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(SHORT) FICTION COLLECTIVE

PUSHCART PRIZE NOMINEES 2011


(Short) Fiction Collective is an online literary journal based in New York striving to publish the best fiction from new and seasoned authors around the world. Started in May 2010, (S)FC wants to foster an environment where the quality of writing is the most important thing.

PATRICK TROTTI - EDITOR WWW.FICTIONCOLLECTIVE.BLOGSPOT.COM Â

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TABLE OF CONTENTS "when i was still young, and when you still weren't, and our father was already dead" by xTx PAGE 4

"Courtship: Five Micros" by Sheldon Lee Compton PAGE 6

"You Should Have Built Tall, You Should Have Built Wide" by Jenny Holden PAGE 8

"Quitting Is Easy" by Nathaniel Tower PAGE 10

"untitled" by Evan Swenson PAGE 15

"Me and Jack" by Sarah Leslie PAGE 17    

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"when i was still young, and when you still weren't, and our father was already dead" by xTx PUBLISHED MARCH 22, 2011

I got the fallout, like how a movie theater floor receives lost popcorn. Every chance you had; a kick to the thigh, slap to the head; kid shit. Brother shit. At the corner store I’d want a pack of Bubble Yum and you’d want a Marathon Bar. Dad would never give you more money than what was needed and even though you had the newspaper job and a real wallet for the money you made, somehow wanting some fucking Bubble Yum turned into an ordeal made easier for you by our unfair sizes. You’d twist the rectangle out of my hand; your hand a mutton chop choking my wrist.

At night I’d pray for God to make me catch up to you quick. The stories I’d swim in my head as I suffered through your snoring were of me bigger than you, twisting your wrists and making you put back your Marathon Bars.

At six, I didn’t really know who the real enemy was. But if I did, the stories would’ve been different - the prayers too. The adult me chokes on the I’m sorry’s I still haven’t said. But what do six year old boys know when all they can’t see past is the torment of an older brother; a shield.

The day we buried dad we were wearing black. The shoes hurt my feet but I didn’t

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say anything. Nobody was saying anything. You made me keep my hair fixed nice while yours hung long over your eyes. Dad would’ve been mad and called you a ‘little faggot’ again but you still wouldn’t have cut it, even if it might’ve made a difference, which it wouldn’t have. Even if you might’ve cared, but you didn’t.

After all the praying and talking were finished, people lined up to put a flower on the casket. We were last because I guess sons’ flowers should be on top, like it meant something. You lobbed your flower lazy and then tossed a handful of pocket change like you were feeding a beggar’s palm. The flowers scattered like scared ducks with the weight of the metal. A few fell to the ground and I wanted to cry right then, but I didn’t because I knew if dad were watching he’d call me a faggot too. Instead, I bent down to pick them up, adding to the one clenched tight in my fist. I saw your shoe kick the grass and then walk away.

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“Courtship: Five Micros� by Sheldon Lee Compton Published May 3, 2011

The Old Roses The old roses came from Ma Trent. The velvet rose I can't remember, but it's a rare one. Maybe he brought it the day he first came to visit with the silly hat, the day my brother said he seemed nice for a guy with big ears.

Tell Me About Her Hazel Eyes They changed the way you know eyes that color will. Blue, green, blue, green. And it all depended on things like the sunlight or a cold room. Brown even, sometimes. Not often, though. Brown depended on my doing something stupid, and I'm a quick study.

Five Four children are left. One is dead. He could not be any more dead. And he made it through the war only to come back and die alone in a strange room. But they remember him the day he left for Korea. "You see this hand? This hand and the rest of me will look the same the next time you see me." That's what the fifth, the second oldest, said before he left for overseas. And she still sees him the day he came back, his hair cut perfect so that every black strand curved across his head like a halo bending in the darkness.

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Like a Fairy Tale He's a nice guy for somebody with big ears and that dandy hat sitting on his head like a rooster. She tossed a soapy dish towel at him. Don't say things like that, Son. But he was nice and the hat was a bad one. Maybe their first morning together it would call them awake and then just flop away forever after.

In the Dark Poppy called me his baby and it embarrassed me then, but now I can see how sweet it was for him to do that. So we'd go to the porch for privacy and have coffee. Out there with him, my dress pulled tight at my knees, we couldn't see too far from the porch, it being well past dusk and full dark. But neither of us tried very hard, either. And good for us, knowing now everything yet out of sight.

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"You Should Have Built Tall, You Should Have Built Wide" by Jenny Holden Published May 31, 2011

I am leaving now. This is in spite of many things. The early sun by the food slab, which warms my carapace, so that were anyone to touch me they would recoil. The tender exposure of my neck, which I rest sometimes on the ground, hearing bird noise. The likely acquaintance of fools and spiders, out there. Practicalities: the grass which tickles where I have not flattened it, and the fence, my whole world. It is taller than me, but not much. If I wait a little, I will have some movement. I think up, up, and manipulate the air, tread it beneath me. You think I move like a wind-up drunkard, with risible precision, but you are wrong. It is deliberate. I show consideration in all things. Your seas are full of mavericks without shells and I wouldn't be a wheeling bird for all your world. I have toes, and they make contact with wood. We make an unnatural triangle. Pointing upwards I see the sky for the first time, though I am not young. It is close over my head, and empty of its rain. I used to shelter under the lip of the fence, but now I balance on top, tipping this way and that like scales, my stupid legs dangling either side. A piece of kit, the inner workings of machinery; no one should witness this. I am ridiculous to you, but not to myself. The technical sketches, a few bits of ply – you built me a Heath Robinson shambles to live in. Your god, meanwhile, stuck me in a nutshell, and riles me to this day. I side with you, with your can-do attitude. You feed me dandelion leaves; I eat them from your hand; this looks like

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camaraderie. I'd bite you if I could, instead I clamp my dinosaur jaws about your two fingers. You feel my tongue. We are at an impasse. When you are gone I still feel those fingers in my mouth, though they have transformed into half a cucumber slice, which goes down wetly. I am a layman's idea of indecision, pedalling air. There is a moment of catastrophe. Like all things, it passes. A new phase moves into position, and sticks: I am on new concrete. I leave my boxed life behind me; you can burn your planks and buy a mutt. I find it difficult to walk – a siren, the sound of brakes. I will rest a moment here, in my own darkness. If I could, I'd smash you; if only you knew.

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"Quitting Is Easy" by Nathaniel Tower Published August 29, 2011

I took up smoking just to show the world how easy it was to quit. It’s been five months now, and my wife is wondering why I haven’t yet.

“It takes time baby. I have to develop the addiction first,” I tell her.

“Please stop,” she begs me. “It’s so gross I don’t even want to kiss you anymore.”

I can verify this statement. I’m not sure when the last time we shared a good passionate kiss, the kind where we slap our tongues around the other’s mouth.

“Look, I’ll quit soon. I just need to make sure that I’m addicted. Otherwise it’s too easy to quit and I won’t have proven my point.”

“And exactly who are you proving this point to again?” she asks with a roll of her beautiful green eyes. It looks like sea foam bouncing around on flawless shores. For a moment I think about quitting just so I can kiss her, but my willpower is too strong. I can’t give into temptation.

“Honey, this is our ticket to millions,” I plead with her as I reach for the carton of cigarettes on top of the fridge. 10


“And how is that exactly?”

I have to pause here. I don’t always think through exactly where I am headed with something, but I’m always convinced that I’ll get to where I want to go. Nothing comes to me, and I don’t want to seem like I’m racking my brain too much, so I just go with my gut.

“Don’t worry about it. You’ll see it when it happens. I can’t give away all my secrets.” I am tempted to go on a little longer, but any more than that and she will know for sure I’m stalling.

“You’re stalling,” she says.

I light my cigarette and take a deep drag.

“Hey, I told you not to do that in the house. Get the hell out of here with that. Do you want the walls and furniture to turn yellow?” She waves her arms frantically in the air as if to ward off some evil.

“Relax, I’ll put it out.” I put it out just to show her how easy it’s going to be for me to quit. My hand almost immediately begins to shake. 11


“I want you to stop by the end of the week. Stop or I’m leaving you.” The sea foam is gone from her eyes. They’re acidic now.

“Hey, look how easy it was for me to put that out.” I put my shaking hand behind my back. “Look, I think the addiction has just about fully kicked in.” I wrap my arms around her to show what a great husband I am. “I’ve never been addicted to anything after just one time.”

Oops. She immediately pulls out of my grip and shoots me a death stare. I can feel her eyes burn though me. The look is almost as bad as the need for a cigarette. I know what she wants me to say, but saying it now will only make her appear to be happy. It’s one of her many tricks. She makes me say something because she’s angry, then she pretends to be happy, but I can sense that she is even more upset because she thinks I only said it because she wanted me to say it, which is apparently worse than not saying it at all.

“I’m going shopping,” she says to interrupt my thoughts. I don’t bother to tell her what she wants to hear. I’m just thankful that she’s getting out of the house. My veins feel like they’ll collapse if I don’t get some nicotine in my system right away.

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“Alrighty, babe. Need me to do anything while you’re gone?”

“Yeah. Just one thing. Don’t smoke.”

“Fine. I won’t smoke. I’ll just throw everything I’ve started away.”

“Good. Throw that damn carton away while you’re at it.” She turns on her heel and marches for the front door without bothering to tell me where she’s going or when she’ll return. I know I’m supposed to ask, but I know she won’t tell me when I do. Either way she’ll be mad, so I might as well just save face. I don’t want to look weak in front of the cigarettes.

I hear the door slam and my shaking hand immediately reaches for the carton. I have to be honest here. The cigarettes took their full affect about two months ago. It’s been like a disease ever since. If Amy knew how many cartons I was plowing through then she would at least take away my credit cards and kick me in the balls. Amy would never divorce me, for any reason. Her parents divorced when she was a teenager, and she despises divorce more than anything, even more than smoking. Still, I’m not going to tempt her too much, so I grab a pack out of the carton and head for the backyard. She’ll know I was smoking, but at least if I do it back here then she’ll pretend she doesn’t know. She won’t even act pissy or give the impression that she thinks I’m hiding something. As long as it doesn’t seem to 13


affect her, she really doesn’t mind.

I light the cigarette before I even get outside. I wait until the door is halfway closed before I take my first puff. It’s an instant feeling of relief. I may have become addicted to sex a lot quicker, but the rush of smoke into my lungs and veins defeats any orgasm I’ve ever had. I always used to wonder why people smoked. Now I wonder how anyone can give it up.

I sit on the deck and puff my brains out, one cigarette after another, until the whole pack is gone. I don’t think about much while I inhale, just about how I might actually quit and if I really could become a millionaire based on my experience. I’m sure I could write a book about it. Or at least a blog. People would want to hear all about how I did it. Quitting really could make me millions.

But then again, what’s millions compared to this rush?

I bury the cigarettes in the backyard like a dog before my wife comes home. I know I’ll be looking for them tonight.

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"untitled" by Evan Swenson Published September 19, 2011

...dead footprints trail off in every direction. The sensation of liberation fades just as quickly as it came. The sun is down, the tide is low, and the course of this road is fixed. I walk on, indefinitely, toward new arms, new lips, new streets and sensations, yet I can’t help but feel that the soul and substance of these things will have been recycled from all that I’ve left and am leaving.

There occurs, with every rising thought, the subsequent death of something undefinable, unrecognizable, but infinitely vital. It has something to do with the soul, as though little pieces of it were being broken off until finally it has become a veritable vacuum, consuming all--the self included--and destroying. Given this fixation upon endings, that is to say, death, I can give only uneasy speculation that my soul has been lost and drained and there remains nothing but the roots of a suicidal being, securing their places even further within, tightening their grips with every empty thought and wasted experience.

The dream burns...the rocks are tall, worn, glossed over with the lush moisture of the tide. On the lip of the ocean, among the faded ships coasting lazily atop the horizon, the presence of fire and flame makes itself felt as the bloodied sun sinks down with the tragic brilliance of a fallen soldier. The waters, though calm and composed in themselves, hand the sky a reflection of pure, unfiltered chaos as the 15


bold colors massacre the serene surface like words of hate or war or vengeance, massacre the neutral face of a sheet of paper.

Somewhere something makes a noise and the noise fades. In the distance, an old man walks slowly along the shore, his hands clasped lazily behind his waist. With nowhere to go and nothing left to say, I close my eyes and wait patiently for something to begin.

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"Me and Jack" by Sarah Leslie Published May 10, 2011

We were the only two who could ever get into your head. Jack convinced you I manipulated you. But all he ever did was flush away reason and stir up a rage.

It was never easy to pick between the two of us. You and Jack went way back. You were long time friends who practically grew up together. I, on the other hand, only recently walked into your life.

It was rare for me to have you all to myself. You always insisted on having Jack come along. We shared you equally in the beginning, but it didn’t take long for you to pick Jack over me.

Tonight is nothing out of the norm. I’m on the sidelines, watching you and Jack roll on and on together. “Babe, what are you doing? Don’t go to bed yet,” you slur as I’m leaving the room, waving Jack’s arm in the air like he’d just won a big race.

I wave you off and leave on my own. Because by the end of the night you’ll run out of JD and I’ll still be there picking up what remains.

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(Short) Fiction Collective Pushcart 2011  

Showcasing the work of six authors published on the lit. journal's website that were nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

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