Prison Area — by Melanie Dunbar

The lake is the color of the bottle of cheap white I slept with last night. I have someone else’s flannel on, buttoned up. I thought you’d be here, where white feathers litter the beach. Maybe I’ll thumb a ride and head east, away from the lake. Work in an orchard packing apples with a fake name like Kitty or Cat, where you can’t find me. When the wind untucks my shirt, I’ll hear you sing Sinatra. The water is clear and as it rises up it shimmers, until the waves crash on the pier.

____

Melanie DunbarMelanie Dunbar tends flowers for a living. She writes her best poetry while weeding someone else’s garden. Her poems can be found in Sweet: A Literary Confection, Gargoyle and elsewhere. She lives in Southwest Michigan with her family and their rooster, Mr. Beautiful.

The Challenger Disaster — by Hope Jordan

I kissed you at a St. Valentine’s Day Massacre party. Years later I watched a documentary about the actual massacre and it seemed like a gruesome inspiration for a party theme. Back in 1929 Al Capone’s gangsters murdered seven others in Chicago; historians said that never before had Americans seen photos with so much blood, in the newspaper.

The party was in a frat house basement. Girls wore flapper dresses and red lipstick; brothers carried toy machine guns and wore sunglasses and dark suits. We were crowded into a room with a bar and pool table. A few steps led into the next room. I was in that doorway going up and you were coming down. Because of the steps your mouth was eye level so I kissed you, not hard, no tongue, just a warm friendly kiss for no reason I’ve ever known.

Maybe because you were tall and thin and had Jim Morrison late-60s hair. Maybe because you stood leaning slightly back, hips thrust forward, so that my roommate nicknamed you “DF” for “dick first.” Years later I came across a New York Times interview with a model who described that exact stance, used by the men who pose for the covers of romance novels. It flattens the stomach and sends a viewer’s eyes to the crotch.

I was drunk enough to kiss you but sober enough to wonder what I’d done. When it happened neither of us said anything. I kept going up the stairs. Later, waiting your turn to play pool, you swaggered over and said, you kissed me. It was true but I didn’t know what else to say. I was afraid you would tell me I ruined your chances with some other girl. Instead you asked me to help out behind the bar.

Weeks before this the space shuttle Challenger had exploded. Then, too, seven people had died, but they were astronauts, not gangsters, and they weren’t executed; nobody saw their blood. Over and over we had seen television images of the smiling teacher astronaut, of her small students crying as they scanned the zigzag sky.

At the Massacre party people walked around aiming plastic guns and telling Challenger jokes. What did Christa McAuliffe tell her husband? You feed the dog, I’ll feed the fish. It bothered me that nobody seemed able to pronounce her last name.

Beside you I poured beers from the tap and handed them to the crowd. It felt like digging a ditch or dancing, a conjoined intensity of rhythm. A bottle broke and you cut your hand picking it up. I helped you wrap it in a filthy rag I found beneath a shelf.

Later in your apartment I took off my clothes. You laughed; it hadn’t occurred to me that waffleweave long johns are not what a woman wears to seduce a man. Years later I saw Marla Maples guest star in a sitcom scene, après-ski, wearing thermals and looking stunning. I wondered then if maybe you hadn’t been mocking me after all.

You wore cologne, some alien scent monstrously more delicious than the English Leather of my father or the Brut of my high school boyfriends. Your body was pale and muscled and smooth as an ancient statue. You put on a condom before we fucked. You put your finger up my ass. This was the first time someone had done this. I did it back, assuming you expected it. Years later I wondered if that surprised you even more than my kiss.

When I woke up in your bed my legs were covered in streaks of blood. I was hungover and afraid. Then I realized the blood was yours, from the cut on your hand. It was a map of where we’d touched in the night, contrails left behind by your travels on my skin.
____

hjheadshot15Hope Jordan’s short story, “I Can Shoot Razors From My Eyes,” appeared in the anthology Scream When You Burn. Her poetry chapbook, The Day She Decided to Feed Crows, is forthcoming from Cervena Barva Press. She was the first official poetry slam master in New Hampshire.

O-Rings and Aqua Lube — by Cynthia Romanowski

If it’s summer your pool man will probably wake up when it’s still dark outside but maybe he won’t wake up until noon. Maybe he’ll be hung over. Maybe he’ll drive to Huntington and surf before his first stop or drop his kids off at school or smoke a bowl, but he will never do all three.

His first stop might be a nightmare or it might be easy, it depends on the weather. If it’s been windy it will take him twice as long and he’ll have to bring a leaf trap. If there’s a heat wave he’ll double-up on chlorine and algae kill. If it’s a Santa Ana wind and a heat wave? Well then he’s just screwed, but if it’s raining he won’t work at all.

To check the chems he might bring out a kit with test tubes. He’ll fill the tubes with water before squeezing exactly five drops of test solution into each one. Or he might wing it and squirt the stuff directly into the pool, watching how the drops change color as they hit the water. If he’s been cleaning your pool for decades he might not test the chems at all and just guess, but don’t worry he’s always right.

*

On his truck, your pool man might have a hitch with a cart on it or he might rough it, skip the cart and carry everything himself like he’s got something to prove.

He might drive an old truck with a crew cab or a brand new long-bed that he can’t afford. He might even drive an El Camino. If not these, then he will drive a white van with no windows that creeps out your neighbors.

While he cleans your pool he might listen to Pandora or the Dodger game or an audio book or he might not listen to anything besides the swift splashes and trickles as he moves his net through the water.

He will probably have to go to the pool store for more chems or maybe some equipment. At the pool store he’ll hear the same conversation over and over:

How’s it going? 

Just trying to clean these fucking pools man

These words will bring him comfort, because for a brief moment they’ll make him feel like he’s part of something, before gets back on the road, alone.

*

You don’t realize how dangerous your pool is but your pool man does. He knows that drowning is the leading cause of death of children under age five in the state of California. If your pool light has water in it, he knows to shut off the breaker, so you don’t jump in and die from electrocution in your own backyard.

He has scooped up all of the following from the bottom of pools: forty-three different varieties of leaves, pinecones, broken toys, sand, used condoms, children’s poop, drowned rats, branches, thick nests of human hair, bees, wasps, beetles, patio furniture and a dead dog.

*

Your pool man uses words like diatomaceous and alkalinity. And he also uses words that sound strangely sexual like o-ring and Aqua Lube and nipple job.

He knows how long to hold his breath when pouring muriatic acid so that the fumes don’t burn his lungs. He will have learned this the hard way. He will have felt the instant burn in his throat and nostrils and eyes and the quick panic that comes with it.

After work, your pool man might head out to surf again or he might go to a bar and watch the game. Or pick up his kids. Or, if he’s still young and hopeful, then he might have to rush to get to class on time.

Your pool man might dream about retiring or finishing school or impregnating his wife or getting divorced or saving enough for his daughter’s college.

Your pool man might also be a pool woman but that is highly unlikely.

*

When he gets home your pool man will smell like chlorine and B.O. with faint notes of sunscreen and ball sweat. He might also smell like: cigarettes, beer, Aqua Velva, vanilla pine tree air freshener, or Old Spice. His wife will hate the smell of chlorine but his children won’t. Even as adults it will always remind them of home and childhood and summer’s spent jumping in and out of dad’s truck, helping him for $1 per pool.

*

There are times when your pool man contemplates the inconsequential nature of his life. How he’s spent day after day, year after year, picking debris out of water knowing full-well that the wind will blow and undo an hours worth of work in a matter of seconds. He wonders if this is the way life was meant to be lived or whether he should have wanted something more. Other times he feels comforted by the same simplicity.

Sometimes you wonder what it would be like: to turn off the screen and dismantle your cubicle, to use your hands and body, to welcome the mindlessness and revel in the repetition. To simplify.

Then you get back to work.

_____
cynthia
Cynthia Romanowski is just another asshole with an MFA. Her monthly book column Shelf Awareness can be found in Coast Magazine and she blogs irregularly at Bildungsroman-owski. She’s been working on a collection of linked short stories called “The Habitual Position Of Being Okay” for longer than she’d like to admit.

The Rock Star Fills in the Blank — by Erin Lyndal Martin

The rock star opens his mouth and you tumble out, with the dead-leaves scent of your hair I remember. When I met you, I had reasons for thinking you were dirty. Not that you were sketchy or lascivious. It just hadn’t occurred to you to wash.

The rock star is screaming now. He’s all vowels.

The rock star is from El Paso and I bet you’ve been there too. Before I met you, driving an old white Jeep, installing cable.  Buying screw-top wine to drink in hotel rooms, watching infomercials in the dark.  What I can’t remember about you I invent, like how you did your laundry when you were on the road. Probably you found a laundromat, but I imagine you stopped strangers at gas stations and asked to use their machines.

The rock star opens his mouth and I think of music festivals. You have been to many and I can’t picture that, what with your love of outerwear. I think you stand there listening to music all day and then write postcards that do not mention the festival at all.

You used to play the rock star’s albums while you watched movies with the sound off. Usually they were movies made by this 1970’s softcore director you loved. Boobs kept falling out of nurses’ uniforms beneath fierce drumming. I can’t tell what the rock star is singing about, but it’s probably lobotomies or electroshock therapy. He barely knits his eyebrows when he sings.

Ever since the second chorus last night, I knew I was alone no matter what. Real alone, lightning in my bones alone, straining in the crowd at the Statue of Liberty alone. It wasn’t pain that made me whimper under you but it wasn’t desire either.

The rock star invites us to a party and mixes me a drink. When he hands me the glass, I see that he has an evil eye tattoo inside his left wrist. It’s blue-black like certain kinds of wasps. The ice in the glass is melting faster than I think it should. I don’t know if I want to drink the bourbon anymore.

You and I find a little dark room with a couch. It’s probably meant for making out or at least smoking up but you don’t even hold my hand. Embedded in the wall is one of those fake fish tanks. It’s the only light in the room.

The party gets lame. The rock star says we’re leaving. The rock star asks you to stop the car so we can get out and take a picture of the sky. The ground cover is lurid like bad landscape art. I’m thinking about star clusters and then I’m alone by the side of the road.

The rock star comes back for me. He has you tied up in the trunk. We demolish you in the desert, and then the rock star drives us away in your car.

______

olbrich-003
Erin Lyndal Martin is a poet, fiction writer, music journalist, and visual artist. Her flash fiction has appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, Literary Orphans, Atticus Review, and elsewhere. She’s on twitter.

Flash in November: Blood, Bruja, Bellow

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

Contributor Wendy C. Ortiz’s third book, Bruja, is out as of 10/31! Catch her on her book tour; many dates and locations are below.

wendyortiz

Contributor Nicholas Rhys interviewed contributor Wendy C. Ortiz about her new book, Bruja, at Electric Lit.

The next Vermin on the Mount reading happens 11/11 in Los Angeles. Contributor Jim Ruland hosts!

Contributor Lisa Cheby’s review of Mr. West by Sarah Blake is now up at Tupelo Quarterly.

Contributor Lisa Locascio’s debut novel Jutland Gothic just sold to Grove Atlantic! It’s due out in 2018.

Contributor  Lauren Eggert-Crowe reads at the Women of The Rumpus round at the Melrose Bellow, happening in Los Angeles 11/12.

Contributor Flint’s first book, Blood, was a finalist for the UNO Press Lab Award at the University of New Orleans.

Don’t miss the next Roar Shack reading 11/13 in Los Angeles. Contributor David Rocklin hosts!

Contributor Lisa Locascio will teach at the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference this summer, August 3-5 in Fort Bragg, Calif.

Read Contributor Wendy Fontaine’s essay on Hip Mama magazine! Another of her essays, “Family Recipe,” was recently named a finalist in the Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest.

Editor Siel Ju will join Meredith Alling for a conversation at Skylight Books to celebrate the launch of Meredith’s new short story collection, Sing the Song. It happens in LA on 11/15.

Whirl — by Hazel Kight Witham

If you were there you would know why it made sense, those yards of fake golf grass and underwater cameras and assorted felt squares and paisley tissue paper and all the items that added up to a whirlwind Pic-N-Save shopping spree with my new best friend Alice who helped shoulder the plastic bags until we found the squirrel, or maybe a skunk, silenced by some car, its puff of a tail lilting in the humid heavy of a September that shouldn’t have been, a small tail-tufted shard of universe that was no longer with us and whose body I had to swaddle in Pic-N-Save paisley before sliding my hands under still-warmth as fat rain fell like intention on the side of the road where the life had left, fat rain on my cheeks, benediction to a girl who was suddenly wrestling with religion and the cosmos for the first time at nineteen, cruising around the campus of a college that wasn’t hers when she should have been sorting course offerings a few hours north at the college that was, that she poured everything into making hers, and which she had now fled to land me here, at my old friend’s college that decidedly, with all the slant looks and raised eyebrows, was not mine, even though everything—everything—all of it—finally—again  seemed to be mine,  after  such  a                 long         endless          brutal      time

of

 

nothing.

_____

Hazel WithamHazel Kight Witham’s work can be found in Bellevue Literary ReviewTwo Hawks Quarterly and soon Rising Phoenix Review. Her middle grade memoir-in-verse, The Thing About Secrets, about the day everyone found out her mom was gay, is out on submission. She lives in Los Angeles with her family.