Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Satisfying Afternoon

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.

She won the award for best tattoos. She always wanted bigger breasts. Now she had them, albeit on her back. She saw his reflection in the window, standing behind her, staring. He smelled of savory. Said he was an Italian oil baron, never looked at her face. Asked if she wanted lunch. He tasted wonderful.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Brothers Forever

The stench grew stronger as I approached the rusted utility cart filled with mangled bicycles. The wagon and its contents stood as a monument to the four members of the Crescent Valley Mountain Bike Club, my brother among them, who died ten years and three days ago when Clarence Bonnell drove his Jeep into a pack of riders.

The judge dismissed the DWI and murder charges on a technicality. Clarence left Harriston the next day. He returned last week to attend his mother's funeral.

Blinking away the memory, I followed the scent up to the shrine and looked into the mound of disfigured metal. Amongst the rusted spokes, chains, and crossbars, I saw the silver glint of a watchband. I reached down and lifted one of the frames. The bodies of Clarence and his brother-in-law/lawyer, Franklin Demming, III, were still recognizable, as were the single bullet holes in each forehead. I inhaled the aroma of their putrefied corpses and held my breath. I hadn't smelled anything as sweet in ten years and three days.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

I Can't Win

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold. 

My sister poisoned my relationship with Father. She baked Biscotti Toscani, served it with his favorite liquid pleasure. I struggled with the rigatoni. I knitted him a sweater and studied history. I wore dresses similar to mom's. One day he told me to stop. "My god, you have a penis!"

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Family Business (warning: language)

First published at Grift Magazine.

Two pairs of eyebrows jerked skyward when the gun went off.

“Shit,” Howard said, “I only meant to scare you.” He lowered Donnie to the stained mattress. “Why’d you have to go grab for the gun?”

“It hurts,” Donnie said.

“It should. You got a damn bullet in your gut.” Howard looked around the one-room pigsty Donnie called home. Dirty dishes filled the sink. Flies hovered over a pizza box spread open on the small table in the corner, a stack of phonebooks and a dowel supporting one corner. “You got any towels?” Donnie pointed to an open door across the room.

Howard hurried to the bathroom, walking like he was barefoot on a carpet of rose bushes. A bath towel lay on the floor. He picked it up. A family of roaches raced behind the cracked sink. Howard dropped the towel and backed out of the bathroom. He returned to Donnie, took off his hoodie, and held it against the wound.

“All you had to do was listen, and this wouldn’t have happened,” Howard wagged his head. “All you had to do was listen.”

“Wasn’t none of your business,” Donnie said. “You should've let us be.”

“My family is my business.”

“You gonna get me some help?” Donnie groaned as he straightened out his legs.

“I gotta think.” Howard sat and leaned against the wall. Worst thing he ever did, buy a gun. It didn’t protect anybody in the end. “All you had to do was walk away and leave my daughter alone.” Howard hugged his knees to his chest and stared at the sky through torn curtains.

He saw himself as a young boy, in the apartment with his mom and five siblings. He remembered the day Mr. Hodgins calmly answered his questions as the neighborhood electrician fixed a short in the plug for the refrigerator. Howard was seventeen, and old man Hodgins asked him if he’d like to earn some money. Howard worked for the man for ten years before Mr. Hodgins sold the business to Howard. 

Now he had a wife and two kids of his own. He was a respected businessman and an elder in his church. He couldn’t lose all that over a stupid punk. He put his head in his hands and thought about his options.

“I can't believe Francine kept your relationship a secret from me.”

“She was afraid you’d find out, because. . . Well, you know.” Donny stared at the blood then lifted his head. “It doesn’t hurt as much, but I still need to get to a hospital.”

Howard inhaled the fetid air and ran a hand over his bald head. He took in a deep breath and blew it out through tense lips. He knew this neighborhood. Nobody ever saw anything.

“Okay, I know what we’re gonna do.” Howard heard the life wheezing out of the boy’s body. “We're gonna sit and wait.”

Sunday, February 12, 2012

On a Dare

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.

Josh attended a magnet school before losing his sight. The radio contest sounded like fun -- a saltwater swim wearing a goofy costume. He chose orange feathers and Madonna mask. The locals stayed away. They were aware of all the pollutants that had killed the area. A star student once, now Josh couldn’t read a blind ad.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Saving Cletus Brockton

First published at Powder Burn Flash

The phone startled Edward. He laid his book on the end table and placed his pipe in the cereal bowl.


"Is this Edward Hairston, the attorney?"

"Retired attorney." Edward sat forward in his chair. "Is this another one of those telemarketer calls?"

"My name is Billy Gilbert. Moose Mankowski gave me your name. Said I could call you the next time I was in trouble."

"The next time?" Edward's eyebrows tightened, wrinkles outlined a V on his forehead.

"I've had a string of bad luck."

Edward heard a sniff on the other end of the line and imagined a man wiping a tattooed arm across his nose.

"Anyway, Moose told me you got him out of a sticky spot."

"What did you say your name was?"

"Billy Gilbert."

"Well, Billy Gilbert, I have an appointment in--"

"Wait. Don't hang up. I only get one call."

Edward placed the tip of his middle finger to his forehead and began massaging in tiny circles.

"I got arrested, but I didn't take the wallet. I found it."

Edward rubbed faster.

"I can't help you, sir," Edward said. "Like I stated, I'm retired."

"According to Moose, you're a damn good lawyer."

Moose. The curse that wouldn't go away. Edward fell back in his chair and lowered his hand. "What did you say?"

"Sorry. I was talking to the guard. He said I need to get off the phone. I told him to go screw himself. I have rights."

Edward shook his head. He'd had big plans when he applied for law school. Plans that didn't include guys named Moose and Billy.

"So when can you get here to bail me out?"

"Bail you out? How about April Fool's Day?"

"This ain't a joke, Ed? I got a party to go to."

"Well, Billy, I think you're going to miss the party."

"But Moose said--."

"Moose was wrong."

Edward loosened his grip on the phone, sensing the conversation was about to end.

"Do you live near Dallas, Edward?"

"Yes. Near there."

"I knew your name sounded familiar. You went to Garland High. Right?  Class of '87?"

"Y-e-e-s." Edward didn't like where this was going.

"Still live in your parents' house on Buckingham?"

"Maybe." Edward felt sweat forming on his forehead. He'd returned home after his father passed and his mother moved to the nursing home.

"Bingo. Billy Gilbert is an alias."

"You need to speak up. I can hardly hear you."

"I don't want the guard to hear. My real name is Clete Brockton."

"Name doesn't..." Edward paused. "Cletus? The guy who gave principal Brown a wedgie? The Cletus who wrote my name on a Whoopie cushion and put it on Mrs. Flatston's chair?" Edward remembered his classmate as being 6' 3", 265 pounds, and mean.

"Yep. Ain't this a coincidence?"

Memories of Cletus flashed through Edward's mind, none pleasant. "Yes. A coincidence." His body tensed, and his finger gravitated back to his forehead.

"So now that you know me, you can help me. Right?"

"Why would I want to help you, Cletus?" The pulsing in Edward's forehead returned.

"Well. . .because I'm sorry for what I did, and I'd like to be friends now."

"Huh. Friends. Let me think about that." Edward counted to ten before responding. "Remember what you just said to the guard, Cletus?"

"You mean to go screw himself?"

"Yes, that." Edward sat up, spine stiff. "And I say to you ditto."

"Come on, Eddie. Can't you help an old friend just this once?"


"I could pay you back--with interest."

"If you have money, why did you steal the wallet?"

"I told you I found it."

"Okay, why did you "find" the wallet if you have money?"

"Well, I don't exactly have the money at the moment, but I can get it no problem."

Edward shook his head and let if flop forward into his palm. He supposed he could be wrong about Cletus, but he doubted it.

"You still there? The guard's threatening to zap me if I don't hang up the phone."

"Tell the guard I'm thinking." Edward heard Cletus say something and a long time smoker's voice reply.

"He said one minute."

Edward made mental lists of the pros and cons of helping Cletus. Neither was very long. He inhaled a deep breath, and by the time it oozed out, he knew the best thing he could do to save his former classmate. He hung up the phone.

Jim discovered flash fiction in 2007, and he’s read, written, studied, and agonized over the form since. His recent stories have appeared in Flashshot, A Twist of Noir, The Short Humour Site, Dew on the Kudzu, and others. Jim's Six Questions For blog ( provides editors and publishers a place to “tell it like it is.”

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Family Affair

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.

George retired and took up glassblowing. Ellen considered it a waste of time and money. Now, a year later, he sat in traffic with other cars and vans heading to the hobby show. His latest creation was on the seat, wrapped in cellophane and newspaper. The little bone chips in the glass were Ellen's contribution.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

No Regrets

First appeared in The Houston Literary Review (no longer publishing)

I had dreams once. I was going to be a famous model. The day after high school graduation, I bought a bus ticket to New York City with the money I earned at Cubby’s Diner. The town folk wished me luck. Mom gave me a big hug. Dad said I was a fool.

I bought a paper at the first newsstand I came to and answered every modeling ad. Nobody commented on my big smile, my perfect teeth, or my short, spiky, blonde hair. Instead, they said I was too tall, too short, too fat, too skinny, and that I needed surgery to make my boobs smaller. Smaller? The folks back home would’ve been outraged to hear such talk.

At the end of the week, I got a waitressing job in a bistro in the West Village. Like at Cubby’s, it didn’t pay much, the tips sucked, and I got my butt pinched or slapped at least five times every shift. Still, I earned enough to pay for my share of the flat I rented with Claire, another model-to-be I met at my first interview.

I wasted a year of my life before I realized I wasn’t going to be a model. I got back on the bus and headed home to West Virginia. Mom gave me a teary hug this time. Dad sat in front of the TV and mumbled a ‘knew you’d be back’ without missing a word of the news.

I sat in the tire swing in the back yard, facing away from the house, and cried every afternoon that first week. Saturday night I decided it was time to forget about modeling. I put on my little black dress and headed to Melvin’s for a drink. That’s when me and Richard got back together.

We’d dated our junior year until the night of the prom. He wanted me to have sex with him. I said no. This time, after two Bud Lights, when he asked if I wanted to have sex, I said sure. That was four babies ago.

I don’t regret having them. They make me complete. I don’t regret not being a model. It was just a dream. I don’t regret becoming the one person I said I never would be -- my mother. Most of all, I don’t regret that Richard’s nothing like my father.