Handout – Flash Fiction Class
53 word story: The Gift, by Nancy Jorgenson Topic: a lost sock
Esophageal, doctors said. She refused ports and pouches, clutched her needles instead. She flicked bamboo until knit two, purl two hugged my ankles, peeked between my boots and jeans and smelled of wet wool when it rained. The lost one wove a knot in my gut, twisting and twining until it was found.
From Randall Brown:
I find Maggie squatting on the kitchen floor beside the door to the garage. My eyes always go to her belly first, as if she has swallowed a globe. There’ve been two miscarriages, both early. Never have we gotten so far. Then I notice she’s picking something off the floor, putting it in her mouth. Get closer. They surround her. Hundreds of them. Ants. Maggie is eating ants.
“She’s still hungry.”
The breakneck drive, the crickets, the hospital waiting for our arrival—it’s all part of the blur, something to hide the truth from both of us, that nothing matters except the desires of Fate for our baby to live. But that’s nothing to tell Maggie.
“It has to be a good sign,” I tell her.
“It does, doesn’t it?” Maggie answers, then opens her mouth and feeds our baby’s desire.
Searching for Samuel Beckett, by Kathy Fish
At the Cimitiere Montparnasse, he offers a girl his raincoat. I’m searching for Samuel Beckett, he says, and holds an umbrella over her as she consults her map. We’re close, she says, pointing. I’ll go with you. Then we can visit Simone de Beauviour. My name is Scarlet. She closes her eyes. And I have been widowed twice. But she looks too young for that. After, he says, maybe we can grab a pint? The sleeves of his coat hang, black and wet, to her knees. She smells like candy cigarettes. They stand in front of Beckett’s grave. A three-legged cat shivers raindrops off its back. Scarlet flaps her wings and flies away.
One Purple Finch, from Wild Life, by Kathy Fish
He would make pancakes for her, with berries and honey. And she would lift the hem of her skirt. And she would build him a fire. And he would make her a card, drawing a picture on the front, of trees and one purple finch. And they would look at each other at the end of the day and say now what should we do? We should be friends forever and hold each other’s hands and tell each other when we have something stuck between our teeth and trade anecdotes and say oh you told me this before but I love hearing you tell it, so tell it to me again. And you should untie my sneakers when I am weary and I will wear the silky aquamarine robe when you want me to.
Fragmentation, by Peg Alford Pursell, in Show Her a Flower, a Bird, a Shadow
She hated the story about how the old fisherman cut up the sea stars, throwing each arm into the sea—an abundance of mutilated creatures, five fragments then for every one—it frightened her to think about an ocean of broken living beings awash in their own weeping juices, working to recreate theselves, vulnerable and having to hide until they could become whole again; her eyes were red-rimmed in the mirror when she gave up trying to sleep and went into the bathroom for a cool drink of water to rinse away the salt.
HORSES BY GEORDIE WILLIAMS FLANTZ, in Wigleaf
“It’s horses all the way down,” said Smelgor, sitting on a log.
Smelgor had got a new religion. It was a horse cult. They believed that everything was made of horses. A tree was made of tiny horses. Those tiny horses were made of even tinier horses. The only exceptions were actual horses. They were one indivisible thing.
“But see here,” said Stevenson, sitting beside Smelgor with a fern in his cap. “What if I take my axe and chop the horse in two?”
“You can chop it in two a hundred times,” said Smelgor. “But you will not divide its horseness.” Stevenson had to think about that. He had grown up on a hog farm. His father never owned a horse. Instead, Stevenson spent his days splattered with pig shit. Even when he washed it off at the well, the other kids all recoiled from him at school.
“Pigs too?” Stevenson said, wrinkling up his nose. “You telling me pigs is made of horses?”
“Everything’s made of horses,” Smelgor said serenely.
Stevenson got up and went to the edge of the woods. There was a grassy hill, leading down to a burbling brook. Cows stood by the brook. Further off, there sat a windmill beside a little stone cottage. An old woman stood outside the cottage. There was a rug hung out on a gate, and the woman was beating the rug. To think, Stevenson thought, a little thrill gone through him. She didn’t even know that everywhere, up her arms, through her heart, down her legs, a great stampede raced through her blood.
Selected Favorite Flash Stories
Marlena Learns to Drive, by Kathryn Milam 1000 words https://flashfictionmagazine.com/blog/2018/11/13/marlena-learns-to-drive/
“Bullet in the Brain” by Tobias Wolff 2000 words https://www.shortstoryproject.com/story/bullet-in-the-brain/
Binary Code by Michelle Ross http://monkeybicycle.net/binary-code/
5 Stories by Lydia Davis https://fivedials.com/fiction/five-short-stories/
Lit Hub https://lithub.com/11-very-short-stories-you-must-read-immediately/
Selected Favorite Journals and Competitions