WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "La Paz Porta-Homes" and "Sitting with My Wife's Urn in My Lap" by Jace Einfeldt

La Paz Porta-Homes

By Jace Einfeldt

When me and Trev were younger, we went Christmas window shopping with mom. Most years, looking was all we could afford to do with her habits and all. We had always wanted a bike. The wind in our hair, the freedom. Doesn’t get much better than that. Just pedaling, balance, and total control. Just you, the bike, and the road. 

Christmas Day usually consisted of presents wrapped in pages from the National Enquirer topped with a bow. The days between Christmases got longer when money was scarce. One year, mom noticed me and Trev trading basketball cards with Kenny Farnes two trailers down. That year, Trev got a City Rec League Basketball T-Shirt (size XL) with ketchup stains on the design: a picture of a man hanging on a basketball hoop with the words “Rim Rockerz” across the top in graffiti. Even if we didn’t like the gifts, we had to say we did. She was thrifty in all the wrong ways.

We had a paper shredder in the trailer that mom brought home from her job at Staples, and when she said we had no money I wondered if she just put her paychecks through the shredder. I remember sifting through the shreds hoping to piece together a dollar bill.

Even though we were poor, mom threw parties like we weren’t. Our trailer was full of people and got smaller when guests came over. They always stayed overnight. Sometimes we stayed out late because we didn’t want to walk in while she was conducting business. When me and Trev left for school, we played “the people sleeping on the floor are lava.” When mom was out, we played “guess when mom comes home.” Loser cleaned the living room, gave mom Tylenol, and got her to bed. In the end, we both dealt with mom’s hangovers. We played our games and made our own traditions. Mom revered our traditions and games as much as she honored and respected routine drug tests at work. 

One Christmas, me and Trev were eleven and nine years old respectively. We wrote Santa a letter. We were 99% sure he didn’t exist, but on the off chance he was didn’t want him to miss us. We wanted to cast a wide net. We even sent a letter to the president. We told Santa we had been good boys all year. We cleaned up after mom’s parties. When she forgot to turn off the light in the living room and fell asleep on the futon, we turned it off for her and put a blanket on her. When the police came looking for her, we said she wasn’t home because that’s what she told us to say. When she needed us to pee in containers for her so she could keep working at Garth’s Food Mart, we peed in containers. We talked a lot about it and decided to ask for a bike. We’d use it to be paper boys so we could help mom pay rent. We weren’t asking for stupid things like mom always said. We just wanted something nice. We signed it “Sincerely, Kirby and Trevor Davenport.” We even wrote the address: La Paz Porta-Homes. We knew Santa made it to La Paz. Last year, Silvia across the way got an easy-bake oven, and Scotty Philips got an RC monster truck.

We put the letter on the kitchen counter praying mom would take it to the post office.

Mom got laid off from Garth’s for sneaking dried mango slices out in her bra. We didn’t expect Christmas this year.

Mom went out a couple nights before Christmas looking for a miniature tree but ended up blowing the tree-money on a bag of weed. She told us that marijuana comes from trees, so she actually got what she had set out to get. We ended up making a tree by gluing Andes Mints wrappers together on a piece of paper, using brass pushpins to hold it up on the wall. On Christmas morning, we sprinted to the living room to see if Santa got our letter. Mom was up. A bedsheet was draped over something in the middle of the room. 

We couldn’t remember if she had come home. She told us that Santa came with something last night. She said that if we wanted it, we had to promise that we’d use the gift to help her. We nodded with excited resolve to help. She pulled the sheet. It fluttered to the ground. In its place was a yellow two-seater bike.

We didn’t breathe. One breath and the bike would crumble into powder and mom would snort it up.

I imagined flying down a hill with Trev in the back-seat, air soaring through our hair, tickling our ears. We swore we’d do anything to help. 

She handed us a heavy backpack and an address on a piece of crumpled up lined paper. She told us to take the backpack to the address. 

We lumbered forward through the narrow dirt path leading to Jacinto Drive tipping over twice. The chain caught hard with ever pump of the pedal as we agitated it with our constant gear shifts. Just as we got a rhythm figured out a kid bolted across the street right in front of us. Santa definitely made it to his house last night. He had a bike; his was new. He probably didn’t have to pee in containers for his mom or tell the cops that she was gone when she was actually wasted on her bed with a glass of water and three Tylenols waiting on her night stand. He probably didn’t have to pretend people were lava or keep guessing when his mom would be home even though it was well past midnight. This kid, who could still believe in Christmas miracles, shot a smile our way. Trev returned it with the bird. We rode off down Jacinto Drive glancing back as mom and the trailer got smaller and smaller.


Sitting with My Wife’s Urn in My Lap

By Jace Einfeldt

Does “on my lap in an urn” count as never leaving? If not, do I have any moral or legal obligation to hold my end of the promise?

Do other lifeforms have urns? Is cremation an option for extraterrestrials? Do they make their own urns in a pottery class? Are they unnervingly aware of their own mortality? 

Do other lifeforms mourn? If not, how do they express grief? Is it through tears? Self-inflicted solitude? Running for hours down the same paths that they once walked with their loved ones? If these aren’t options, do they have therapists? Supportive families? Close friends? Children? Religious leaders? Do they believe in God? Or gods? Or an afterlife? What would it be like? Would it be in the sky? Composed of clouds? Or would it look like a refurnished, restored version of their home planet? Would they see their loved ones again? Or would they simply just be? Or cease to exist? Float in limbo, directionless, cold, and alone? Would they find solace and peace in such ideas? If not, where would they turn? Are they afraid to die? Afraid to think about death?

Are there spaceships that can take individuals into space to clear their minds? How big would they be? Do they have private space shuttles? Would it be considered littering if I dumped ashes into space? Isn’t all life carbon based? Would I be fined? Would the Interplanetary Recycling Agency arrest me for improper disposal of an organic substance? Do I need a permit to dispose of organic substances? Does the permit cost more than $5,000? If so, where do I sign?

Part of me wants to be arrested.

To be fined.

To be found.

If I get arrested, would an agent of the Interplanetary Recycling Agency dispose of the ashes for me? If the agent is reluctant, could a bribe change their mind? If the bribe doesn’t do the job, would they take pity on me? Or would they look past me? Get tired of my questions: “why me?” and “why now?” Take the urn off my hands, and shoot me into space as punishment for not doing more? Would they blame me like I blame myself? Or would they seek to understand? Would they let me talk? Would they listen? Would they validate my weary soul?

I would take pity on me. 

Would they believe me when I say that I was just keeping a promise made years ago? Do they believe in promises? Are promises protected by interplanetary legislation? Just because a promise is made with a pinky, does it make it invalid?

Do they have doctors? Do their doctors discover malignant brain tumors in their perfectly healthy patients? Are tumors even a worry for more advanced lifeforms? If so, how big do they get? Do they start as the size of a marble? Would these doctors provide false hope? Would they be told to be “cautiously optimistic”? Would the tumor grow to the size of a ping-pong ball? Would they play ping-pong in the waiting room to keep their mind off reality? Would it be inoperable? How would they break the news to the patient’s loved ones? Would they be blunt? Straight-forward? Cut to the chase? Would they, hopefully, try a more humane approach? Would they offer condolences? Or would they just move on?

How do you properly say good-bye to a pile of ashes? Can you just open a lid, say good-bye, and shake the contents out? Like emptying a vacuum cleaner? Or should it be more intimate? Meaningful? Ceremonial? Should I offer a prayer? Give a eulogy? If so, what would I say? With only myself to hear, would it matter? Is this even my wife anyway? How does the song go again? Ashes to ashes, dust to dust? This is what she wanted, so why I am still clutching the urn?

If I empty the contents into the “EJECT ORGANIC WASTE” chute, will I feel less guilt? Would she be offended if I used the chute? Should I find another avenue of release? Is there a less offensive “EJECT ORGANIC SUBSTANCE” chute? Does it really matter in the end?

Once she’s released, will I be able to see the ashes drift away? Or will they blend into the blackness? Is it cold out there? Will I be able to see her again? If so, will she recognize me? Will I recognize her? Will I be able to tell her how much I miss her? Does she miss me? Does she know I’m here? 

If I’m in space, how many days could I survive? Weeks? Months? Does air go bad? What if I ran out of fuel? What if the pod’s battery dies? Is the oxygenator connected to the battery? How much oxygen is left in the reserve tank? If there’s none left, would I asphyxiate? Should I just I pull the “EMERGENCY ESCAPE” lever? Would there even be an “EMERGENCY ESCAPE” lever? Does being a widower in a one-man spacecraft count as an emergency? In case of an emergency, what should I do? Is there a limit on emergencies before pulling the “EMERGENCY ESCAPE” lever? Three? Two? One? Would I be a terrible husband if I left my wife alone in space? Would it be any worse than leaving her on earth? Will she be waiting for me on the other side? Once she’s out there, I wonder if she’d appreciate company? 

How can I know unless I pull the lever?


About the Author:

Jace Einfeldt is a native of Southern Utah and is a senior in Brigham Young University’s English program. He is an avid reader and writer, specializing in contemporary American literature and short fiction. When he’s not knee-deep in class work, he works as a writing consultant with the BYU Research and Writing Center and BYU Writing Fellows. After graduating, he will be pursuing a master’s and PhD in American literature. Aside from his accomplishments within the English program, he plays the cello, is fluent in Tagalog, and has the most awesome wife.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit


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WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "Excerpts from 'B-Flat Clarinet Fingering Chart'” by Ryan Mihaly

Excerpts from “B-Flat Clarinet Fingering Chart”

By Ryan Mihaly

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About the Author:

Ryan Mihaly is a poet and musician who recently completed the BridgeGuard residency in Štúrovo, Slovakia. He graduated from the MFA program at Naropa University where he was an Anne Waldman/Anselm Hollo fellow. His work has appeared in or is forthcoming from: 3:AM Magazine, DIAGRAM, Crossing the Dissour, Asymptote, the Massachusetts Review, and in Ilan Stavans' anthology On Self-Translation: Meditations on Language. A multi-instrumentalist and composer, he has played in a number of jazz, rock, folk, funk, punk, and experimental groups over the years, and frequently collaborates with dancers and poets.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: ""Bully" Comes From The Middle Dutch Word For Lover" by Skylar Alexander

"Bully" Comes From The Middle Dutch Word For Lover

By Skylar Alexander

Bill Havenhill and I grow up piss-ants in the same piss-ant town; we both have sisters named Cheyenne; we both are aliens in an elementary school named after a spaceman—him because he is too fond of magenta markers and me because I am dirt poor and smell like it. Michael Maynard, the third in our trifecta of little green men, lives over the bend in the wilderness toward McCausland. His family reuses paper plates and he  only wears sweat pants.  He is the husky to our prepubescent thinness, and thus  bears the brunt of  the beatings. Michael Maynard has a body like a bear and a dad who hits a lot harder than the pretty tanned jackass who  beats us, whose name I write  in a black ink heart  on my headboard;  Michael Maynard takes it like a man, but Bill and me—we take it like the sissies we are. We  all  bleed, but my bleeding is different.  

We all grow into our adolescent bodies. Bill Havenhill gets a girlfriend with a lazy eye; Michael Maynard gets a girl pregnant after bending her over the prep table at McDonalds on the overnight shift, but they pay to get her womb cleaned out; I get an hourglass figure early enough that my daddy’s friends label me “an old soul” before pulling me into their laps and slip me money like they used to when I was little. After we throw our square hats in the air and do the picture thing, Bill enlists in the military; Maynard tries his hand at professional wrestling; I try to get married, to anyone, several times, to my ruin. 

Bill Havenhill grows into a Rocket Specialist; Michael Maynard grows into his father, drunk and angry; I grow weary of men and take to carrying keys between my knuckles. Bill Havenhill does Kuwait, then does Killeen; does gay marriage, then does gay divorce. Michael Maynard does the chain store circuit—tours Walmart, then Menards, then Lowes’ as head cashier; Michael Maynard nails himself a little red-haired wife and red-haired son. I am nailed, repeatedly, a crown jewel in too many men’s exotic butterfly collections. I do the hokey pokey with every major religion after my man  (reformed, not like the  rest, he swears)  hits  me, then leaves me with nothing. Bill Havenhill takes to Trumpism, Michael Maynard takes to Trumpism, I take to puff-puff-pass; I take to vows of refuge; I take to anything that makes me disappear.  

Bill Havenhill gets into cockatiels, moves to Ft. Hood alone. Maynard gets into LARPing, goes by  Morg  now; he dominates the  fifteen-year-olds  in the park. I get clean—so clean I gleam like new pennies. I tie myself to a helium balloon and watch them as I float away, waving like Princess Di, until I too am but a blip in the atmosphere, blip-blipping into the black.    


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About the Author:

Skylar Alexander is a writer, teacher, and graphic designer living in Iowa City. She is the assistant director of the Young Emerging Writers Program at the Midwest Writing Center in Rock Island, Illinois. Her writing has appeared in Smokelong Quartely, Forklift, Ohio: A Journal of Poetry, Cooking, and Light Industrial Safety, Hobart, Poetry City, USA, PromptPress, Mantra, and elsewhere. Her first collection is forthcoming from Forklift Books.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "Talent vs. Genius" by Patrick Nevins

Talent vs. Genius

By Patrick Nevins

Talent borrows. Genius steals. Talent collects $200 when passing Go. Genius takes Free Parking. Talent brings a sharpened number two pencil on the day of the test. Genius cuts class. Talent pays his library fines. Genius shoplifts from the local booksellers. Talent is a Boy Scout. Genius is Goofus in Galant’s clothing. Talent finds a 1-Up. Genius uses the Konami Code. Talent advances on a wild pitch. Genius steals home. Talent requires prescription glasses. Genius swipes your hearing aid. Talent wants to know if you’re not using your ketchup. Genius has already filched it. Talent stays six car lengths back. Genius passes on the right. Talent adheres to MLA style. Genius plagiarizes. Talent consolidates student loans. Genius accepts grants from the school of hard knocks. Talent goes underwater on an adjustable-rate mortgage. Genius squats. Talent would like your feedback in a brief survey. Genius is ruining your good name. Talent gets consent. Genius assaults. Talent begs the judge for mercy. Genius gets held in contempt of court. Talent lives on borrowed time. Genius lives on Talent’s dime. Talent withers in a retirement-home bed. Genius smashes every tooth in your head.


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About the Author:

Patrick Nevins is Associate Professor of English at Ivy Tech Community College in Columbus, Indiana. His fiction has appeared in The MacGuffin, The River, Gravel, and other journals. He is on Twitter @Patrick_Nevins.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "Playing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time On The Nintendo 64" by Adam Crittenden

Playing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time On The Nintendo 64

By Adam Crittenden

When I arrived at Kakariko Village, chickens flapped to the lazy music and the villagers sat outside of their cottages. I rolled to get around—because rolling around as young Link is faster than running—and stopped occasionally to talk with villagers. I had no idea that the amount of fucked was so rich in this village initially, but when I became older Link I saw the village for what it truly was: a facade for the sins of all of the villagers who lived there. Who knew that so much death and decay hid behind the cemetery and under the ground? As older Link, rain constantly pelted the abandoned village, but the rotten ReDead corpses masked with wooden faces still lingered. They never went away; they couldn’t because they had nowhere else to go. The first time I approached one (as young Link), it crept slow and froze time—as the ReDead do. No buttons could save me, and it approached while I stood, hypnotized. It grabbed my chest and hugged. This was like one of those bear-hugs my father gave me growing up as a child. I hated them. He wouldn’t let me go until I began to cry and struggle to breathe. When he released me, he would laugh and I would somehow be okay again—at least until the next hug. Sometimes I think those hugs were his way of saying, “I resent you. You are a burden.” At other times I think those hugs were his way of saying, “I don’t want you to be weak. You can’t be weak.” Those strange hugs. How odd to forgive someone we love. How odd to move on so quickly after pain. How odd to never really move on.  

After I finished the level, I sometimes returned just to look around, even though the village had the same corpses waiting in the same places. 


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About the Author:

Adam Crittenden holds an MFA in poetry from New Mexico State University where he was awarded an Academy of American Poets Prize. His writing has appeared in Barrelhouse, Bayou Magazine, Tupelo Quarterly, Barn Owl Review, Whiskey Island, and other journals. Blood Eagle is his first full-length book of poetry and is available from Gold Wake Press. Currently, he teaches writing in Albuquerque at Central New Mexico Community College.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "As Through a Sieve" by Jad Josey

As Through a Sieve

Jad Josey

You sift and I sweep. I move the broom close to your feet, the bristles poking your toes, cranberry-red nails with unpainted crescent moons near the cuticles, because you haven’t been to the salon since your mother called, since she choked out the words about your father, since you said Daddy over and over until I wrested the phone from your hand. 

The sifter glimmers with newness. Three birthdays ago, I wrapped it in newspaper, the worst wrapping job ever, you’d said, the corners of your mouth turned up, teeth showing. You tore the paper, cheeks flushed with wine. Afterward, the sifter lingered unsifting through three different Ansel Adams calendars on the wall. I will never tire of Half Dome strafed in that light and those shadows. 

You sift and I wait. You used to turn a whisk in careful circles, and I would excavate clumps of cocoa powder with my fork. I wondered if you found them in your cake, too. Now you pull the trigger on the sifter and the kitchen is a windless field, flour falling quiet as snow. I worry at your feet with the broom, trying to bear something out. Trying to shepherd something back in.


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About the Author:

Jad Josey resides on the central coast of California with his family and one very large cat. His work has appeared in Glimmer Train, Passages North, Reed Magazine, Little Fiction, and elsewhere. He is currently at work on a collection of short stories. Read more at www.jadjosey.com or reach out on Twitter @jadjosey.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "The Swimmers" by Elizabeth Paul

The Swimmers

By Elizabeth Paul

Since a lot of things didn’t make sense to me as an American living in Kyrgyzstan, or perhaps because so much seemed to reference the past more than the present—the faded signs on crumbling buildings, the silent and vacant factories, the statue of V.I. Lenin—I did not think too much of the fact that there was no swimming pool at the Swimming Pool bus stop. Perhaps there had once been a swimming pool, I thought, or maybe the name referred to the Ak Buura River in a colloquial way; the river ran parallel to Isanova Street, and near the bus stop was a popular swimming spot, where a wood-plank bridge provided access to the grassy left bank.

But in fact, there was a swimming pool near the bus stop. I couldn’t see it from the road because it was set back on the far side of the river and in the ground, with nothing surrounding it to suggest a swimming pool. Perhaps if I’d noticed how the Russian word for swimming pool, bassein, resembles the English word “basin,” I might have had a better idea of what to look for—a simple 100x300 foot concrete pit with grass growing right up to its edges.

I was finally initiated into the secret of the swimming pool through Lyalya, the aunt and second mother of my then-boyfriend and now-husband, Stas. Lyalya, Stas, Stas’s mom, and his sister were one of the few ethnically Russian families still living in their Central Asian town. They’d watched most of their Russian neighbors and friends leave since the end of the Soviet Union, and I wondered what that was like. Did their hometown still feel like home? On what terms did they feel they belonged? 

Lyalya loved to swim on summer evenings, and one late afternoon she invited me to join her at the pool. I knew it would be awkward—I was a beginner in Russian—but it was time to get to know Stas’s family.  

Lyalya’s habit was to do the breast stroke—keeping her head above water—about two-thirds of the length of the pool and back. So she had left her thick, rose-rimmed glasses on and clamped her orange hair up with a black claw clip before leading me down the slimy, slick ramp into the water.

There was no smell of chlorine and no dancing of light over a cerulean blue liner. In this rough container, the water appeared dark and opaque, and when I let my legs drop, weeds dragged across my ankles and brushed my toes. There were no kids with goggles and snorkels. There were no swimmies or noodles. No diving boards, life guards, or lanes. There were no deck chairs or concession stands. No trash cans stuffed with empty soda cups and neon-stained nacho trays. There were just a few people—mostly boys in their underwear bobbing in the water or standing around the perimeter—and a few cows—some grazing nearby, others passing through trailed by a skinny child wielding a long, thin branch.

Our pale legs glowed in the water, and I wondered what kind of spectacle we provided. The kids at the pool had never experienced the multiethnic empire of the Soviet Union. Did our white skin look as unusual to them as it appeared to me in the dark water that had been diverted from the river? Did I look American even in my swim suit? People could always tell I was American. I was never taken for a Russian.    

I don’t remember what Lyalya and I talked about. I did more listening than talking and understood more than I could express, though there was much that eluded me. Still, Lyalya seemed to understand most of my awkward, accented Russian, which took patience and faith. What I remember well is our walk down the slippery ramp before watching eyes, our synchronized shock as the mountain-river cold chomped down on our flesh, our pinning of shoulders to ears and elbows to ribs as we waded in to our waists, our pinch-faced lunges into the first stroke, our parallel wakes, the bob of our torsos and the dip of our chins, the eventual warming up, and the final emerging. I remember the water, the fresh air, and the sunlight surrounding us like amber does an insect, suspending us in a luminescence apart from the inevitable flow of less remarkable moments. 


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About the Author:

Elizabeth Paul’s work has appeared in Cold Mountain Review, The Carolina Quarterly, The Briar Cliff Review, Sweet Lit, The Indianapolis Review, and Duende, among other places. Her chapbook Reading Girl is an exploration of the art of Henri Mattise. She served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kyrgyzstan and currently teaches at George Mason University. Her website is elizabethsgpaul.com.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit


WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "Prayers on Friday " by Aiysha Malik

Prayers on Friday

By Aiysha Malik

He leans the entire length of his body against a geometric garden carved into the standing oak panel. At three feet high, it is still one foot taller than him. You watch his fingers travel over the intersections of the pattern, feeling for edges, delighting in the hollows. They find an open octagon.

He aligns his head and peers through. He places his eye against the tiny aperture as steadily as a gunman places his eye against the sight. As tenderly as a filmmaker holds his eye against the viewfinder.

The Imam, wearing jeans under his robes, approaches a man standing by the entrance. They hug and their eyes scan the spaces behind each other’s back. 

Sometimes a gunman and a filmmaker can be the same person. This morning you heard that sometimes that happens. That sometimes they can shoot two things at once—a human and a livestream.  

The mothers huddle together like points in a seven-fold tessellation, purposeful but unnatural. They whisper and their eyes triangulate the distance between themselves, their children and the exits.  

You turn to search for your tiny observer and find him still pressed against his precise peephole. The relief you are ashamed to feel stretches up to be held and you gather it against your heart, safe and warm on your chest. It wasn't you and it wasn't here. Not today.


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About the Author:

Aiysha Malik is an ever-curious writer and designer. Originally from Canada, she now resides in the United Kingdom. In 2016 she co-founded Mamanushka, a popular lifestyle blog devoted to the experiences of being a mother and Muslim woman of colour. Find more of her work and inspirations on twitter and Instagram @goodonpurpose.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit


WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: Flash(back) to the Winners of the Spring 2018 Big Sky, Small Prose Flash Contest

Water

By Allie Mariano, Winner of the Big Sky, Small Prose Flash Contest

The cement steps disappear into Pontchartrain brack and Mississippi mud. A flock of shock-green parakeets roost on the rail. Our kayak is chained to its posts. We’re lucky we built houses seven feet off the ground. The higher the house, the closer to God. Murder is down; petty crime is up. This is a roguish, half-governed place.

A little skiff approaches with three teenage boys. They hold a sousaphone, a trombone, a snare drum. They look ahead, somber. The snare drummer raises one stick in greeting. The sousaphone player takes a deep breath and presses his lips to the mouthpiece. His cheeks dimple. “St. James Infirmary” moans from the horn: slow, mournful, in a minor key. Let her go, let her go. God bless her.

When the water started rising, the rich by the lake with their nice brick homes and their carports were SOL. The rest of us lifted our shotguns. We scooped sand and lifted and scooped sand and lifted, and a couple people made a few more feet. Then, they rounded us up, they made us leave; they told us the city would soon be gone.

Today, we climb in the kayak and follow the band. We pass the cemeteries first. As the water rose, the crypts stayed put. Bodies seeped out, bone laced with remnant flesh floated amongst the graves. Now, statuesque angels stand tiptoe on the water, a concrete stag looks out over the water-imbued city. A popular tourist attraction, these cities of dead. Now there is nothing, and the tourists won’t be deterred, enchanted as they are by the ravaged. A parakeet flies overhead and settles on the nose of our craft. Three more follow suit. The brass band speeds up; the sousaphone player keeps playing. When I die, please bury me in a top hat. The sky is gray and threatens rain.

Down the street, Canal, as it is, past the half-submerged pedestal where Jeff Davis once stood. The corner bar, the Holy Ground, took water and held it. Its doors are gone; its insides fully flooded. Past the hospital complex, under the highway, must and mildew scented. Fat droplets fall on our heads. Ahead, the tallest buildings rise from the water like lifeless cypress. On the left, the Quarter, deader than it’s ever been.

We came back, like we always come back, even though they said it was gone. All the wood was damp and spotted black, nothing bleach couldn’t cure. They told us we couldn’t take any more water, not for a decade. This flood will just drain into the coast. It sounds like bullshit.

Ahead, the levee separates this lake-city from the river. Once dirt and grass, it is piled high with sand bags. On the other side, a Mississippi steamboat bursts with people. They shoulder each other to see the drowned city; those in front clasp the rail and look out in wonder. They look well fed. It’s early, and this band is smart. The tuba has stopped its solo second line, and the boys don’t look at each other. The snare player counts off, steady, and they begin. Joyful. You’d never guess the tuba warmed up on a dirge.

The tourists clap. An older man on the boat knows the lyrics and claps his hands. This is all we’ve got. Everything is water. They throw food into the boat: packaged cookies, apples, cans of Coke. We can taste the syrup. We could climb on board, abandon ship, find a new place. Somehow, the water suits us. The scavenging and the singular pursuit of survival. It seems better to stay. The parakeets fly up and land on the boat’s awning. It feels sad, but they will come back.

Originally published in CutBank 88 and featured online here.


Holding His Fire

By Daryl Scroggins, Runner-Up in the Big Sky, Small Prose Flash Contest

Before he died from spilling bug killer on himself, Mr. Gallardo would show us neighborhood kids his command center. If you knocked and offered to mow his lawn or clean his gutters, anything, he would open his door and tell you to come on in. Most of his house never had any lights on. 

What he liked to show off was in a room with a world map on the wall, where bright tube lights made you squint. There were racks of rifles and shotguns in there, and a long table that looked like it was made out of pistols. He made his own bullets at a table on the other side of the room, and he showed us special kinds he had invented himself—some he said could never be sold, even in America. He had a 4 gauge shotgun shell he said was filled with glass eyes. He had a pistol cartridge with a star-shaped slug that he said would turn into metal spaghetti on impact. I think he had some magical beliefs too, because he said he had a shell that Would Not Fire unless you said a secret word before pulling the trigger, and a pistol that, if stolen, would fire the first time the muzzle lined up with the thief’s face.

We compared stories after he died, and we had all asked him what gun he would use on a Tyrannosaurus Rex. He had it in the crawl space under his closet floor. The barrel was as long as he was tall, and instead of a stock it had a trailer thing with wheels that unfolded, and it had chains and metal stakes to keep it from rolling back too far when it was fired. Whenever someone asked him if he had ever shot it, he always said he would not have a gun he had not fired. I was the one who had to go and ask him how that could be true, if the new gun you buy has never been fired before you shoot it, you own it and haven’t fired it. I think that hurt his feelings. He stopped letting me in, and everybody says that was the start of him not being so friendly. I said I was sorry, but they all said who could tell what might make a guy like that go twitchy.

But I think maybe a question can kill you. One that has the magic in it that has a way of slipping up on a person like a little piece of dirt in your mower’s gas tank.

. . .

An ambulance came, and they him out of there, and then the bomb squad came for the gunpowder. There was yellow tape all over the place and extra locks put on all around, but Mr. Gallardo had shown us The Tunnel. A tunnel works both ways if you know where the booby traps are, and we did. He had said he didn’t have any family, so we figured it would be a shame to see the police get everything when they already had a SWAT team.

Someone said the funeral home director let a story slip out about what happened when Mr. Gallardo was cremated. There were some loud popping noises while he was in there going up in smoke, and when they raked up the ashes to put in an urn they found an almost melted .22 derringer. It was a mystery, but we figure he knew he’d be going to the hospital when he called 911, and he didn’t want to go unarmed. So he, you know, did what people do when they hide drugs.

As far as I know, the T. rex gun is still there. It would be hard to get it through The Tunnel, so you would have to take it right out the front door. I bet there’s at least one pistol still in there too.

. . .

Sometimes, I dream about that big gun in the crawl space, and it’s always the same dream. There’s a family like mine living in that house, and aliens are invading, everything blowing up and people screaming, and everybody runs to hide under the floor. Someone shines a flashlight on boxes and boxes of ammo stacked up all around. They are wondering what it’s for when the spotlight finds it—the only gun that will make you feel safe again when you don’t know what world the trouble is coming from. 

Originally published in CutBank 88 and featured online here.


A Posture of Grace

By Kim K. McCrea, Runner-Up in the Big Sky, Small Prose Flash Contest

April shattered at my feet, a barnacled shell salvaged from a maze of days, days battling kelpies at the bottom of the sea. This morning, I look up to see it is May. The grass is thick, riotous and defiant. The buds of the honey locust tree, the last leaves to unfurl, open fists of gold, the misers. Rosemary is blooming and the rhododendrons shine like starfish. A black crow flies east against a white cloud, blue sky. I am prone to seasickness. I am back on land.

On the first day of April, I sat at my father’s cluttered kitchen table and clutched the edges like a tipping raft, fighting to keep my balance. 

In my father’s house, keeping watch. Walk him, faltering and wizened, to the toilet. Inspect his leavings expecting to read an oracle: tea leaves, this is, omens found in flights of birds. In two weeks, he will be the same age as his own mother when she died, died at last, alone and unmoored in a house of strangers caring for the old and unanchored. Stand watch. Old men enduring assaults on their flesh to repair the rending of time threatening to choke the bowels. Slipping backward, further under the waves, with each incision and intrusion--glasses of water, pills of different colors, oatmeal and soup, laundry to wash away the blood and urine, a cane, a heavy walker, a cane, a slow recovery, if it comes, silver hair a broken halo from hours upon the pillow, bandages on his head where he slipped and fell and bled. I sit alone and keep watch. Three days ago, a tiny golden bird hit the window above me and broke its neck. I put it in a box to see if it would survive, somehow. Later, I wrapped it in a shroud of paper towels and whispered a small prayer for forgiveness, for the waste, my sorrow. Ask pardon.

My father was sinking below me, fading into the distance, sifting down in the murk at the bottom of the sea. I tucked him in bed and kissed him goodnight. I stood watch. The next day, I maneuvered him somehow back into the hospital. Each morning, I stopped at the hospital cafeteria and cheated the self-serve espresso machine into adding an extra shot to my latte. I tipped the cashier extra because I felt guilty. I drew the curtains around the hospital bed, straightened the blankets, and consulted the nurses. I asked for clean towels and soap, filled the plastic tub with warm water, and swished a washcloth through it. I sat beside the bed and read my book. Gradually, Dad got stronger. Kicking toward the quivering surface, we struggled upward.

Some hours, while I sat with my father, I read from Home by Marilynne Robinson. The novel is set in Iowa, in a small town called Gilead. The author’s spare language, with lines as lean as an Amish chair, is often difficult for me to grasp. I must read a paragraph several times to take its meaning, sounding out each sentence like a primer. Perhaps it’s a difference in vernacular, a syntax of rhythms that is unfamiliar to me, or the gentle piety of Midwestern pastors that is foreign. I’m still working my way through the book.

It is the idea of grace that Robinson returns to like chaining psalms. “Assuming a posture of grace,” is a phrase I read and ponder as I sit with my father. I conjure Isadora Duncan draped in a sheer pale gown striking an arabesque. And what is grace? What does it mean to assume a posture of grace?

Recovery was slow, yet steady. In the middle of the month after he was discharged, we celebrated Easter and his 85th birthday together. With a posture of grace, first comes the possibility of forgiveness. And, with forgiveness, then comes the possibility of understanding, Robinson goes on to write. I have come to realize a posture is not a pose, but a raw and persistent readiness, that grace is simply, but not only, a tender embrace of mercy. I return to the idea as I stand in the garden, pondering how we broke the surface in our embrace and found footing again. As I’m pulling up long blades of grass, I notice the grape leaves are unfolding. The new green leaves are edged in rose.

Originally published in CutBank 88 and featured online here.


About the Authors:

Allie Mariano lives in New Orleans. Her writing has appeared in Saw Palm, Day One, and in New Orleans’ Times-Picayune. She is the nonfiction editor for Midway Journal. She is working on a novel, and she’s happy to be here.

Daryl Scroggins lives in Marfa, Texas. His poems, short stories, and creative non-fictions have appeared in magazines and anthologies across the country, and his most recent book is This Is Not the Way We Came In, a collection of flash fiction and a flash novel (Ravenna Press).

Kim K. McCrea worked as a system analyst for 25 years, building out the internet of things, before returning to letters. In 2017, Kim won the Treefort Wild West Writing Prize and was a finalist in both Proximity Magazine’s Essay Prize and the Barry Lopez Creative Nonfiction Contest. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in Tishman Review, Thoughtfuldog, and Watershed Review. Kim lives in Eugene, Oregon, where she wrangles her Labrador in the rain and scouts for Great Blue Herons.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "Prayers for the Lost " by Melissa Goode

Prayers for the Lost

By Melissa Goode

Benediction

We are, all of us, dust. The priest reduces us to sinners and ash. You didn’t believe any of this, I know. The ceiling is dense heaven-blue. Bless me and keep me safe (surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life). The priest calls upon the saints, the angels. He blesses you (eternal rest give to them, O Lord). We pray for you and so we should because who knows where the fuck you are? I want it again, the first touch of my tongue to you. I will lick you clean, you are a knife, and I will curl my tongue and protect myself until I cannot anymore. On the altar, the candles burn and burn, they smoke. You aren’t here. This is where I think you are—you wait by the river for me in gold-white light. It is glorious, isn’t it? Tell me. 

#

Burial at Sea 

At the bottom of our street, the waves crash over and over, and they will not stop. Last night in my sleep, the sea gathered itself into a tsunami and collided into our house. In our bedroom of water we drowned, our heads pushed against the ceiling. People sunbake on the beach, they swim, and I don’t know how they aren’t terrified. I wasn’t always like this. Once, we stood in the sea. You pulled me close, my ten toes left the sand, and you were hard, rigid against the centre of me. Right. There. Water lapped at my lips, and I tasted salt, and you held me up as if I weighed nothing. I didn’t think about sharks or whales or any other thing. I should have. In the depths of the ocean there is the survival of the fittest which only means the survivors are eating everyone else. A school of sharks encircle a baby whale, separating it from its mother. Blood blooms in the water, and new bones descend to the seabed. The mother whale swims away, and I don’t understand that either. 

#

Act of Contrition 

I build a body of pillows in our bed. In the dark, from the corner of my eye, it is you. Hello, beautiful. You pull me down, your arms band tight around me. Your heat (you are my furnace). We don’t talk about this enough—the astonishing headiness that comes from lying on a body, being carried and being consumed. I hold your face as if that will keep you here longer. You look over my shoulder, and now I know—you cannot look me in the eye. Don’t say sorry, and I won’t say it to you. Bury yourself into me. Call me love. Drop your mouth to my ear and say, keep still. I will. I promise. 2AM. 3AM. 4AM. Every hour is another hour closer to you. You are at the river. Baby boo, sweetheart. Take my shoulders and push me under the surface. Do it. 

END


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About the Author:

Melissa Goode’s work has appeared in The Penn Review, Best Small Fictions, Superstition Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, Wigleaf, and Monkeybicycle, among others. Three of her stories were chosen by Dan Chaon for Best Microfictions 2019, including her story “I Wanna Be Adored” (CHEAP POP) which was also chosen for the Wigleaf Top 50 for 2019. She lives in Australia. You can find her here: www.melissagoode.com and at twitter.com/melgoodewriter

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "Monsieur Kim" by David Aloi

Monsieur Kim

by David Aloi

Monsieur Kim had a birthmark the shape of the Eiffel Tower in the center of his neck, or at least that’s what he liked to tell us. I always thought it looked more like a regular triangle, or at my most imaginative, the state of New Hampshire. What I liked about him, and what I told the police, is that he created a totally immersive setting for us each day we walked into class. Played us Edith Piaf and François Hardy, drank café au laits, tore apart baguettes to pass around, held his chalk like a cigarette.

Je m’appelle Monsieur Kim, et vous? and Quelle heure est-il? and Aimez-vous le pamplemousse?. He did the throaty thing with his r’s and encouraged us to take our index and middle fingers and press on our throats as we annunciated r-focused phrases like mercide rienje parle français.

“If you feel that vibration, like you have a bee caught in there,” he said. “You’re doing it right.” 

Matty Grapuso and D.J. Friedman, who sat in the back of the classroom near the cardboard cutout of Céline Dion telling the world to Étude!, would make chokey blowjob noises, as though they knew firsthand what getting one sounded like. Monsieur Kim, the professional he was, just ignored them or asked them to do the noises en français. When Matty and D.J. asked him how to say “fudgepacker” in French, he told them, which ultimately was a mistake because they ended up carving the word into snow on the windshield of Monsieur Kim’s Jetta. 

*

Here are a few other things I know about Monsieur Kim that might be useful: he has a pastry chef friend named Paul who, on “Crème Brûlée Day,” came in and blowtorched some vanilla pudding for us. I know his parents, both city workers, recently visited for the holiday from Seoul because he mentioned his excitement to finally show them his new life. I know that at lunchtime, even when the Indiana winter is at its most bitter, he burrows out into Parking Lot C to eat liver sausage sandwiches and cornichons in his car. I also know that on the weekends, he drives 40 miles out of Bluffton to Fort Wayne to go dancing. I only know this because my Aunt Brenda works the graveyard shift at one of those roadside diners where the coffee tastes like gasoline and she’s seen him a bunch, all sweaty, wearing tank tops in a blizzard. She told me Monsieur Kim gets everything à la mode, even his beef hash.

On the day we all returned from Christmas break and the last time we ever saw him, Monsieur Kim was dressed like a mime. Black and white stripes, suspenders, a beret. No stinky cheese or grape juice for us to try, no Godard or Truffaut trailers for us to watch, not even Amélie on a muted loop. He sat at his big teak desk in the front of the class with his head down on a pile of old vinyls. When Matty masked some obscenity in a cough, Monsieur Kim looked up and made a desperate frown, his face covered in a thick coat of white paint, two black tears falling from each of his eyes. Half the class laughed uncomfortably. My own breath quickened. I saw Katie Zimmer bite the eraser right off her pencil.

Monsieur Kim moved slowly to the chalkboard and wrote, in large loopy letters, au revoir. First he made me stand. I repeated the phrase a couple times: au revoirau revoir. He touched my neck, gently, signaling for me to roll my r’s. He went around the room and made everyone do it. Stand. Repeat the phrase. Annunciate. Au revoir. He placed his fingers on our throats until he heard the chokey sounds. He stayed silent and in character, just like a mime is supposed to, and we all just played along.


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About the Author:

David Aloi is a writer living in Los Angeles. He received his MFA in fiction from California College of the Arts and has worked at McSweeney’s, ScholarMatch, Medium, and Grindr. His writing has appeared in The Rumpus, Flaunt, INTO, Cuepoint, and Switchback. In 2019, he was awarded a LAMBDA Fellowship for Emerging LGBTQ Voices as well as a MacDowell Fellowship. He is currently finishing a book of stories about modern (gay) life.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "Active Fault" by Grace Campbell

Active Fault

by Grace Campbell

The town roller rink is always scaled in the grime of hopeful, hormone wrapped anxieties, drugstore perfume, the offal of viscous nacho cheese, and the immanent potential of a fistfight. All of these things come free or five-finger discounted, and you never leave without reeking like the entire combination.

My older brother's fifteenth birthday consists of a long streamer-laden table flanked with burled knots of boys too big for their behavior and a sheet cake squiggled over in gooey, rushed cursive by some bakery employee in his own age bracket but with a verifiable income.

We are poor, and it is the first party we've hosted anywhere but our own home, so it's the big time. The Stoketon Roller Rink, where Whitney Houston's love-pumped ballads make the place bounce like a restless leg over an active fault. I wear my velour baseball-style top with some gold flowers printed across the front because velour is fancy and it makes me look what I suppose is rich. I even brush my hair, something no one notices and something cast in culpability once I see the photos, days later, where my brother's friends crouch behind me, all making the finger-down-the-throat vomit gesture toward the back of my gleaming, snarl-free head. Was the hair brushed too much or not enough? Was the shirt too tight or not enough? Was the smile too broad or not enough?

Maybe not velour, next time. Maybe never velour, in the interest of no Next Time. Maybe no smiles or only those at half-mast so they fall on the indifferent side of the anger/shame blade. Maybe no more roller rink, where, no matter how fast on my feet, I still fail. 

Maybe no more gleaming eyes toward the flat-white of the cake that tasted like nothing real and distracted me, eyes affixed to the sliceless perfection of it, from the stinging clutch of older boys. Behind me, they chant words that will later pivot the blade into other, sharper words, all the way from the hilt to the point, many times, no matter how baggy or snarl free. 

Eventually no one will be able to read what the whole glistening length spelled out or remember that I wore my last unfettered smile on the ride to the rink, wondering if they would play Whitney, please play Whitney, both my legs restless for some damn Whitney. I will skate away from the business of girlhood with my grin atrophied as a torn streamer, reeking like the whole combination caught in the photograph taken at exactly the moment I was lacing up my twelfth year.

My mother sees the whole scene happen, captures the shot anyway. 


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About the Author:

Grace Campbell is a co-founding editor and writer at Black River Press and Fiction editor at 5x5 Literary Magazine. She is the author of the flash chapbook Girlie Shorts (2018). She was awarded a June Dodge fellowship at the Mineral School in 2018. Her work has been chosen for inclusion in Best Small Fictions 2019 (Sonder Press) as well as earning finalist status in competitions at Split Lip and Atticus Review. You can find her work in Brevity, Joyland, Gravel, Foliate Oak, New Flash Fiction Review and elsewhere. She's got a soft spot for tinted lip balm and corgis. 

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: Three prose poems by Steven Cramer

By Steven Cramer

Jamaica

In Jamaica, if you live in the mountains, the slim, hairpin turns are relentless as Jehovah’s Witnesses. You honk so much the mechanic replaces your car’s horn along with its brakes.  Everywhere, people smell the sea in the air.  Not the ocean, the sea.  They keep watch on the horizon as it might be listening.

In Jamaica, it’s good to write good poems, better to be a good poet.  So thought my dear dead friend, Wayne—whose name doesn’t mean “invisible giant” but does to me; whom I loved but couldn’t tell I loved.  He wouldn’t hear of it. He’d rather sail. A thermos of rum and coke in one hand—Is there anything more sacred than a child reading a book?—in the other, his cap he’ll set on my young son’s head, whose name all afternoon will be First Mate.


Stazione

Two Roma boys stuck tulips in the front pockets of my jeans.  A Roma girl tried to lift my wallet, but I swatted the scrubbed little urchins away. If they’ve grown up, maybe they’ve matured into a trio of neurobiologists.  You and I had been visiting our favorite passion: Brunelleschi’s crucifixion in the Santa Maria Novella.  The sun shone on the street thieves’ faces, olive-skinned as Christ’s mortified flesh.  The third time our train was announced and you hadn’t returned from the newsstand, I briefly lost my lifelong craving to be in a headline.  For the time being, this memory curls up, searches for a safe enclosure, like a dog that’s learned to trust its crate.  Then you touched my shoulder.  For the rest of our honeymoon, I kept staring at you, as if a band of kidnappers had just set you free.


Written During a Depression

There once was a man with no imagination.  He never even dreamed.

Neuroscientists claim that when you wake convinced you haven’t dreamed, you’ve actually forgotten four to six excursions into a mailbox the size of a covered bridge, where a family of scorpions affix price tags to paperweights.

In this way, you’re like the man—call him Man II—who forgets to tip his daughter for Thanksgiving dinner.

As for Man I, nothing: no keel-billed toucan on his shoulder when he looks in the mirror; no sonic puns on fatigued and graffiti; no grandmothers, in the guise of cats wearing Balinese masks, performing shadow dances to The Funeral March of the Marionettes.   

Man II, as a boy, had fantasies of eloping with a trapeze artist.

There she is now, swinging back and forth between the Niagara and Victoria Falls.  Just try calling her a dream.


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About the Author:

Steven Cramer is the author of five poetry collections, most recently Clangings (Sarabande). His work has appeared in AGNI, The Atlantic Monthly, Field, The Kenyon Review, The Nation, The New England Review, The Paris Review, Poetry, and elsewhere. Recent poems have appeared in American Journal of Poetry, Barrow Street, Carolina Quarterly, Massachusetts Review, and Plume. He founded and teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Lesley University.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit


WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "Hunger Pangs" by Matt Tompkins

Hunger Pangs

By Matt Tompkins

I came home hungry and he had already started cooking. He was hungry too, he said. He made a feast: rack of lamb, whipped potatoes, braised greens. We ate it all. We ate it fast. And we washed it down with a nice pinot noir. Feeling festive and restless, and still hungry, we made a pot roast. I chopped the carrots and onions and garlic while he salted and seared the meat. When that was done and gone, we pulled cheese and grapes from the fridge. Water crackers from the pantry and a second bottle of wine, a halfway-decent Sauvignon blanc. We made short work of that, then moved on to some single-barrel bourbon and Salvadoran cigars—his boss gave him the bottle and the box with his last bonus. He wondered aloud what he had been saving them for. It was only ten and we were wakeful and we were hungry and so we kept on. A half-carton of orange juice, extra pulp, we passed back and forth, alternating with swigs from a gallon of sweet tea; a punch bowl full of corn flakes with two serving spoons between us. We found things in corners of kitchen cabinets we didn’t know existed. Things we must have bought, but who knows when. A tub of chocolate frosting. A tin of dried sardines. A few packets of ramen, chicken flavor, reduced sodium. Before long we were scraping bottom. Scooping baking soda from the box. I emptied the salt shaker into the back of my throat and he knocked back the last of the almond extract and he looked at me like, OK, what next? Nothing was left, the shelves were empty. The kitchen was unkempt. The litter of boxes and jars left us up to our ankles in drift. So we ordered some pizzas and Buffalo wings and pad kee mao and saag paneer, and when the bell rang we waded toward the door. We didn’t waste time with plates or forks, we just tore open the cartons and gulped it all down. When we’d called all the restaurant numbers we knew, when we’d finished the takeout and tossed down the boxes, we wiped at our mouths with our fists and went on. We slipped off our shoes and gnawed at the leather. Tore off our shirts and shredded the cotton, which pilled in our teeth and got stuck in our throats. Swallowed the buttons like vitamin pills. Then we took to the bathroom and bedroom and den: ripped white feathers from pillows, tan sheets from the bed, pulled out coils and batting and memory foam, digested the lampshades and lightbulbs alike. And from under the bed—where the bed had been—we grabbed the dust bunnies that hid. Squeezed out tubes of toothpaste, shook vials of mouthwash, and shampoo and hand soap and painkiller capsules. When the faucets and fixtures and fittings were finished, we paused for a moment, then dug further in. We pulled up the carpet and splintered the floor. Picked our teeth and kept picking. We stripped off the paint from the walls and dissolved it in water and drank by the pitcher and still we were hungry, still we weren’t full. We dug into the walls and munched hunks of plaster, slurped wires like spaghetti and ground down the pipes. Our teeth were half-wrecked and our eardrums were ringing but neither of us had an endgame in sight. When even the blocks of the concrete foundation were dust in our stomachs, we went for the cars. We twisted off pieces of headlights and bumpers and stretched out our jaws and jammed it all in. Then we turned our sights out to the houses around us and thought of the people inside, and we looked at each other and knew without speaking that, yes, we were thinking the same.


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About the Author:

Matt Tompkins is the author of Odsburg (Ooligan Press, Fall 2019) as well as several fiction chapbooks. His stories have appeared in the New Haven Review, Post Road, and online at the Carolina Quarterly and Puerto del Sol. He works as a copy editor and lives in Virginia with his wife and daughter.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "My Party Trick" by Tucker Leighty-Phillips

My Party Trick

by Tucker Leighty-Phillips

I opened my mouth in front of the bathroom mirror to discover a tiny flame flickering on my tongue. My mouth had ached with a burning throughout the night, so I was unsurprised to see what looked like a borrower’s bonfire in the small of my maw. I tried to swallow the tiny torch but it scorched my throat as it spread and flared, so I choked it back up, kept it in place and tried to dampen it with saliva. I chugged a half-empty bottle of water on my bedroom nightstand but it was no use. Trying to remove the flame from my body felt a lot like trying to run away from my feet.

Work was harder than usual. Any time I tried to speak, the mouth-fire charred my words before they made contact with the air past my lips. Every sentence became a burnt husk, blackening out any semblance of meaning.

I’m feeling sick, I tried to say to my boss. Black smoke billowed from my lips like a loose secret.

What about Alan Thicke? She responded.

I sat at my desk and searched the internet for mouth fire symptoms, causes and cures. My phone rattled like an alarm until I unplugged the cord. A coworker walked by and said It’s a hot one out there today, ain’t it?

The fire had done a number on my teeth as well, heating them like a farmer’s branding iron until they became white-hot. I tried to eat my sandwich in the break room with gentle nibbles, but my lips sizzled and smoked when they came into contact with my incisors. Someone brought out a birthday cake for Myrtle in finance and everyone gathered around. They sang the birthday song and encouraged Myrtle to blow out the six candles they’d jammed in the white icing. The flames flailed and waved, crying as Myrtle took a deep-chested puff inwards and out towards the cake. I watched as the flames suffocated and died out, and I felt a heavy growing in my own chest, cinnamon-red anger simmering towards Myrtle and whoever had made the decision to put those candles there in the first place. What use is a fire if you won’t let it burn, I thought. I squeezed my sandwich so tightly that it nearly fell apart, the bread smushed, mustard seeping through the top and out the sides, dripping into my palms. I set it down and took a couple deep breaths. Myrtle stared at me open-mouthed with a party hat on her head.

I sent my boss an email saying I needed to take the afternoon off.


The fire was so engulfing, it started to feel like a curse. Although my previous experiences with curses had been rudimentary, just a hex back in high school, I knew that many of them were monogamous, only attaching themselves to a single person at a time, so I figured I’d try to pass it on. Who’d passed it to me in the first place, I wondered.

I went to a bar, not my regular bar, but a buffalo wing sports bar, a place where a drifter could find another drifter and make quick work of one another. Finding a man was easy. I watched a football game on television and waited for the first one to ask who I was rooting for. I’d let them fate themselves.

The Texans, I said. He misheard me. The man bought two shots, and when I drank mine flame burst from my lips like a great sneeze. He laughed and called it my party trick. He bought another round. The smoke alarms screeched as I drank. He loved it, I loved it, the way my tiny flame grew massive. It wasn’t long before we were back at his, some sad room devoid of passion, a white wall peppered with mishaps and a white mattress hugging the floor. God, to live without primary colors.

When he kissed me, he caught fire. He’d tried to smother the flame with his wet tongue but it failed, blistering as it retreated from my mouth and back into his own. The smoke from his body tinted the walls and the smell of burnt hair wafted like a ghost through the hallway. I considered the hallway fire alarm for a moment, but left without any showing of mercy.

At home, I opened my mouth into the mirror again and watched my flame pulse and sway like a small heartbeat. I couldn’t stop wondering what else in the world was flammable. There I was, pressing my index finger to my tongue like I was ringing a doorbell, the small blaze singeing my skin until I removed it. I closed my jaw and smiled, curling my sizzled black lips into a gaping curve like the Cheshire Cat. I blew my reflection a cherry-red kiss and swallowed deeply, letting the fire trickle into my chest where it heated my ribs like hot metal. I figured I’d go back to the bar for another drink.


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About the Author:

Tucker Leighty-Phillips is an MFA candidate in Fiction at Arizona State University, where he is currently the Managing Editor for Hayden's Ferry Review. His work has appeared at Smokelong Quarterly, Hobart, Whiskeypaper, and elsewhere. He can be found on social media at @TheNurtureBoy.


About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit



WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "Freak" by Damian Dressick

Freak

by Damian Dressick

Freak had a beard like a beehive made of cancer, skin raw as abattoir beef. Pacing behind the night bar on the St. Ann block of Bourbon Street, he even poured beer like a fixture. How long does it take to surrender selfhood to the category of local color?  Ten years? Twenty? Thirty, going once? Just call me Freak, he’d say. Can identity be ceded so utterly as to become another curiosity in the place you haunt? An upright piano played by Armstrong? An AA chip nailed to the wall? Is it comforting somehow to be freed from the tyranny of agency by routine, by circumscription, to let your past cast a shadow that dwarfs your future? We all knew Freak had been in a band back in ’67, ’68—not one we listened to, not one we’d even know if it came on the radio. For our part, we younger bartenders, with our flirting and cups of Hennessy stashed in the well, looked to the old man as a clock. Steel wool ponytail, janky gait, stale blue eyes, Freak let us know what life looked like when it was over.


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About the Author:

Damian Dressick's stories and essays have appeared in more than fifty literary journals and anthologies, including W.W. Norton’s New Microfailbetter.com, New Orleans Review, Barcelona Review, New Delta Review, Smokelong Quarterly and New World Writing. Damian has won the Harriette Arnow Award, the Jesse Stuart Prize and was a finalist for the Katherine Anne Porter Prize. A Blue Mountain Residency Fellow, he holds a PhD in Creative Writing from the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi. Damian teaches in western Pennsylvania. For more information, check out www.damiandressick.com.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit


WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "reading the signs can be terrifying" by gary lundy

reading the signs can be terrifying 

by gary lundy

especially when they have to do with the body. what meaning the
sudden light headedness. the following vertigo. the small bump
noticed after showering. a toenail grown black over a few days.
then those outside the common grounding. a worn out symphony of
small complaints. or the always neatly groomed beard. a head scarf
worn perfectly. this season invites introspection. even though of
little use. let the man judge himself our parent tells us. be still
unless spoken to. yet even then words carry a premium of
unintentional meaning. write toward a rhythmic confusion. few care
to listen even when they are the only one speaking. as usual the
fine art embroils. close your eyes and imagine your hands and their
hands embracing. how easily hope is retrieved after a successful
childbirth. even in these final days of lost years. a sound of
hammering clean an espresso machine. when mail is lost not
delivered. wrap up the habitual package of wasted time. glow in the
dark balloons. a vacant retrieval of the memory of pure laughter.
perhaps i prepare for the arrival of empty words. where words are
simply themselves. carry no representation. jocular insomnia.
where do the dozens climb after dark. a toilet bowl stopped up.
there's a common assumption that tomorrow will lighten minutes
later. darkness floods minutes earlier. my ankles sored by entropy.
a broken and discarded printer abandoned in the alley. tall gangly
young one seduces. looks out a front window. pointing out which of
the many trees. there is nothing quick about these notes that drone
on and on. although not forever.


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About the Author:

gary lundy's poems have appeared most recently in Setu: Western Voices Special Edition, Alexandria Quarterly, Incidia, Spider Mirror, Show Your Skin, Oxidant | Engine, and Antinarrative. His most recent book, each room echoes absence, was released by FootHills Publishing (March 2018). gary is a retired English Professor and queer living in Missoula, Montana.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "A Quiet Blue" by Jenn Powers 

A Quiet Blue

by Jenn Powers 

The least he can do is hiss. Coiled, black. That’s how we girls detect danger, sense hate. Blood takes the shape of a heart, the easiest lure of symbols, deep into the earth’s core. Fire so hot it’s cold. His desire is the broken neck of a beer bottle in an alleyway. The heels skid raw, down to the marrow. The romantic moon is a liar—it’s not safe. It’s a tale for future generations, but we girls won’t listen. We want what we want. We smile and take it, the ripped sheath between lips. Our sundresses are slashed away and sewn back onto our skin with twine. First, take a good look at what he considers wrong: electricity, hair, lightning, flesh. The rush of rain cleaning sheets, healing slit wrists, bandaging the words burnt into skin: dirty, whore, worthless. We girls float like daisy chains. We trail the serpents down boiling rivers. We shake, we kneel, we scream, we beg until it turns a quiet blue. Like the news of a death in early morning. But no one’s died. It’s just the same feeling. It’s just what’s been taken from us. Bones, birth, dust. Nothing, everything. something. Like a damaged Polaroid later made into art. Made into that indescribable, unexpected beauty of something supposedly ruined.


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About the Author:

Jenn Powers is a writer and visual artist from New England. She is currently at work on a psychological thriller. She has work published or forthcoming in The Pinch, Jabberwock Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Calyx, and Spillway, among others. Her work has been anthologized with Kasva Press, Scribes Valley Publishing, and Running Wild Press. Please visit www.jennpowers.com for updates and more information. 

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit