Girls — by D. A. Hosek

1. Assuming I have a two percent chance of a girl saying yes if I ask her out, and I continue at my present rate of asking out two girls per year, I should have a date by the time I’m middle-aged. Two, if I’m lucky.

2. Back in high school, I would slip a note through the ventilation slots of a girl’s locker. This avoided the difficulty of talking to the girl at the price of making it harder to get a response. Sometimes the girl had one of her friends hand me a note telling me that she was flattered but she wanted to be “just friends.” More often my notes disappeared into the black hole of girlitude.

After one note was sucked into the black hole, I wrote a second note, saying that the least she could do was answer. Then a third note, suggesting that if she liked, she could write her rejection on a brick and throw it at me.

Still no answer. What was I supposed to do?

I went to her house, rang the doorbell and handed her a brick then walked away.

The next day, there was a note in my locker saying that she was flattered, but she wanted to be “just friends.”

3. Point onefouronefiveninetwosixfivethreefiveeightninesevenninethreetwothreeeightfour sixtwosix etcetera. Knowing pi to one hundred and forty-seven digits does not impress girls. Having a level twenty-one paladin with a +3 sword of sharpness does not impress girls even though the sword of sharpness is really cool: if you roll a twenty on the attack die, you can chop off a limb of your opponent or even his head.

If you have sons and you don’t want them to get any girls pregnant, teach them lots of math and how to play Dungeons and Dragons. You will have no worries. I guarantee it.

4. I’ve always been nervous calling girls on the phone. My roommate in college tried to cure me of my phobia by doing role-playing exercises with me. I would pretend to call a girl I was interested in and he would play her. Even in that situation, I hung up my imaginary phone as soon as he said hello.

When he persuaded me to move on to actually calling the girl, I froze as soon as she answered the phone. I covered the receiver and whispered “Line! Line!” to my roommate so he could tell me what to say.

He rolled on the floor laughing.

Somehow I managed to talk to the girl. After I stammered out my request for a date, she told me that she was flattered but she wanted to be “just friends.”

5. Should I ask a girl out? I have worked out a formula for determining if a girl is so far out of my league that there’s no point in even trying. I should only ask her out if the following equation is true:

(P  × t + 2F) ÷ (d + C) ≤ g

where P is pulchritude (that means how beautiful she is), t is how long she’s lived in the area (the longer she’s been here, the more likely it is that she’s already found a boyfriend), F is the number of her friends who have already rejected me (the fact that F is in the exponent means that I’m doomed). d is her desperation index, C is the cleverness of the way that I ask her out and g is my current geekery index.

6. Girls speak a mysterious language. A recent rejection, with translation:

Girl: I’m flattered.

Translation: No I’m not.

Girl: I’m kind of seeing someone right now.

Translation: If you move a little to the right, I’ll have a clear view.

Girl: I’ll keep you in mind if things change.

Translation: As soon as you’re out of sight, I’m going to tell all my friends and we’ll laugh until we turn blue.

7. I am happy to report that my streak finally came to an end. There’s this girl, let’s call her Amy because that’s her name. She’s beautiful, her eyes colored #436EEE and breasts forming perfect parabolas and I thought I had a chance of her saying yes, especially given the cleverness index of what I had in mind. The value of C was off the charts, F was zero, t was small and I’ve been working on bringing down g by practicing acting like the cool guys on television.

I wanted to do something big. I wanted to do something guaranteed to make an impression. I bought flowers. I bought balloons. I wore a top hat, white tie and tails like Fred Astaire. I hired an a cappella group through Craigslist. I surprised her at the store where she worked.

Amy said no. She said I embarrassed her. She asked me never to come to her work again.

She didn’t say we should be just friends.
____
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D. A. Hosek lives outside Chicago with his wife and kids. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Westerly, Headland, The Southampton Review, Monkeybicycle and elsewhere.

The Scream Queen Is Bored — by Michelle Ross

Out on the cabin’s porch, the morning after their first night of filming sequel number four. Hot out, only a fitful, feeble breeze like the hopeless breaths of the slain. The scream queen focuses her binoculars on a mangy squirrel scrambling up a pine tree, but then the squirrel disappears, and there’s nothing to see.

Frank and the others are drinking coffee in their underwear. Faded boxer shorts, matching bra and panty sets, bed-wrinkled flesh. A cigarette in Frank’s lips. Someone suggests a swim in the lake.

Frank says, “Too early,” but soon they’re running toward the water. Frank doesn’t call out to her, but one of the other girls does. “You coming, Carly?”

The scream queen shakes her head. She watches Frank’s boxers fall from his pale ass like a raggedy Band-Aid from a wound.

Then there’s a series of splashes. Heads bob up, marring the lake’s smooth surface. The heads laugh and screech.

If they were filming right now and she were the killer, what would be her strategy? Would she sneak up from below and pull them under one by one? Or play shy, refuse to shed her own clothes upon entering the dark water, a weapon secreted in her pocket? When her first victim screams and blood gurgles to the lake’s surface, the others would suspect something bestial, an alligator perhaps. Certainly not the scream queen.

She is always a victim. Because she’s female. Because her legs look great in cut-off shorts. Because Frank says that when she opens her throat, every cock within earshot throbs.

Frank is their director. He’s also the killer: Victor. Because chasing the scream queen and the other girls, machete in hand, gets him off. Frank isn’t ashamed to admit this. The machete is obviously a penis, he says. The girl’s screaming mouth is obviously a pussy. He says a monster terrorizing a pretty girl is the oldest fetish there is.

The scream queen used to think Frank was onto something. He’d be pursuing her through brambles, and she’d be running and screaming, and yeah, she’d get hot thinking about what he was going to do to her later in their shared bedroom in the cabin. She’d think words like ravage and plunder. She’d throb too.

But lately it all seems kind of pathetic. Ravage and plunder mean to destroy or to ruin, but last night when Frank chased her through the woods with that machete and that grin, she just felt tired. Like anything else you do again and again, running from a psycho killer gets monotonous.

Watching again and again gets old too, which is why the last sequel didn’t get nearly as many views on YouTube.

She told Frank that he ought to change things up. “Maybe I could be the killer,” she said.

Frank shook his head. “That works in a rape revenge film, but those don’t have good sequel potential. And anyway, not really my thing.”

“Then at the very least you could swap out the machete for scissors or an axe or, hell, a sharpened pencil.”

Frank wouldn’t have it, though. He said, “Victor is a machete man.”

The scream queen rolled her eyes, but only after Frank turned away. He’s a sensitive guy, Frank. Earlier this morning from their cabin bedroom window, heart pounding, the scream queen watched a hawk pluck a rabbit from the earth like a fat tuber. Fifteen minutes later, that rabbit was a bloodied scrap of fluff beneath the hawk’s talons. Frank called to her from the shower, “When I get out, I’m going to rip you wide open, Baby. You should see how huge my cock is just thinking about it.” She said, “A hawk doesn’t need its prey to tell it what great big talons it has.”

The shower ran for several more minutes, but Frank didn’t make another sound. She’d taken him by surprise. Slaughtered him so quick, he didn’t have a chance to scream.
_____

michelleross2Michelle Ross’s debut story collection, There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You, won the 2016 Moon City Press Fiction Award and is forthcoming in February 2017. She serves as fiction editor for Atticus Review.

Sacrifice — by Wendy Fontaine

Nothing about it felt right, not the room, not the bed, not the air. The sheets were pilled and gritty, like sand on her naked back. They smelled like cigarettes. Instead of the night songs of crickets, there were car horns, helicopters, a faraway train. And instead of her husband’s strong, calloused hands, there were his, tentative and fumbling, unfamiliar.

Seven weeks had passed since she’d discovered the infidelity. First the email messages, then the bank statements. Eventually, she found the photographs, the woman tattooed and sun-freckled, her breasts pendulous. His admission came slowly, but it came, an abrupt end to an 11-year promise.

On this night, there would be no promises. No phone numbers exchanged, no dinner plans made. He seemed to understand this as much as she did. Perhaps that’s why she had chosen him, why she had plucked him from the barstool and lured him into a cab. Everything about him, from his Old Navy t-shirt to his Ikea furniture, shouted impermanence. Everything but a royal-blue fish swimming in a small plastic bowl on his nightstand.

Through the darkness she could see him on bended knee, jeans sliding down his thighs, moonlight across his bare chest. It reminded her of the day her husband had proposed, right there on the beach in Provincetown, no one but the seagulls to bear witness. That had been the happiest day of her life, but what did it matter now? She pushed her heels into the grainy sheets and lifted her hips.

His rhythm was off. Outside, a police siren wailed. She pressed her hands against his thighs to slow him down, but his face went slack and his mouth hung open. She didn’t want to look at him like that. She wanted him to take her over to the other side, across the bridge that needed crossing, but she didn’t want to see. She pulled away and rolled onto her hands and knees, her back arching.

She focused on the peeling wallpaper, the fishbowl, the tiny betta swimming around inside, anything to keep the tears away. She was done with all that. Now she wanted whatever was going to come next. Resolution. Clarity. Or maybe just sex. She wondered what her husband would think. How wrong she had been. How foolish.

With one hand, she reached between her legs to feel the spot where the past met the present. With the other hand, she grabbed a fistful of sheet to brace herself. She spread her knees wider, felt him grow harder, stronger, heard him whisper something. She groped for the headboard to steady herself, but her hand landed on the nightstand. The fishbowl tumbled to the floor.

She knew she was almost there. If she could just get there…. The fish lay just beyond her reach, its small mouth opening and closing, opening and closing. It was pitiful, but it was already gone. Lost forever.

He bucked harder. Her breath quickened; she was panting like an animal. She closed her eyes and let the tears fall. When she opened them again, the betta was still.
_____
Wendy Fontaine
Wendy Fontaine is a Pushcart-nominated writer whose work has appeared in Hippocampus, Passages North, Readers Digest, Literary Mama and elsewhere. In 2015, she won the Tiferet Prize for Creative Nonfiction. She teaches journalism, lives in Los Angeles and is currently seeking representation for her memoir, Leaves in the Fall.

7875ft from the Car — by Flint

Yr pritty.

And I know he isn’t talking to the hummingbird zippering the air just behind his left ear.

In his backpack, I imagine:

peanut butter and jelly sandwich, empty juicebox (apple), Marlboro Reds and a crumpled pack of Benson & Hedges Menthol 100s, three changes of clothes with the underwear already turned inside-out twice, a stuffed bunny, a hammer.

The instructions lace my shoes.

The hummingbird opens her ruby throat.

The air swells like a lung.

____

flintFlint is a writer, activist and itinerant adjunct writing instructor who lives in Los Angeles. She earned an MFA in Writing from the School of Critical Studies at CalArts, and is interested in hybridity, performativity and generative genre-tampering.

Flash in October: Witchcraft, sharp implements, and other literary news

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Rosso Parigi, the Italian translation of contributor Maureen Gibbons’s novel Paris Red, is now available.

Contributor Nicholas Rhys has new writing in A-MinorTalking Book, and Electric Literature!

Editor Siel Ju will give a talk at the next Women Who Submit event on Oct. 8 in Los Angeles.

The next Roar Shack reading happens Oct. 9 in Los Angeles. Contributor David Rocklin hosts!

Contributor Lisa Locascio has three new poems up at El Balazo Press.

Contributor Marie Harris’s prose poem, “Standard Plumbing,” will appear and be read by Garrison Keillor on his Writers Almanac on Oct. 13.

Come out to Lit Crawl Los Angeles on Oct. 26 to hear Wendy C. Ortiz, Siel Ju, and many other Flash contributors read at various events throughout the night.

Pick up contributor Stefan Kiesbye’s new novel, Knives, Forks, Scissors, Flames, when it comes out Oct. 26!

Hear contributor Wendy C. Ortiz read with Randa Jarrar and Myriam Gurba, for Randa’s book launch of Him, Me, Muhammad Ali on Oct. 28 in Los Angeles.

Contributor Christopher Citro has a new collaborative prose poem up at Barnstorm.

Get a copy of contributor Wendy C. Ortiz’s new book, Bruja, when it comes out on Halloween, Oct. 31! The book launch party happens Nov. 6 in Los Angeles.