flash fiction

Kenneth Pobo

Ever since Adeline was a little girl she wanted to be
rich.  Not rich, really, but rich beyond
compare, the richest woman in the world.
It could happen!  On late night TV
when she was seven she saw Ruth Chatterton starring in The Rich Are Always With Us.  At the end, charming rich Ruth married George
Brent, a sexy novelist—who made money.

For twenty-one years Adeline was married to a
porridge-looking guy, Ernie, who ran a sporting equipment store in the Divine
Gator Mall.  She never set foot in the
store, even when Ernie and his employees celebrated its twentieth year in
business.  That was the beginning of the
end.

“You
missed the balloons, Adeline.  Shit.  Some wife.”

“Everything
pops sooner or later.  Congratulations
anyway.”

Clearly, Ernie would not make her the wealthiest woman who
had ever been born.  It wasn’t Ernie’s
fault, she knew.  A guy who wore old
hushpuppies everyday, he wouldn’t get it.
In “real” life, George Brent and Ruth Chatterton got married.  For two years.  Real life didn’t impress Adeline.  It never had a fur collar.

She routinely entered the lottery but say you won 500
million bucks, you’re still not the richest.
It’s a boost, but you don’t get to be number one.

Adeline was like a mannequin in Ernie’s store, holding a
ball, something she couldn’t throw, an eternal pose.  She died at sixty-eight.  The lights went out, tennis balls huddled in
tubes, and the mall took an enormous pink pill and fell asleep.


Kenneth Pobo had three new books in 2015: When The Light Turns Green
(Spruce Alley Press), Bend of Quiet (Blue Light Press), and Booking
Rooms in the Kuiper Belt (Urban Farmhouse Press).  He teaches creative
writing and English at Widener University.  He gardens, is somewhat of
an authority on Tommy James and the Shondells, and read Hardy’s
Return of the Native this June.

Phase

Kenneth Pobo

Aunt Silkie had many, many lovers which she talked about at
family parties.  In very specific
ways.  Even as a grade schooler, I liked
hearing about these guys.  Maybe I’d meet
a guy and he would “burn off my buttons,” as she said.  I didn’t know I was gay until I was thirteen
and played around with Rick Wenboscly.
Rick was happy naked—but no kissing.
That was bad.  If a guy kisses
you, you’re cooked.  Even then, I told
myself it was a phase.  Or people told me
it was a phase.  

I had
been through many phases.  I loved
turtles for six months, loved the piano for six months, loved learning how to
play guitar for six months.  With Rick, I
knew something wasn’t phase-like.  I
decided it was too risky to be gay, that if I prayed enough, God would put me
into a heterosexual phase which would stretch into old age.

I
told my Sunday School teacher, Gary Winthem, and he too said it was a
phase.  God had a woman picked out for
me.  He asked me if I masturbated.  That too wasn’t a phase.  I told him no.  He knew I was lying.  We pretended I was telling the truth.  I didn’t ask him if he did.  He was seventeen and already applying to
colleges.

Sometimes
on my knees in prayer, I pictured the disciples naked, even Jesus with his
spaniel eyes and long golden hair.
That’s how he looked in the picture in the Sunday School room. 

“Turn
it over to God,” my mom said, for any situation.  She had turned the smallest things over to
God like riding her bike up to the Micah Mart.
“Dear God, lead me to the best sales.”
She said he did.  We ate many
grapefruits.

I
tried.  I kept getting crushes.  Some got sexual.  Most consisted of me sneaking glances and
hoping not to get caught.

By
the end of high school, I graduated into a new phase of my life, entered
Missouri Western State University, lived in a dorm, wrote extremely gassy
papers that mostly got B’s for my Communications Studies major.  My Aunt Silkie died of pneumonia when I was a
Junior.  Her latest boyfriend, Sid, fell
on her casket and wept.  They had been
together for seven weeks.  Several
ex-flames showed up.

Many
family members privately were glad she was gone.  We could have less ribald conversations.  I tried to replace her, mentioned two guys I
was seeing at once over the Thanksgiving turkey.  There was only one guy, but I thought I’d
spice it up.  I got sent to my room.  At 21.
My dad said I was going through a rebellious phase.  He figured I wouldn’t ever be a “steady” guy,
the kind he believed he was.  He thought
of me as a hummingbird, flitting to the feeder, flying off.  He was a little right.  I’d get the nectar and, I hoped, a home.  


Kenneth Pobo had three new books in 2015: When The Light Turns Green
(Spruce Alley Press), Bend of Quiet (Blue Light Press), and Booking
Rooms in the Kuiper Belt (Urban Farmhouse Press).  He teaches creative
writing and English at Widener University.  He gardens, is somewhat of
an authority on Tommy James and the Shondells, and plans to read Hardy’s
Return of the Native this June.

image

– Ronald Pelias

The infestation of ants crawling over the morning paper, finding their way to whatever was left exposed

Or the words that were never spoken and the ones that were

Or how they saw themselves buried, under a stack of demands, under a pile of pressures, under an avalanche of missteps

Or the trash accumulating, waiting to be put out

Or a mother leaning toward the house, a tilting telephone pole after a storm

Or the dust that settled, asking not to be disturbed

Or those nights when the moon appeared as an angry eye

Or two children, one difficult as the desert sun, and the dog, always wanting to be fed, always licking, always wanting out

Or the gun, supposedly for their protection, kept under the pillow

Or the broken birdbath, its stagnant water a home for falling leaves

Or the neighbors, their television always blaring, their refusal to say hello

Or the lights that needed to be on, the water that needed to run, the grass that needed to be cut, the rent that needed to be paid, the car that needed to be repaired, the loan that needed to be settled, the fence that needed to be fixed, the credit card that needed to be destroyed, the booze they needed to drink

Or the rain that would never stop and the muddy shoes at the door

Or the empty, backache jobs, unnatural labor, best suited for a machine

Or the anniversaries that came and went without notice

Or the wind with its howl, with its promise of another place


Ronald Pelias’ work has appeared in a number of journals, including Small Pond, Yet Another Small Magazine, Out of Line, Midwest Poetry Review, Margie, and Whetstone. His most recent books, Leaning: A Poetics of Personal Relations (Left Coast Press), and Performance: An Alphabet of Performative Writing (Left Coast Press), and If the Truth Be Told (Sense Publications) call upon the poetic as a research strategy.

Ryan Frisinger

Mick Jagger’s a nice enough guy, for a rock star. Chatted with him once over coffee—sort of. Listened to him all growing up, never dreamed I’d meet him. My old man, with his records and Rolling Stones tee-shirt—the iconic lip-tongue graphic diminished to a cracked tooth and single taste bud from years and miles of spin cycles—saw to it I was well-acquainted, prepared for the big day. 

Ti-i-i-ime is on my side, yes it is, deployed from the hi-fi in our basement, ascended the stairs to bedrooms and kitchen. My father’s favorite, he’d skip ahead to just the right groove on the vinyl and rouse the sleepy, Sunday-morning household with wails and blares, as much from his throat as the set of Yamahas. 

Afternoons, he’d fish out his old acoustic guitar, teach me a few chords. The wood trapping so tightly the decades-old burning of joints and teenage passion, that if I pressed my nose against the bridge, I’d cross into the past. Like a reverse crystal ball, pot-smoke parting to reveal what was. Two sets of carved initials on the neck of the instrument, my dad’s and another’s. When I asked who they belonged to, he smiled, laughed a little, and said, “Your mother,” which, of course, wasn’t true.

He died of a heart-attack on a Saturday night. That afternoon, he’d taken off work; came out to support my own teenage efforts at a rock band. My buddies and I played a downtown street festival. He recorded the whole thing with his cell phone; never took his eyes or smile off me for the entire half-hour. The morning after, once my mom, sisters, and I returned from the hospital, I contemplated firing up the stereo as a sort of last tribute. Ti-i-i-ime is on my side, yes it is. The record was halfway out of its sleeve, before I changed my mind.

Senior in high-school, boy to man overnight, I figured it was about time I found my own pair of initials to show me the ways of the world, take my mind off things. C.A. sat two desks over in chemistry. Lab coat filled out in just the right places. She’d come to see our band play once. 

I approached her one Tuesday after class. “You wanna hang out sometime?”

“Yeah.”

“Tomorrow night?”

“Yeah—wait, no.”

“No?”

“Thursday. My parents will be gone.”

“Yeah.”

She seemed to know what she was doing. Lights were off, music on when I arrived. Coolly, she invited me to the couch. 

Recognizing the tune immediately, I wiped my sweaty palms on the legs of my jeans as I sunk in. “You like the Stones?” 

“My parents do, and I know you do, because of that shirt you always wear,” she said, referring to the ratty keepsake I’d claimed as part of my inheritance.
We kissed and fumbled, groped and moaned—not because the passion had escalated to such heights, but because we’d heard movie stars make the same sorts of noises in films we weren’t supposed to have seen. Mr. Jagger’s howling vocals accompanied the pair of us down the first base line. Ti-i-i-ime is on my side, yes it is.

Auxiliary percussion—jangle of house keys, rattling door knob, quickening footsteps—provided a sudden and unwelcomed complement to the sweet melody. The shouting of names—not like I’d imagined or seen in the movies—ripped out-of-breath bodies apart on the couch. Shamed head hung, I followed the ferocious glare and pointed finger of her father’s hand out the front door.

“Tell your mother to expect a phone call.”

I never spoke to C.A. again. And, of course, those initials never made it onto the back of my guitar. 

Our band broke up the night before graduation. It was supposed to be just another rehearsal. I spent an hour beforehand, writing out chords and lyrics to a cover song we wanted to learn—Ti-i-i-ime is on my side, yes it is—but, never got to. Donny showed up drunk, Neil never did, and Mike was dead set on ending it: “We’ll all be living in different places next fall, I don’t see the point.”

With no other plans for the summer, I took a road trip out to LA. Spent a day people-watching at a trendy coffeehouse in the Silver Lake district. Mid-afternoon, in struts Mick, shades and unassuming green scarf to hide behind. I’d know that face anywhere. Out of instinct, respect, I stood up immediately, like he was the President or something. Drying palms on pant legs, I started forward. 

I wanted to tell him about the music—what it meant to me, to my dad, how it stayed with me even when my dad didn’t. I wanted to break into my father’s favorite song: Ti-i-i-ime is on my side, yes it is. Maybe Mick would join in for a duet. I wanted to tell him that underneath my jacket, I was wearing an old, faded tee-shirt that I wished I wasn’t. 

Most of all, I wanted to tell him he’s a liar.


Ryan Frisinger is a professor of English, holding an M.F.A. in Writing from Lindenwood University. He is also an accomplished songwriter, whose work has been featured in numerous television shows, such as America’s Next Top Model and The Real World. His non-musical writing has appeared in publications like Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, The MacGuffin, and Punchnel’s. He resides in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with his more-talented wife and couldn’t-care-less cat.

And She Gets That Look Like She Forgets She Wears Glasses

Rich Ives

I saw one of Eric’s shoes galloping into the sunset. Not like that. The moon slivered in a bone-cage. Like that, but not like that. Familiar, but not like anything so poetic you’d tell me about it. 

I want to say something gentle now. I might attempt to harvest the delicate water content, which is not all water but doesn’t remind you of that. I might want to stroke the blue light its fur makes sparking against the sides of the tunnel. I might ask you for my questions back and embrace them. Interrogation by desire. It confuses leaf with foot, and meets all the lips in time for the emergence of perception, linking one thing pleasurably with another and another until I’m pouring out and landing in the other world, where my eyes are. Now I’ve left my sense for my senses although I know I still could reason my way into explaining what I’m happy to say I don’t really understand.

About the air she is happy, my accomplishment, but still leaking. I admire this, so I scream, pushing the comforting air about and getting excited that I know I’m doing this. I’m doing this, and it surprises me that I sound like I’m directing air through a small vibrating skin flap. 

Of course, Eric wants the whole story, and an explanation, and all the names, even if there’s only one. Just knowing he wants this removes the thing itself from the experience, which I describe in a way that cheapens it enough to keep it from imitating what it really is. So it changes. 

Eric, of course, knows all this and doesn’t care. Eric’s girlfriend cares, but she’s not in the story, and by the time he tells her, it will be her story. She will take from it what they need, which has been told to them as a different story, the one she can’t see galloping into the sunset.


Rich Ives lives on Camano Island in Puget Sound. He has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, Seattle Arts Commission and the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines for his work in poetry, fiction, editing, publishing, translation and photography. His writing has appeared in Verse, North American Review, Dublin Quarterly, Massachusetts Review, Northwest Review, Quarterly West, Iowa Review, Poetry Northwest, Virginia Quarterly Review, Fiction Daily and many more. He is a winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander and has been nominated twice for the Best of the Web, three times for Best of the Net and six times for The Pushcart Prize. He is the 2012 winner of the Creative Nonfiction Prize from Thin Air magazine. Tunneling to the Moon, a book of days with a work for each day of the year, is available from Silenced Press, Sharpen, a fiction chapbook, is available form Newer York Press, and Light from a Small Brown Bird, a book of poems, is available from Bitter Oleander Press. He is also the winner of the What Books Press Fiction Competition, and his story collection, The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking, is now available.  

An Advantage

Rich Ives

Does this Victorian approach change anything, this past with its remaining anticipation? Or does it operate like cheerful things, a good pair of heels circumambient to a hairy hind-paw? Flounces aflutter. Little Blossom released from obligations to Mr. Nuzzly-Bum, Mr. Do-As-You-Please, Mr. Silky-Talk, Mr. Not-to-Worry.

Because people with shoulders worry about the shapes of their gowns.

Meanwhile the dog has grown horns. A nocturnal emission like the voice of the moon. Listen. Darken. Welcome mythic forms of circumstantial happiness. Even if my friend Eustace does not agree.

Followed by a deep mumbling tortuous boom of gastric delight. A fat frog in a well. Let him sing. Let the echoes of indulgence pleasure the ear with the nose’s disgust.

The dog turns and turns, trying to understand the nose’s advantage.

Little Blossom pees on the lawyer. “I’ve wetted less than my appetite for authority,” he tells the lawyer’s mother, after she signs the papers. “It’s a discovery not greatly honored although settling is cheaper than winning,” replies the mother.

It was a great and lucid affair of olfactory departure, which I will not describe in great detail. Though I could. I certainly could if I wanted to.

Twenty-three days ago today. That’s enough time to happen oh again and again.

Yes, this can be easily handled, this situation. But does it change anything?

Now I want to say that despite the disapproval of Eustace, I have befriended both Little Blossom and her mother and bedded the lawyer, who shall remain nameless at his own request.

A mouthful of spiders puts him at ease, his postures questioning like a prehistoric bird’s. He kept his lover’s fleas in a pillbox. None of them ever escaped.


Rich Ives lives on Camano Island in Puget Sound. He has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, Seattle Arts Commission and the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines for his work in poetry, fiction, editing, publishing, translation and photography. His writing has appeared in Verse, North American Review, Dublin Quarterly, Massachusetts Review, Northwest Review, Quarterly West, Iowa Review, Poetry Northwest, Virginia Quarterly Review, Fiction Daily and many more. He is a winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander and has been nominated twice for the Best of the Web, three times for Best of the Net and six times for The Pushcart Prize. He is the 2012 winner of the Creative Nonfiction Prize from Thin Air magazine. Tunneling to the Moon, a book of days with a work for each day of the year, is available from Silenced Press, Sharpen, a fiction chapbook, is available form Newer York Press, and Light from a Small Brown Bird, a book of poems, is available from Bitter Oleander Press. He is also the winner of the What Books Press Fiction Competition, and his story collection, The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking, is now available.  

Alternatives to Churning Butter

Rich Ives

1.
When I sleep with a knife, we meet divided. The bodies do not underestimate, but the minds are in over their heads. Two of us side by side as if controlled remotely, one forbidden to talk and the other just doesn’t. (Babies go under, but they’re not our babies.) It makes it easier to misunderstand.

We’ve learned to value the lid of the bed, awakened, and finger moons chambered with tensile eye-knuckles, and naked feet running from the ceiling, night’s eye so big we don’t realize we’re inside. We’re not gang-related but visitational, the trees in the forest blackened with that unrelenting deprivations kind of thing.

2.
One seeker said to the other, When a man truly finds what he is looking for, he is at great risk of dying. (We had a great deal to look forward to in our despair.) I wished the man a long life of struggle.

(The hungry pond-fish swim day after day from one little ocean to the next as faithfully as the ocean swims in and out of its dirty pants.)

The letters you haven’t read, the ones you placed in the toolbox, are a toolbox.

3.
All you have to do is find something you haven’t done and approach too slowly. There’s a beautiful smooth nerve in a boat that doesn’t belong to you, that arrives at the porch where the boat shall never be, but the two left behind are arriving at your absence, which may be more successful than you wish. When goodbye to you was hello to another, you could have been missed.

4.
As for the tuba player mumbling in German, he hangs out at both ends of the engagement, an overly generous Weiner dog, and yodels to the tune of an old Bavarian march. On waking, he shakes a cricket out of his shoe, remembers his dream of a spilling police van and tap dancing mice chasing tap dancing cheese. He’s climbing an invisible ladder, and he falls. He’s painting a landscape, and he paints himself into it.

Hello a cow wearing a short skirt and suspenders. Hello a xylophone of wooden shoes, another lovely chicken march. Hello a stolen bag of mice. Hello the drawing of a car, in which he escapes. He draws railroad tracks, the train runs him over.

The tuba in his theme song turns into a saxophone, the notes turn into ducks shaped like wooden mallets. He pounds himself on the head with a wooden mallet-duck. An amorous carp swims out hammered thinking. Hello to a fish-wife with the scales of heaven on. She pounds him on the hammered head with a freshly carved mallet-fish. He sleeps in her lap,
but you have awakened, you have congealed, you can’t do it again.


Rich Ives lives on Camano Island in Puget Sound. He has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, Seattle Arts Commission and the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines for his work in poetry, fiction, editing, publishing, translation and photography. His writing has appeared in Verse, North American Review, Dublin Quarterly, Massachusetts Review, Northwest Review, Quarterly West, Iowa Review, Poetry Northwest, Virginia Quarterly Review, Fiction Daily and many more. He is a winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander and has been nominated twice for the Best of the Web, three times for Best of the Net and six times for The Pushcart Prize. He is the 2012 winner of the Creative Nonfiction Prize from Thin Air magazine. Tunneling to the Moon, a book of days with a work for each day of the year, is available from Silenced Press, Sharpen, a fiction chapbook, is available form Newer York Press, and Light from a Small Brown Bird, a book of poems, is available from Bitter Oleander Press. He is also the winner of the What Books Press Fiction Competition, and his story collection, The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking, is now available.  

A Reconsideration of the Subject

– Rich Ives

Like a single disagreeable letter from several dead philosophers, the subject arrived at the barbeque wearing a torn sweatshirt. The mistakes of others were included, but maybe they were also his own. Maybe he claimed them even if they weren’t his.

Negligence gives us a rather large common ground of confusion to stand on while we disagree. There was no boundary between the thing outside (just thought) and the thing inside (forgotten). The wandering idea’s Teddy bear then perambulates more aggressively, saying Button it Bobbo to the tension walking next to the subject. The subject’s watch is larger now than he is because time stays generous when it’s not yours. Black silk and obsidian edge the incision in its darkness approaching, the darkness that spills on the letter.

Oh yes the subject was overly fond of the gathering’s idea sugar, but intellectual poverty is still poverty. So we wait with an obsessively selected thought donut and a goofy grin. Soon something as simple as weather arrives to unite us and to give us meaning. Yes, the subject wishes to control the weather, but he feels much better failing than worshipping the one wing of a maple seed brought to earth in a rich pile of worm fodder.

The subject, it seems, really does have too much to say about everything, which means it must be said twice or eight times. You swallow it all up, everything disappearing inside what you have been thinking, ushering it down to where such guests are still welcome.

The subject soaks you up like another dead philosopher, and the sweatshirt becomes a renewed fire of intellectual stains. So you take your self home and wash it, providing a more acceptable entrance to social functions. You find a circle in your brain. What’s it doing there? Your brain has too many childhoods. Put some of them in a very small burlap sack. Imagine it’s an ancient choked aspirin entering a dark hole, a landscape without corners. Hold it up to your basement thought, the one announcing separation. Consider the reconsideration.


Rich Ives lives on Camano Island in Puget Sound. He has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, Seattle Arts Commission and the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines for his work in poetry, fiction, editing, publishing, translation and photography. His writing has appeared in Verse, North American Review, Dublin Quarterly, Massachusetts Review, Northwest Review, Quarterly West, Iowa Review, Poetry Northwest, Virginia Quarterly Review, Fiction Daily and many more. He is a winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander and has been nominated twice for the Best of the Web, three times for Best of the Net and six times for The Pushcart Prize. He is the 2012 winner of the Creative Nonfiction Prize from Thin Air magazine. Tunneling to the Moon, a book of days with a work for each day of the year, is available from Silenced Press, Sharpen, a fiction chapbook, is available form Newer York Press, and Light from a Small Brown Bird, a book of poems, is available from Bitter Oleander Press. He is also the winner of the What Books Press Fiction Competition, and his story collection, The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking, is now available.

A Nice Old Man Was Biting My Toe

Rich Ives

It escapes me, this cautionary landscape, moving under as I pace its surface, but I’m counting miles instead of taking in its distinct aberrations. I’m failing to register its transitory existence, liberated with each release of my padded step. I’m slapping my expensive footwear in its open face, again and again, getting only to where I planned on going as it gets itself newly positioned where it already is.

I must have missed it before, I think, missing it in a new way. I’m intent upon a kind of progress that takes me out of myself, into a better body to separate the quick from the quickly dead, a body that could, however, more quickly miss more. I could be entering myself now, even as I carry my “self” away to discover who I am.

On the road last night there were too many frogs for any purpose I could imagine, but then maybe I wasn’t small enough, or I was in too many parts to do things alone.

The old man inside me asks, Which smile is this, which puddle of moonlight?

I found too many aspirations nesting like voyaging seabirds as I arrived at the shore, huffy little summaries of oceanic caravans. I looked up to see myself floating back down, there where a moment before stalked a creature cloaked in fierce intentions and transparent hope.

The old man inside takes a breath and then he gives it back. The whole truth was always guilty of only half the story. He wants a picture finished with falling. The way I can see everything clearly confuses me. It’s time now to listen. Time to take us here. Time for there to wait, and a time for stepping quickly to between, where one step and two hold true, and the end of anything is the beginning.


Rich Ives lives on Camano Island in Puget Sound. He has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, Seattle Arts Commission and the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines for his work in poetry, fiction, editing, publishing, translation and photography. His writing has appeared in Verse, North American Review, Dublin Quarterly, Massachusetts Review, Northwest Review, Quarterly West, Iowa Review, Poetry Northwest, Virginia Quarterly Review, Fiction Daily and many more. He is a winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander and has been nominated twice for the Best of the Web, three times for Best of the Net and six times for The Pushcart Prize. He is the 2012 winner of the Creative Nonfiction Prize from Thin Air magazine. Tunneling to the Moon, a book of days with a work for each day of the year, is available from Silenced Press, Sharpen, a fiction chapbook, is available form Newer York Press, and Light from a Small Brown Bird, a book of poems, is available from Bitter Oleander Press. He is also the winner of the What Books Press Fiction Competition, and his story collection, The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking, is now available.