Bright Flash Literary Review

Artwork courtesy Joanne Sala. All rights reserved.

Welcome to Bright Flash Literary Review, an online literary journal.

Submission guidelines: Flash fiction (50-word minimum), fiction, and memoir will be considered. 1500 word maximum for all submissions. Simultaneous submissions are permitted. Please notify us ASAP if your work is accepted elsewhere. 

Please include a brief (200 words or fewer) third-person bio. SUBMISSIONS WITHOUT BIOS (add at the end of your piece on Submittable or use Duosuma’s designated space) will be declined.

No page numbers or headers. 

Translations not accepted.

Submit only one piece at a time and wait for a response before submitting again. 

Average response time is 30 days. If you have not heard from us in more than 60 days, feel free to follow-up.

If your work is accepted, Bright Flash Literary Review obtains first Northern American rights. All rights revert back to the author upon publication. Writers are strongly advised to honor other publication’s guidelines concerning previously published work. If your piece is accepted by another journal after publication in Bright Flash Literary Review, please ask for first publication attribution to BFLR.

If your story is accepted, please wait six months before submitting again.

If your work is declined, please wait 30 days before submitting again.

Repeated violations of our guidelines may result in being blocked from our site. We accept submissions from writers 18 years of age or older.

We are a non-paying market, but also do not charge submission fees.

Submit below through Submittable or Duosuma. E-mail submissions are not accepted. New stories are posted at the beginning of each month.

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Run, Before Darkness Becomes Deadly

By John E. Davis

On your nineteenth birthday, you look behind you as you board the Greyhound for Nashville. Pete, your no-good ex, has dogged your every move since he escaped last month. He threatened you before, usually when he was drunk, but this time he was stone sober, and you know he meant it. Your only chance is to run. Where, you are not sure, but you have to get away and the only bus out of town tonight is headed east. 

You drop into a seat in the rear and sink below the window opening. The seat smells of disinfectant and the odor of an estate sale closet. If Pete follows you, he will surely make a scene or, depending on his drinking, maybe do something worse. 

He was not always this way, not always a bullying drunk, not always a drug abuser, nor was his temper out of control. Something happened on his last tour in Afghanistan, something he tries to block, wants to forget, or to deny it is now a part of him. His pained expression reveals it must be something awful, something he will not talk about, something so personal he keeps it private either out of shame or fear of the consequences. 

You see your suitcase tossed in the bay as the cargo door closes. Your back aches and nausea has stolen your strength. You must leave now or else. The time on your cell phone shows the bus departure is twenty minutes late. You raise your head just enough to see outside. An inbound bus maneuvers into the unloading area next to yours. The air breaks hiss and the rumble of the engine stops. Passengers stand to gather their bags and backpacks when you see an attendant rush out from the terminal to stop them from exiting. 

Your memory of Pete’s past behavior tells you this can’t be good. 

A bus driver lumbers through the terminal doors. He is holding a clipboard. His body bounces like a bag of under-filled water balloons sloshing as he hurries to your coach. The too-many-truck-stop meatloaf and gravy dinners show as the bus tilts when he pulls himself up the steps. 

“We got a Margo Leoni on board?” he asked. His voice booms over the intercom. You sink lower into the seat. Your first impulse is to hide, act as if you are not there. Your second is to worry if it is an emergency? 

Your parents were not keen on Pete to start with and neither were your brothers. They all live together on the farm twelve miles south of the municipal water plant on county road H. You know they’re well-armed and not afraid to use force if need be—but, what if Pete did something to them? 

Thoughts of what might happen swirl inside your head at a dizzying pace. What if Pete went there looking for you. Or worse–what if he did something to your family, what if they tried to stop him from finding you? They are the only ones that know you are leaving. They swore they wouldn’t tell–but what if? Uncertainty tingles up your body like a viper stalking a bunny in the weeds. Perspiration spots the armpits of your sundress. The narrow shoulder straps feel like wire ropes binding you to the seat. 

“Manifest shows they’s a Margo Leoni on this bus,” the driver calls out again. “They want you at the service counter.” 

Passengers turn to see if anyone answers. They seem to be looking at you. You shift your body and pull your hemline to hide the purple bruises on your legs. You swallow hard and clench your fists to keep your trembling hands from showing your fear. Your heartbeat pounds in your ears, your eyes burn from exhaust fumes and the choking scent of the rose perfume worn by the elderly woman seated in front of you. You gag and cough to keep from vomiting. 

“I’m Margo.” The words just slipped out. You can’t believe you admitted it and at the same time, you wished you hadn’t. Your planned anonymity, your ticket out of town, and maybe your life are now on the line. 

“Come with me, Miss.” The driver motions for you to follow him as he bounces down the steps. You feel the glare of curious passengers watching you, even the graham-cracker-crumb covered fingers of the blue-eyed toddler in the second row point at you. The all-knowing gesture from the gray haired man in the first row nods as if giving assurance that you did the right thing. Hell, you don’t even know what the right thing is. Would it have been better to stay hidden, or to get off the bus and face possible death from a deranged ex-husband, or maybe you will find out your family has been murdered? None of these sound like the right thing to do. 

Red flashing lights reflect urgency on the terminal departure screen above the ticket counter. The terminal agent crouched behind it watches as you pass. Two police cars on the sidewalk block the entrance as a SWAT team scrambles from the back of an armored vehicle. 

“Quick, over here.” A uniformed officer frantically fanning his hand for you to hurry to the men’s restroom door. “Duck and run for cover,” he whispers. 

You duck, put your hands on top of your head and dive for the open doorway as gunshots ring out. The departure screen above you shatters. Pieces of glass fly across your body like a shower of hailstones. You scream as you land on you belly on the restroom floor. The lights go off–the bus terminal in total darkness. Footsteps crunch over the glass. A firm hand grabs your arm, in your mind you know Pete has kept his promised—he’s here. 

                                                   *   *   *

Books by John E. Davis have received starred reviews on Amazon and Kindle. He is a long-time member of The Writer’s Bloc in Johnson County, Kansas, where he resides with his wife and children. Before becoming a writer, he earned a graduate degree in business from Rockhurst University and received certificates in writing from Wesleyan University.

His stories have appeared in Best Times Magazine, The Benton County Guide, The Missouri Poetry Society, and in several anthologies. If you want to know more, please visit; https://www.amazon.com/John-E-Davis/e/B07MZ9GG7B for information on his next release.

LINGUIST

By Chila Woychik

I’m ripping down the interstate in my grunty fifteen-year-old Audi, watching for speed traps. I’m not going that fast, but faster than what the signs along this stretch allow. It doesn’t take long to get to 70 in this car, then an extra ten or fifteen on top of that is nothing short of necessity. A sort of synth sound plays on the radio, a steady beat and a vocal or two. I turn it up. 

A car pulls up next to me and hangs, like it either wants to race or it’s reached the speed limit and simply wants to hang. I nose forward, let off the gas a little; he catches up. I nose forward again. The synth beat continues, blares. I feel hot and nervous. I am the mechanism and the mechanism is me; who cares what happens next? 

“What the f—” It was Shane, my passenger.

I interrupted him. “Do you even know how that word came about?”

“What?” He chokes the question out with a sort of straggling sound.

I pause, then put it another way. “I said, do you even know what you’re saying?”

Impatience. “Why the hell should I care?” Shane continued. “Don’t you see that idiot beside us? He’s way too close for comfort. Speed up and lose him.” 

“Do you realize it probably had its origin in the Middle Ages?” 

I could see Shane out of the corner of my eye. He turned my way and stared, lips slightly parted and a fiery disgust in his eyes. I went on.

“True fact, Shane. Of course, my guess was that ‘fecundity’ may have come into play—heh heh—the word, if not the act, but it doesn’t seem so.”

More incredulity, and hot stares.  I felt them focused on my temple. He finally spoke again. “What, are you some kind of word nerd now?”

“Linguist.”

A head shake. “What?”

“Linguistics. The study of words, basically. I find it fascinating,” I admitted, without a trace of shame.

“You see, one morning I woke up and thought, out of the blue, that I should demystify what happens to be your favorite word in the entire English language. Maybe I could use it as a kind of therapy to help you get over it. It’s like, the only word you ever use, and so I figured maybe it’s an addiction, and if we somehow broke that chain of addiction by impressing on your mind the history of its usage, by association you’d think of other, better, words to use instead. See?”

He didn’t “see.” I could see that. I continued anyway.

“But I needed research first. So I spent several hours that day on the internet looking up everything I could find about its history.” 

“With the advent of Google, Wikipedia, and all-things-accessible-to-the-seeker, research on the f-word has been reduced to an easy task, and with its more accepted use in common society, to a less titillating task. As with so much language development, f*ck is said to have originated in Europe. Though urban legend puts it in league with “Fornication Under Consent of the King,” its somewhat ambiguous history will likely stay ambiguous. Like I tried to explain earlier, when I first thought about its origins, I considered that ‘fecundity’ might have a role, fecundity being ‘fertility.’ But no, I can’t seem to find a link to that at all, though I think it was a good observation on my part.” 

I continued with the lecture and Shane continued staring straight ahead, his mouth slightly parted. “But, you see, the word has changed. It doesn’t always mean copulation like it used to. Now it’s a synonym for ‘damn’ or ‘hell.’ ‘Get that f*cking bike out of my way, when what they would have said several years ago was ‘Get that /damn/ bike out of my way’. Or, ‘What the f*ck are you doing?’ would have been ‘What the /hell/ are you doing?’ We’ve passed through a linguistic shift, a societal transformation in the world of language. It follows closely on the heels of other countries which seem to be consistently more liberal in these areas. And lest I speak more of this and demonstrate my almost-certain ineptitude in the area of societies and linguistics, I’ll stop with that line of reasoning. Though I can’t debate intellectually on this topic, I can observe. Those were observations.”

Shane sat transfixed, his mouth formed as if an “f” were lingering there, lower lip tucked in, top row of teeth riding on it. I kept talking.

“In the meantime, since the word still raises ire, I’ve decided on something. I’ve decided that should I feel the need to use this modern piece of language, these four little letters so easily strung together, in future writing … well, who knows what I’ll do?  I may use a comparable word from generations ago, the Anglo-Saxon ‘swive,’ which may or may not carry a negative connotation with its meaning, ‘to swivel.’ Some researchers say its meaning extended to sexual intercourse, while others insist no such thing. But then, the corniness-factor may be too great with that. How about the English, ‘sodding’? Hmm. Now that’s a possibility. Everything we do involves the use of language, Shane. We can’t sit ignorantly by, our head buried at the beach, hoping to never intelligently address this issue. We must think, which often turns out to be the most offensive word of all.”

“Well, I’ll be fucswivsodthunk!” he blurted.

                                                             *   *   *

Chila Woychik (she/her) is originally from the beautiful land of Bavaria. She has been published in Cimarron, Passages North, and others, and has an essay collection, Singing the Land: A Rural Chronology (Shanti Arts, 2020). She won Storm Cellar’s Flash Majeure Contest and Emry’s Linda Julian Creative Nonfiction Award. She currently splits her time between tending her sheep in Iowa and avoiding the snakes and gators of Georgia. http://www.chilawoychik.com

To Give Comfort

By Chris Pais

The nurse left work at five o’clock. While this might seem like the most pedestrian of occurrences, it was five in the morning. She got into her car and drove on the interstate towards the sun that was just rising. In a little while, she will be welcomed home by the smell of soiled diapers and the yelping sound of twin toddlers. I’m home, she’ll say and proceed to take off her white nurse outfit, held together lightly by Velcro closures. She’ll hear the familiar crunching, tearing, jarring sound as she rips open her uniform. She’s heard these sounds several times over the course of the night – night after night – and they have come to define her existence. She’ll throw her white stilettos in the corner and hang her fake stethoscope on the coat rack. She’ll get into the shower to wash off her cheap make- up, the pungent perfume and the manifold odors of strangers, and she’ll wonder how it ever got this way. 

Ever since she was a child, she wanted to become a nurse, just like her grandmother. To give comfort – the old lady used to say – is comforting. A few years ago, she married her high school sweetheart. He was honorably discharged, but the stress of three overseas assignments rendered him incapable of holding a job. He took several naps during the day, and often woke up in the middle of the night, dripping with sweat, screaming for help. She was always there to comfort him. He was a good man, she thought, and she loved him. Then, he left. 

The twins soon came along, and she dropped out of nursing school to support the family. After working the cash register for three weeks at the local super-market, she realized that the wages were just not sufficient to support a family and save for nursing school. Her friend told her about this place off the interstate where she could make a decent living serving drinks. She learned quickly that she could make more money if she showed more skin. There was even more money to be made if she chose to dress herself in uniform – schoolgirl, nurse, soldier, pilot – and cater to the voyeuristic tendencies and quaint desires of her customers, peeling off layer after layer of clothing over the course of the night. Of course, she chose to be a nurse. 

Who are these people who come to these establishments, she thought? There were married men in business suits, itinerant truck drivers with callused hands, college boys with acne, laid-off union workers, immigrant farmhands, the odd hobbling septuagenarian, and the occasional couple on an experimental binge. She wondered if they were there for love, or for comfort. Were they there to immerse themselves in service of a fantasy, to bathe in the presence of beauty and danger, to confirm they were still alive, or for the loud music and the cheap bar-food? Talking to them made her realize that they were there for some of these and many other reasons, but mostly for the comfort. 

Each night as she put on her outfit and wrapped her stethoscope around her neck, her dream of becoming a nurse seemed more and more distant. Why am I here and what am I doing, she thought. Did I choose the right profession? She did not hate the men that seemed to claw at her with their pungent breath all over her body. She often felt nothing and sometimes felt pity towards her steady clients who clearly found comfort in her company. As she drove into the distance towards home through slumbering small towns that were slowly waking up to dawn, she wondered if there was any truth anymore in what her grandmother used to say. 

To give comfort is comforting. Really? 

                                                   *   *   *

Chris Pais grew up in India and came to the United States to pursue graduate studies in engineering. His work appears in Poetry India, The International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer, Wingless Dreamer, Wild Roof Journal, The Literary Bohemian, Defunct Magazine, and elsewhere. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area where he works on clean energy technologies and tinkers with bikes, guitars, and recipes.

THIS IS HOW I REMEMBER YOU-

By Lauri Maerov

–In the backyard at dusk with your homemade beer in one hand, the other flipping steaks on the rusty Weber. Pontificating, storytelling, as you grill. Summer heat fierce. Galaxies of fireflies flashing against the stars and Sphinx moths dancing over the dead azaleas. Your best friend Charlie is only half-listening because he’s staring at me, daring me to stare back. He’s boring a hole in my heart with that look. He and I are co-conspirators, liars – hiding our affair from his wife and from you.

Pam sits opposite me, eyes closed, holding another of your beers against her neck, as she listens to the drone of your story. One more requiem for your lost youth. Charlie stands next to you laughing in all the right places – like when you two got arrested for breaking into the Civil War Museum, or the one where ya’ll showed up for wrestling practice barefoot and drunk after hitchhiking from the beach, or the time you swiped an ounce of skunk weed from that football player you hated – and stole his girlfriend too. 

Pam chain smokes as she matches you and Charlie beer for beer. She picks at my famous spinach and strawberry salad with the homemade poppy seed dressing, a recipe cajoled out of your mother after a few whisky sours.  

I’m wearing that short cotton sundress you love, frayed and torn, Carolina Blue faded, but you won’t let me toss it on the rag heap – and you barely notice me in it tonight. I’m nursing a wine spritzer and swatting skeeters, which are immune to the citronella oil you rubbed on me slow and easy like foreplay before they arrived. It felt so good and makes my guilt all the worse.

There is still theoretical magic in this midsummer night. The chance that you and I will make love again, half-drunk, after Charlie and Pam are gone. We could always do that after barbecue and alcohol and the joint that will soon be passed around.  

This is how I remember you: good at the core. Still in love with me even if you take me for granted. Always true, guileless, worthy, reliable – as I regret the inevitable – that you will discover Charlie and me. You will know the truth. And I will lose the baby I’m carrying that you don’t know about yet. The baby I am 95% sure is yours because I have done the math. 

This is only weeks away from the Night of the Supernova, when Pam finds out first, and shows up during dinner, anger popping off like fireworks. She knows exactly when we eat every night: between the 6:30 news and the sitcoms. She hoists a garbage bag over her shoulder filled with everything I’ve given her over the years – every card, piece of jewelry, scarf, sweater, bowl and plate (shattered for good measure). She dumps them on our table, directly on top of the steamed zucchini, salmon and black-eyed pea salad. The dinner I’ve made to tell you about the baby. 

Friendships combust. You sleep in the truck. I miscarry. Pam takes Charlie back. But you and I are done like the trashed azaleas and ruined salmon. All on an Indian summer night. 

This is how I remember us: too young, too stupid to know what we have. Maybe I’m sick of the drinking and don’t know how to make it stop. Maybe I’m afraid to have a baby with you. But I regret every minute of what I did to us. Charlie, other than his bruised good looks, is no match for you. I am all regret because you would have been a superlative father and would have continued to love me, despite taking me for granted, even after I grew blowsy and gray. This is how I remember you: never aging beyond that goodbye summer when our lives stopped, the dream ended.

Now I hear that your second wife has died, that you are already two years a widower, with one child in grad school and the other almost a college professor. Who woulda thunk? as Charlie used to say.

You’ve done well with your financial management business. There you are online in an expensive suit, only partially gray, looking fit, clear-eyed, like maybe you don’t drink any more. You’ve created a small universe, have Facebook friends in four figures. Have you forgiven me, forgotten me? Do you know I am divorced again? Childless. Would you even care?

I have missed you though. I never stopped missing you or measuring anyone I’ve loved since against you. My second husband never stood a chance.

It isn’t too hard to find your email address. I wonder if I should first float a peace flag through an old friend. Test the waters. But no go-between feels necessary for a few short lines. A how-are-you, belated condolence, apology. I’m sorry, always sorry. Just hit send and it’s off into the virtual ethers – gone, no regrets, but with regrets. No expectations and every expectation. Gone into that empty space of waiting. 

                                                                             *   *   *

Lauri Maerov’s award-winning essays and fiction have appeared in Southern Humanities Review, Kalliope, Raleigh Review, Another Chicago Magazine (ACM Fiction Prize winner), PIF, and the online magazine, Marco Polo Arts. Her short stories have also been published in the anthologies, Every Woman Has a Story (Warner Books) and To Unsnare Time’s Warp (Main St. Rag). She is the author of the novel, Copycat (Penguin Signet). Lauri consults as a naming specialist with companies around the world. She lives in Durham, NC and is currently working toward her MFA in Fiction at Queens University of Charlotte.  

Adjusting To The Silence

by Thomas Elson

“Tell me some more about my boys.” His code words for his grandsons.

His daughter stood in the kitchen hearing – but not listening to – her widowed father hunched over the south end of the kitchen table.

He knew what she’d say next, and continued to talk over her voice. “Be careful with that stuff, dad.” He looked at her and smiled while pouring eight blue packets into his coffee mug.

“Go easy on the Equal.” Her tone not unlike that of his mother. 

He rubbed the left side of his jaw and wondered if this was how his own father had felt, and if he had known, then reached for his coffee. 

She heard him sip, pour in two more blue packets, then slurp. She hated his ritual: slurping coffee, stabbing at his vegetarian sausage, then – fork still in – pushing it aside – scraping the plate past the placemat and against her walnut table. 

She heard something else, assumed he dropped his mug. She grabbed a dishrag, rapidly rehearsed her reaction –  Stay calm. He’s eighty-one – then turned toward the table. 

“Dad?” Unable to move, she uttered the family’s  standard response to a problem. “What the hell.”

He had prepared her for this day – ever since his second cancer diagnosis and stomach surgery. And, just as her father had when his own mother died, she forgot it all in an instant. She felt for his pulse, wasn’t sure what, if anything, she felt, and gently pried open his left eye. She knew. She refused to admit it, but she knew. 

Unaware of what her father had done twenty-one years earlier after his mother died, she walked into the garage, opened the car door on the driver’s side, sat, closed the door, and cried. And, as her father had done, she pounded the head restraint on the passenger’s side. Within moments, she was back in the house. She yanked open a kitchen cabinet door, grabbed the checklist he had taped inside. Thought for a moment her spine had buckled.

  1. Call the funeral home. They will make the other calls.
  2. Call my boys.
  3. Call my cousin, Maryanne. She’ll call everyone else in the family.
  4. Call Fr. Mike – my old pastor. You’ve met him.
  5. Call my new pastor.
  6. Pull my medical file so the police know I was well taken care of.
  7. Don’t touch anything until after the hearse leaves.

She will soon learn about the items not on the list: 

  1. How to say, “My dad died.”
  2. How to say it without crying.
  3. Then how to say it without choking
  4. Learn how to accept the “Oh, I’m so sorry” response  whenever she says, “My dad’s dead.”
  5. Learn how not to call or text him about the big events in her life. 
  6. Learn how not to look at her phone to see his daily text, “I love you, Little Bear, and I am very proud of you.”
  7. Learn how not to be angry at him for dying.
  8. Learn how to adjust to the silence he left.

*   *   *

Thomas Elson’s stories appear in numerous venues, including Ellipsis, Cirque, Better Than Starbucks, Bull, Cabinet of Heed, Flash Frontier, El Portal, Ginosko, Short Édition, North Dakota Quarterly, Journal of Expressive Writing, Dead Mule School, Selkie, New Ulster, Lampeter, and Adelaide. He divides his time between Northern California and Western Kansas. 

Forever Touching

By Mel Fawcett

I’ve always been a tactile person –  you should have asked my wife. She used to call me a fiddler, especially in bed. She wasn’t complaining; in fact she usually laughed and told me how pleasant it was. For my part, I couldn’t get enough of her soft curves and amazing silky skin.  

When she became too ill for making love, she said my touching eased the pain. And when she had to go into hospital I stroked the indentions that she had left in our bed. And now that she has gone forever, I find myself trying to stroke the space that she once inhabited.

                              

                                                                     *   *   *

Mel Fawcett lives in London. His stories have appeared in various print and online magazines, including Brilliant Flash Fiction, Scribes Micro, The Nonconformist Magazine, The Pomegranate London, The Drabble, and Microfiction Monday Magazine.

Baby

By Jessica Hwang

Angel is in the middle of changing the baby when the phone rings. She knocks over a can of talcum powder. “Hello?” she says, around the diaper pin clamped between her front teeth. 

Her mother says, “Angel. George died.” And then, “Are you there?”

“What?”

“He had a heart attack, at work. It happened just before lunch and all I keep thinking is he didn’t get to eat the leftover lasagna I packed for him.” The words are clogged, heavy with tears. 

Angel tosses the wipe into the trash can. “I…” 

“I shouldn’t have sprung it on you like that. I just got back from the hospital. He died in the ambulance on the way there. I didn’t even get to…” Her mother’s voice dissolves into muffled crying. 

Angel lifts the baby, bounces her on one hip. “Mom, I’m sorry.” Tiny fingers tug at Angel’s hair, reach for the shiny earring. She tells her mother she’ll check on flights and text the arrival information.

She and Baby go down the hallway. On the bedside table, in a wooden frame, is her ultrasound photograph. Her baby is curled up, a tiny lone alien afloat within the dark galaxy of her womb. The bed is neatly made—the bed where Angel and her husband made a baby, after nearly three years of trying, after Angel had given up and grown weary of railing against God and doctors and fate and her husband and her own body. Against everyone except the one who was to blame, the one who’d long ago irreparably damaged something necessary within her. 

She presses a kiss to the baby’s velvet cheek. Her daughter gurgles and coos. Angel lays Baby in the middle of the bed. Sunlight pours in between the curtains. She cups the tiny feet, tickles the round belly. Baby grabs her own toes, shrieks with laughter. 

“He’s dead,” she tells her baby, her daughter. Angel raises her fingers to her cheek and is surprised to find wetness there. Baby stares at her with solemn eyes. She says it again, “He’s dead.”

Angel looks in the closet for a suitable black dress. They’ll all go, the three of them, to North Dakota. Angel has never brought her baby back home, had sworn she wouldn’t. She will bring her daughter to her mother—to the grandmother who has only met her once, in the hospital, right after her birth. 

Angel will gaze down into the casket, standing there in her black silk with the hushed, respectful voices of distant relatives and strangers washing over her, while behind her, her mother holds her infant granddaughter, the baby a balm against their wounds.

                                                        *   *   *

   

Jessica Hwang’s fiction has appeared in Moss Puppy, Uncharted and Tough and is forthcoming in Pembroke Magazine and Shotgun Honey. Her stories have been longlisted for Litmag’s Anton Chekhov Award for Flash Fiction in 2022 and The Masters Review 2022 Flash Fiction Contest. Her short story A Place like You was a finalist for the Bellingham Review’s Tobias Wolff Award for Fiction in 2022. You can find her at jessicahwangauthor.com.

Shelly Attends Her High School Reunion

 

By Katie Coleman

Shelly nibbled a carrot, while Heath filled her in on his conservation project. She ate olives with little stabbing sticks, while Abigail described how she embroidered dolls for orphans. Shelly dipped a dagger-shaped Dorito into hot salsa. Hugo had recently published poems in Sanskrit and by the time Daniel came along Shelly had finished her Devil’s food cake.

‘Daniel,’ she said, ‘I’ve excavated burial sites in Borneo. I’ve trekked the Galapagos and brought back dragons and albatrosses which haunt my parents’ attic.’

The music halted and Daniel sipped iced tea, ‘Wonderful!’ he replied. ‘I work in accounting. What else do you do?’

*   *   *

Katie Coleman’s fiction has appeared in Ghost Parachute, Briefly Zine, The Ilanot Review, Bending Genres and Potato Soup Journal. She has a master’s in creative writing and works as a teacher in Phuket, Thailand. She can be found on Twitter @anjuna2000.

Charge Separation

Creative Nonfiction

By Megan E. O’Laughlin

While some turtles can live up to 100 years, the fabric which covers a person’s most sensitive parts may exist in rotation for a mere year or two. Then, depending on the fabric, they go on to their second life in the landfill, where they may decompose rather quickly (cotton) or never (lycra). Prior to that, the life of a pair of panties can be a succession of predictability and darkness. 

When it didn’t cover my skin, the black sheath hid in the drawer, or twirled in the washer’s soapy water, or tumbled in the dryer. During the sexiest times, the nether garments were quickly removed, thrown across the room and then later, unceremoniously tossed into the hamper. The smooth stretchies were not typically exposed to the public, but they were on that day, to that long line of people in line for the matinee showing of Hellboy 2. 

A hoodie in my hands, I stood in line, eager for the air-conditioned bliss of the theater, a break from the stuffy city apartment. My underwear didn’t get out much, but that day they hitched a ride on my favorite hoodie, courtesy of static electricity, that unpredictable phenomenon of positive and negative charge, an imbalance of charges– the same exchange that causes lightning strikes. But nature needs balance, so my slow shuffle somehow dispelled the electricity, and the sweatshirt released the undergarments to gravity. As we stood in line with all the people, we saw the underwear underfoot. A silent splat, a small puddle of black on pavement: my panties on the ground by the ticket booth. 

Why are you dropping your draws on the ground? asked Q, laughing, as he pointed to the shiny fabric. I explained the static and my distaste for fabric softener, which would have prevented the electrostatic charge altogether. It bothers my skin. But I didn’t need to explain because that particular pair of briefs, just one of three from a pack from Target, yearned to experience the world, to escape that dark drawer, to feel the gritty pavement, to smell the buttery popcorn, to experience the sunlight within the closely woven fibers. This is the sensory circus my underwear did not know before that day. 

Aware of my audience, the cackling people in line, I didn’t mention the unmentionables, I only snatched them off the ground and stuffed them in my bag. After the brief adventure, they returned to the same cycle: drawer, body, floor, hamper, washer, dryer and eventually—garbage. 

                                                                *   *   *

Megan E. O’Laughlin (she/her) is an emerging writer, psychotherapist, and MFA candidate at Ashland University. Her work is published in The Black Fork Review, Defunkt Magazine, and The Bluebird Word. She is currently working on an essay collection about mental health work and trauma recovery. She lives by the sea in Washington state with her spunky child, spoiled dogs, and surfing spouse. You can find her at: meganolaughlin.com and on Twitter: @meganeolaughlin

Secrecy

By Clive Aaron Gill

Charles agreed that he and Patricia were ready to try for a baby. But her diet, which included ice cream and doughnuts, would not do for a future Sullivan child.

While pregnant, Patricia maintained a doctor-recommended diet every day for eight months and resisted cravings for junk food. She enjoyed spring mix salad with small pieces of chicken, walnuts and chia seeds, and low-fat, plain yogurt. 

On a summer morning, when a brisk breeze rocked pine tree branches in their large backyard, her overwhelming craving for a McDonald’s Shamrock Shake, and Bacon, Egg and Cheese McGriddles stood between her and the future Princeton PhD child of Charles’ dreams.

While Charles was at his office in an architecture firm, she drove to McDonald’s. She pulled open the front glass door and was greeted by the mouthwatering, pungent smells of burgers, fries and hash browns.

The secrecy thrilled her.

                                                          *   *   *

Fifty-five stories by Clive Aaron Gill have appeared in literary journals and in “People of Few Words Anthology.”  He tells his stories at public and private gatherings.

Born in Zimbabwe, Clive has lived and worked in Southern Africa, North America and Europe. He received a degree in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and lives in San Diego.