All posts in Flash Fiction

  • Music, Finally

     

    Maybe you’ll finally feel it. It’ll come from nowhere with a guitar riff from a Fleetwood Mac song you’d always loved but hadn’t listened to in years. Maybe the crunch and honey of the guitar will make you smile and the swish of hi-hats will tap your foot along to the rhythm and you’ll be overwhelmed. Maybe you’ll understand the way some people used to talk about music and you’ll realise that the small things are sometimes enough. And you’ll cry, then, because it’s such a relief that the small things can be enough.

     

  • The Diagonal Woman

     

    Because, if you actually think about it, it’s totally fine to start something with a conjunction. So that’s how the Diagonal Woman does it, sometimes, when it feels right. And sometimes she does it because it feels wrong—because wrong can be interesting.

    The Diagonal Woman has sometimes been a man, when the man felt diagonal enough to get the job done. And don’t you even try to tell me the Diagonal Woman isn’t a woman, or that there isn’t something so perfectly diagonal about the whole woman business.

    When she plays you at chess, the Diagonal Woman sometimes imagines she’s playing checkers. It fucks the whole game up, but it’s interesting, and she might just get away with it.

    One time, the Diagonal Woman tried to be Icarus—the wee flying guy with wings that melted in the Sun when he flew too high. The Diagonal Woman laughed when she got the idea to turn the complete opposite way, flying east until the Sun set behind her and the night’s sky opened up. She flew wherever the hell she wanted at night, with the moonlight showing her the way and the stars watching on, blinking, taking little pictures of her with their cameras.

    That’s what it is to be The Diagonal Woman. You just go diagonally . If you’re built like a sprinter and sprinting is bringing you no joy, stop fucking sprinting. Try going for long runs, gradually, over months and months. It’ll be hard. You’ll want to speed up—to see if you’re still fast. But don’t. Fuck sprinting. You’re a jogger now. Take your time, and don’t push it; not running today, with your achy legs, is the best way to run tomorrow. One day you’ll run five miles. Then six. It’ll be easy and it’ll be so freaking diagonal you’ll laugh.

    If you’re the kind of person who does ten things before breakfast and it’s bringing you no joy, just be the Diagonal Woman and do nothing. I dare you to. I bet you can. I bet you can sit there with yourself for hours and it’ll be okay. Sure, it’ll be diagonal, and uncomfortable, but you can do it. You might even like it after a while.

    If you give yourself to someone and things don’t work out, you might find an old ache for them months later, like the phantom itch that follows an amputation. And you might want to get back to them but you can’t imagine how to get there. Don’t worry. Be diagonal. Go on a dating app, accidently find them and start a chat like you’re complete strangers—like you don’t know every single detail about them. Maybe nothing will happen. So what.  That’s okay. You’ll be okay. But maybe they’re trying to be the Diagonal Woman too and they play along, pretending they don’t know that your favourite animal is the capybara and that you have far too many shoes. Maybe you’ll flirt; maybe you’ll make little in-jokes about each other yet keep up the farce for days—or weeks. Maybe you’ll meet up and you’ll both be so diagonal that you’ll slot together in ways you never did before.

    Sometimes change isn’t diagonal and it finds us in little tiny moments, over years. And sometimes change has already happened and we didn’t even notice it because we were too busy trying to walk in a straight line to realise we’d been going diagonally the whole time. It can be easy and it can be hard, but it’s always interesting.

     

  • Madam Felicity

    Madam Felicity was everything Eddie had wanted a psychic to be. She was olive-skinned, somewhere between sixty and two-hundred years’ old; her eyeliner was caked-on thick with little dramatic ticks on the outsides; and she wore a medley of clothing borrowed from pretty much every religion Eddie knew of, including a massive purple turban that created the illusion that her cranium bulged up to fill the space underneath – a huge brain to conjure and harness such awesome psychic powers.

    ‘Come on, Edward,’ she said and her voice was heavily accented, but hard to place.

    ‘How’d you know my name?’ said Eddie.

    ‘Because I’m psychic, dear. And because you called yesterday to make the appointment.’

     They both laughed and Madam Felicity’s generous smile lingered on after they’d stopped laughing.  What had Eddie been so worried about? She looked nice. This was going to be okay. And anyway, no one’s properly psychic.

    ‘Ah,’ she said. ‘I see we have a sceptic. This is fine by me. I am not offended. Your money is good whether you believe me or not.’

    ‘Yeah. I guess I don’t really believe in this sort of stuff. Sorry.’

    ‘Nonsense. Nothing to apologise for.’ There was that warm smile again, and she touched his hand in reassurance. ‘Oh,’ she said, pulling her hand away like it was a scalding hot cup of tea, ‘there’s plenty of juice coming off you, boy. But we’ll get to that. Let’s ease in with a tarot reading; how does that sound?

    ‘Yeah. Sure. That’d be fine.’

    Eddie picked at the dry skin on his palm and tried not to think about Ruth. There was no such thing as psychic powers, but he still didn’t want to make it too easy for her.

    Madam Felicity took out the deck of cards and shuffled it lengthways, which Eddie had never seen before. She shuffled slowly, deftly, calmly, and there was a rhythm, a motion, that lulled him for a moment.

    She flipped the first card: a stylish crescent moon with The Moon written beneath it.

    ‘Hmmm,’ she said, and she sighed. ‘You poor soul.’

    She flipped over the next card: a young man holding a stick with a little dog alongside him and The Fool written underneath.

    ‘Ah, dear,’ she said, and she cried a little and wiped her eyes with her sleeve, smudging her eyeliner.

    She flipped over the next card: an angel with a horn and a flag with naked people beneath him and the word Judgement written underneath.

    She gasped and looked up at him, tears falling freely now. None of his friends, his counsellor, or his mum had looked at him with such gentle pity. Her soft eyes, muddied with tears and mascara, were too much for him to take.

    She moved around to his side of the table and held him for a while. He let her. It was impossible to tell how long he sat there in her arms.

    ‘I don’t know how you managed to leave the house, let alone come here,’ she said, when her breathing calmed a little – although there was still a faint shudder in her voice. ‘It’s so hard to sustain such intense feeling without shattering into pieces. But it’s also kind of beautiful.’

    ‘Yeah,’ said Eddie.

    ‘But remember,’ she said, leaning back to look at him, to smile for him, ‘it’s okay to close your ribcage if you can’t take it anymore.’

     

     

  • The Kernel

    You shut your eyes to the present sometimes, when it is unbearable, when you hope you’re so tired that you will sleep for a year, or more. Then you let the milky past fall across your mind. Look. There are the memories you can see and the ones you want to see—what you know and what you’ve been told to know.

    And there, at the end of your past, your beginning, it’s your first memory—the one you sometimes test to see if you still have it. It’s still there. Can you see it? The kernel of you.

     

     

  • Furious Gadgetry

    And there is a movement, staccato, unstillness, right in the heart of him. His real heart (the pump) but also his metaphorical heart, his poet’s cliché. And really these hearts are the same, and they synchronise their movements — their movement — which has a certain kind of speed. The speed is whirring — whirring like some dreadful gadget that can never stop — not even when he’s happy — not even when nothing else in his world is moving with speed and more speed and furious gadgetry that spins and gyrates as if Vitruvian.

    And isn’t that a laugh? (Vitruvian). As though there was any beauty or artistry to this unstill quickening in his chest. A heart that beats and remembers and remembers by beating. A heart that never beats the memories that fuel the speed that seems Vitruvian.And couldn’t he just deny it? (This speed). He could pretend there was no gadget and no fuel to fuel it. He could perhaps forget the words that spin and move and

    And couldn’t he just deny it? (This speed). He could pretend there was no gadget and no fuel to fuel it. He could perhaps forget the words that spin and move and unstill his chest. The old words: me me me me — her her her — softly softly — again. The old words that hit the pillow most nights when he is awake enough to think and spin and whir and spin Vitruvian. 

    And isn’t there a limit? (Heartbeats). Isn’t he pissing away his eighties and seventies (even sixties?), panicking his heart away, beat by beat, night by night? Isn’t this the past stealing the future? A future that could be fine (should be fine): slow, steady, slowly steady. A future that could hit the pillow at night, smiling, smiling. It could try not to rush to sleep each night—failing each night. A future without me me me me — her her her — softly softly — again again.

     

  • Soft Tissue

    It has been long enough since I last saw her that all the small stuff – the soft memories – are basically gone. There are just the big details left, and they’re so generic they could belong to anyone.

    When bodies decompose, the soft tissue goes first – the skin, the muscles, the lips, the eyes.       There are just the bones left, and bones are so generic they could belong to anyone.

     

     

  • Pygmy Leaf Chameleon

     

    The man watches Chi Chi, the tiny chameleon, shake and wobble her way along the plastic bonsai, proof that life can be this small and slow. He read somewhere that they move like this so that they appear as leaves blowing in the wind. 

    To avoid glare on the glass, he turns off all of the lights except for the heat lamp inside the vivarium. He can watch her clearly through the glass — grinning as her thick tongue bursts out with impossible speed at a passing cricket. Yet, tongue aside, it’s the chameleon’s lack of speed that he enjoys so much: each movement is so deliberate because she has so long to decide and re-decide. How sweet it would be to be so slow. He’s heard of people envying a dog’s happiness or a cat’s sense of freedom, but it’s this slowness, Chi Chi’s careful speed, that appeals to him.

    There are others in the vivarium with her. One male and another female. But it is Chi Chi he watches every night, mug of tea in his hands, blanket cocooned around him. He especially loves when Chi Chi climbs the tree from the floor: she reaches up, standing on her back two legs like an impossibly small brachiosaurus stretching up to eat the leaves on the highest branches. Her little claws find the branch and she pulls herself upwards, higher and higher, into her miniature canopy.

    Wherever she goes, Chi Chi changes her skin to match it. But as the chips of bark on the floor and the plastic bonsai are both dark brown, she just phases between deep browns and mossy greens. But she is so much more when she is sleeping. In the stressful nights, when work, love, or money keep the man awake, he looks in at Chi Chi, finding her perfect little form in some dark corner of the vivarium. Her skin is usually bright green, but it sometimes blends slowly into peachy beiges and greys. In these moments he fancies she is dreaming of her homeland: a luscious rainforest she has never seen but knows. A vestigial life. An old belonging.

    In her dreams, Chi Chi must see the bright greens of the forest and change her skin to match. There is something so striking, so important, about that little bright-green body in the corner of the dark-brown floor of the vivarium. And he wonders what colour his own skin changes to when he dreams.