Market: Bridge and Tunnel Club A Woman Rides a Train: Public Domain Oven: Antique Gas Stoves Breathe In: Planet Green Invasive Species: PixBlix Baby Agave: Ground Breaking Tips The Last of the Dragonflies: Marijuana Lies The Bad That Can Happen the Day Jesus Rose From the Dead: Mamazen Shoelaces: edu.ms Paper Lungs: Public Domain Citric Acid for Borsch: Lose Weight Fast Fugue No. 1: Coactivate Bug and Deck Job: WKZO