Exposed — by Mike Seperack

When she was two everyone laughed as her pale bare bean-shaped body toddled around the yard. When she reached school age people were perplexed and disturbed. Her nakedness accompanied her everywhere like a half-formed conjoined twin. Certain parts of middle-school health class seemed redundant. They already saw how her body sprouted and bloomed.

She could have saved a fortune on prom. Instead she spent her dress money on a spectacular updo that failed to attract the attention she hoped for. When she crossed the graduation stage with nothing on below her mortarboard the sweltering faces in the audience wore a uniform blank expression.

Her parents were relieved when she took the exotic dancing job. Something finally made sense. She took the stage fully nude, of course. She pushed a heavy trunk next to the pole. She withdrew a shift that she pulled over her head with teasing aplomb. Her stockings went on with a sly wink. She donned the corset with magical dexterity, and then pulled it tight with a sadomasochistic grin. The audience was transfixed as she stepped into her crinoline. Each layer stripped a level of self-assurance from her gaze. Her petticoats brought her to the brink of tears. By the time she fastened her bonnet her eyes said, “You have all of me now. Every last bit.”

The people always left wanting more.
____

Mike
Mike Seperack lives in Syracuse, New York. He studies writing at the Downtown Writer’s Center of the Syracuse YMCA. He once did a reading on a moving bus after consuming an impressive quantity of singe-malt scotch. His work has appeared online in Corium, Paper Darts, and decomP, among other places.

Endolyne Ave. — by Carol Guess

Today the dream is Top Hat and mice in the garden. Orange galoshes and a porcelain owl. You’re giving me that choice again: share you with another woman or go my own way down the path to the river. The river’s man-made, filled with refrigerators. I’m my own person on alternate days. On the form, I list you as emergency curator: empty gallery’s smashed glass post-mortem backlash. She’s billboard hostess to your next of kin. She’s slow-drawl molasses, every drop fastened to the bone of something winged.
_____
IMG_1207
Carol Guess is the author of numerous books of poetry and prose, including Doll Studies: Forensics and Tinderbox Lawn. Her most recent book, With Animal, was co-written with Kelly Magee. She teaches in the MFA program at Western Washington University.

I Had to Keep Answering, “I Don’t Know” — by Elizabeth Ellen

It occurred to me, nine months after our initial meeting, that I still did not know very basic pieces of information about Ian, such as his home address, the names of his friends, the number of serious relationships he had been in prior to me, the duration of those relationships and the reasons for their ending. I knew he had two younger brothers, though I did not know either of their names. I knew the name of the university from which he had graduated, though I did not know what year. I knew he was prom king at his high school but I did not know which high school or its location.

By contrast, he knew the names of all my close friends, the names of my son’s close friends, as well as the length of time I had dated L., and the length of my marriage. He knew my address, had been to my house, though he had not been inside my bedroom.

I remember once, early on, during a phone conversation with Ian, commenting on the lack of things I knew about him. I told him this made it awkward for me when friends of mine asked me basic questions about him. I told him I had to keep answering, “I don’t know,” which seemed to invalidate our relationship in their eyes. In response to this he told me I could ask him anything and that he would answer. But put this way I was too embarrassed to ask him the questions I wanted to ask. Suddenly the questions seemed silly and clichéd, as though the answers were merely inconsequential facts and would not offer me a better understanding of him.

Now I question everything he told me, as though the things I do not know about him somehow cancel out those I do. I am skeptical, for instance, of something as basic as his name. The name I first knew him by was a pseudonym he used for performing but the name he gave me as his “real” name does not feel any more real to me. A friend of mine once asked to see Ian’s driver’s license and he told her he didn’t have it with him. “I don’t carry a wallet or a driver’s license,” he said. I once tried to find his “real” name on the Internet but was unsuccessful, which only justified my theory that it was yet another pseudonym and his actual name was still unknown to me, along with so much else.

And yet, I do not think anything would be different now if I knew these things about him. I do not think I would feel I know him any better than I do or that our relationship would be more or less validated by this missing information.
____
Elizabeth Ellen
Elizabeth Ellen is the author of the story collection Fast Machine and the poetry collection Bridget Fonda. She lives in Ann Arbor.

Flash in May: New Readings and Watchlists

Where to read, hear, and meet your favorite Flash Flash Click contributors:

watchlistDavid Rocklin hosts the next Roar Shack reading in Los Angeles on May 15.

Happy print publication day to Watchlist: 32 Stories by Persons of Interest, edited by Bryan Hurt.

Jim Ruland has a new flash piece in Alebrijes.

Read new work by Elizabeth Ellen: a poem in fanzine and a story in New Delta Review.

Lisa Locascio is editing California Prose Directory 4, out from Outpost 19 in 2017. Submissions are open!

David Rocklin reads at Chevalier’s Books in Los Angeles on June 2!

 

We Weren’t — by Lucas Southworth

We moved to the city together in the very middle of summer. Where we lived, we could hear other people all the time, voices and footsteps and the clashing of metal and glass. That one night, a slight breeze bent through the window, the kind of stagnant heat you only get in cities in the summer. And the tangle of sirens. I sat on the bed, sweating, with no shirt and a book. The blinds were open and I felt watched. I always felt watched and you did too. We’d told each other this. We also told each other we loved the city, and reminded each other of it when one of us wasn’t sure. Our new city had a reputation for being a hard place, and it felt like people weren’t quite able to unfold there. A certain newspaper kept track of the murders, tallying them up week after week, describing each. You came from the bathroom and joined me on the bed. The ceiling fan was clicking again, its blades rotating like four lazy fishtails. The streetlights flickered outside. And that’s when we heard the first scream. We glanced at each other. It’s a raccoon, I said, in the alley. Or two cats fighting. It isn’t human that’s for sure. Another scream came and you just said, no. I got up to look out the window and saw leaves from the tree behind our building joining with leaves from the tree behind that. Everything binding together with the night. The third scream left no doubt. It carried with it a pitch of danger and pain. It’s a mile away, I said, miles maybe. Someone’s already calling it in, someone’s already rushing over to help. No, you said again. I turned out the light and we lay there, more screams piercing the darkness. I released a breath I didn’t know I’d been holding. My skin tightened. Finally I rose with a creak from the bed. It didn’t matter what I wore, and you just watched me as I took too long to decide between the pile of dirty clothes in the basket and the pile of clean folded ones. What if the screams are coming from inside a house? I asked. What if they’re coming from the sidewalk or the street? You said nothing, and I stumbled from the bedroom and unlocked the apartment door, shivered down the hallway and the stairs. Outside, a few men stood together on their porches and stoops, and I pointed and we began to pursue the screams together. Sometimes one of us would split from the group and we thought he was gone before he reappeared later on a different block. The screams kept coming. Kept rising. One of the men began telling us about a driver in a different city that had run his car off a bridge. A samaritan had gone down after him. Eighty feet, the man said, the guy dove eighty feet into the water to save him. After that nobody told the others to go on without them, nobody turned back. It was after midnight and the humidity had begun to wane. The windows of the city were almost all dark, some as empty as they looked, some with people hiding behind them, probably watching us go past. The screams were closer now, louder. No, I said aloud. No, I kept saying under my breath, and I heard you behind them, your voice from the bed. The others looked to me and I looked back and we pushed forward and I wondered what I would have to tell you when I got home.
____
Lucas Southworth
Lucas Southworth’s stories have recently been published in Puerto Del Sol, TriQuarterly, Meridian, Willow Springs, and in the collection, Everyone Here Has a Gun (University of Massachusetts Press). He is a professor of fiction and screenwriting at Loyola University Maryland.

Koan #17: Bias — by Irena Praitis

You cannot swim for new horizons until you have
courage to lose sight of the shore
. — William Faulkner

Like so many things, they are adjustable. But since I first guided them into parallel grooves, and unloaded groceries on them, I’ve never moved them—Easier to shift the milk, the leftovers of chicken and rice, the asparagus stalks in water, the food that enters, and stays, then goes, than to pull out shelves and rearrange them. They catch the spills, and gel the smears from partially crushed strawberries seeping from the carton, cluster the bits of cracked, papered onion skins. Despite the chill and changing foods and tastes, my fad diets and late night ice cream binges, the shelves remain, unmoved, firm as convictions.
_____
Irena Praitis
Irena Praitis’s fifth collection of poems, The Last Stone in the Circle, is forthcoming from Red Mountain Press. She is a professor of creative writing and literature at California State University, Fullerton and lives in Fullerton with her son, Ishaan.