Flash Fiction: Sinner and Saints

“Since when isn’t murder a sin?” the wind tried to pull the words from their mouth, the rain fell into every syllable. 

But Jyn knew Lila heard them. Even though the feet between their huddled forms was like a chasm, the handcuffs they’d put around her wrists a noose. It should have been a different kind of ring they’d given her, but fate had a different ending in mind.

“When you murder the murderer, doesn’t that make you the saint?” Lila’s voice was faint in the patter of rain on the tin awning above them, but it felt like a sledgehammer into their skull. 

Jyn watched the remnants of the rain drip from her auburn hair, fall along her jawline and drop from her chin. They might both be dry by the time backup came, for all they were in the middle of nowhere outside a podunk town. 

Three hundred feet away in a shallow grave sat the body of the murdered murderer, but that all paled in comparison to her icy blue, deadened eyes, that looked at them with resignation. No pleading, no fire. She knew her fate the moment she’d pulled the trigger and she’d done it anyway.

“Why?” They didn’t know what else to ask.

There was a moment of light in her eyes, like the sun peeking through the clouds for a moment’s glimpse. “He would have gotten away with it otherwise.”

“You don’t know that,” they reply, but they do know. He would have.

“Of course he would. They always do.” The glint was a sunspot now. “But not this one. Not this time.”

It wasn’t anything new as far as motives went. They’d heard it a million times. This one wouldn’t get away. I stopped this one before they could hurt anyone else. 

All murderers were the same. Whether you twisted the knife or notched the bullet in the gun, that spirit leaving the body on your account was all the same.

But Lila wasn’t like the others. She never could be.

Jyn dug into their jean pocket tucked up tight against their leg, the fabric soaked through. They found the small metal key, and used it to unlock the handcuffs around her wrists.

“I have a different ring for ya,” Jyn said. Lila rubbed at her chafed wrists as they pulled out the black velvet box from their back pocket. They handed it to her, not bothering to open it.

“It’s not much. But pawn it and it should be enough to get you far away from here. Go. You don’t have much time.”

Jyn refused to meet Lila’s gaze. Instead, they watched the hesitation in her body, the way she started to reach for them, stopped, then turned away in a run towards the woods, slipping on the wet grass and mud as she ran. Disappears into the undergrowth.

It would mean the end of Jyn’s career, but that was fine. They weren’t fit for this job.

It meant the end of their love life too. That hurt more. 

“Will you marry me, Lila Jones?” they asked the rain, not expecting an answer, and was unsurprised when they didn’t get one.

<Back to Flash Fiction>

Flash Fiction: Encore

(This flash fiction is a memorial piece to my wife. TW: Grief and loss.)

Stories are fragile things. Family stories even more so. They change in the retelling, our embellishments becoming fact, and the characters become caricatures. But in a way, through our stories we tell others our truth.

When it came to my wife, stories were her bread and butter. They were an olive branch, a handshake, a ‘how do you do,’ the way she connected with others, and she was good at it.

Her passing wasn’t her Oscar performance, her manifesto, what she was born to be known for. As much as the stories she told, were the stories we created together, some strange mishmash of beauty and absurdity.

Our wedding alone was no bride-in-white fairytale. For one, she wore black, I wore pants. We rented a car that had no cruise control, no navigation. We drove 19 hours- after getting lost once- with my knees screaming the whole way, before making it to the cheap hotel in the dead of night. 

She had just started on a new medication that knocked her out, so the morning of our wedding she fell asleep in the shower and I had to bang on the door to get her out. After Google Maps tried to drive us into the ocean, we made it late to the lighthouse, where it was too cold and windy for how we were dressed.

We had no photographer. We had only talked to the officiator online- for all we knew, it could have been a scam. When we went to get our marriage license, the day before they had changed the rules so that you needed to have your social security card on you to get a license. The social security card that was back in Michigan. We tried to spend our ‘honeymoon’ taking the nearby train to New York, but missed it as we got lost finding our stop.

But God, it was perfect.

We ran into a photographer for the newspaper at the shore- he’d just been taking photos for fun, but seeing us in the middle of fall getting married under the lighthouse piqued his interest. He took some photos for us. We ended up on the front page of the local paper for an article on same-sex marriage in Connecticut. The clerk cut us some slack and allowed us our marriage license. The officator was in fact not a scammer, but a lovely lady who gave us tips on where to go around town after the ceremony.

We never did find the train station, so instead of a day in New York, we spent our honeymoon exploring the area, taking bad photos of whatever vegan food we could find- something that was later noted at our post-elopement party, “was this a wedding or a restaurant tour?” 

“Both,” we answered.

I remember being so exhausted and in so much pain on the drive back, that despite her not being on the rental agreement I acquiesced and let her drive when my leg refused to straighten anymore.

I remember waking up hours later, seeing the Ohio expressway moving past as we circled around and around, her navigating to our exit accordingly while practically screaming out loud the lyrics to the CD we’d bought on our trip down- the lyrics she now knew by heart. She always said singing helped her feel less anxious driving. It’s one of those strangely vivid memories I will always cherish.

I remember her mother coming to bail us out when we realized we didn’t have the funds to pay for the mileage on the rental car- a ‘wedding gift’ she said. And that’s when I realized this was for real- we were married. Together.

These are the moments that were so… us. Broken, messy, imperfectly perfect. Months after she passed, while I’m curled up in bed, my mom says- “I was talking to your sister, and she said that she balanced you.” 

Yes. She was the whirlwind, the sunshine, sometimes the only reason I could get up in the morning. When life handed us lemons, she said ‘screw you’, and returned them for a goddamn cake. It may have been a clearance cake, but when you’re broken and struggling even a cake off the clearance rack is delicious.

This was not her closing act, or the climax of our story. Her story began with her kicking and screaming, fighting against anyone who would tell her that she’d never make it. For every life she touched, she held out all she was in the stories she told and no one was unchanged for it. She made others realize they’re stronger than they thought they were.

Me included.

Her passing wasn’t her defining moment. But I am tasked with taking her tenacious, unquenchable spirit. What I have left is to share her loss, yes. Because while a part of her still remains, the part of her that held me close is gone. But it is my choice to bring her forward with me.

 

<Back to Flash Fiction>

Flash Fiction: Framed

The thing about death, Liza thought, is that every new experience feels like the hardest one you’ll have to go through.

She set the crocheted throw into the ‘keep’ box, tucked safely next to the small pile of yellowed paperbacks and porcelain knick-knacks. After the arrangements, the funeral, the will, the estate, and divvying up the various items of value, it had fallen to Liza to sort through the rest of her father’s miscellaneous belongings that were left in his three-bedroom ranch home.

She heard a scuffling, and two quick barks in the other room, and sighed. And oh yeah, that thing too.

Along with his belongings, she’d been tasked with either adopting or re-homing her fathers’ one hundred pound plus Old English Sheepdog.

It’s not that Liza hated dogs. It’s just that this particular dog had tried even her father’s patience, who was known for his ability to train even the most stubborn or cognitively challenged dogs. Shena had proved him wrong at every turn, made worse for the fact that she didn’t fully realize her own size. There was already a pile of broken antiques that Liza was forced to delegate to the trash pile that had either already been broken when she’d arrived, or subsequently broken in Shena’s excitement at having another person in the home again.

She sobers at the thought. A kindly neighbor had been stopping in to take care of Shena, but she’d been alone a good portion of the time since Liza’s father had died. Shena’s excitement had been palpable, and the guilt was like a gnawing beast in her gut, the grief slithering into her veins around it.

There had just been no time, no matter her feelings now. Her father’s death had caught everyone off guard.

Defeated, she drops the coffee table book into the ‘donate’ pile and sighs. I won’t be getting much more done today, she thought. My heart just isn’t in it. The more she went through, the closer the memories, and it was like a blindfold around her eyes. They stung, her throat closed around the grief.

She was drawn from her thoughts when she heard a crash and jumped to her feet. She rounded the corner in time to see Shena’s tail disappear under the desk in her father’s study, but it was too late for her departure to make a difference. One of the small bookcases was overturned, the books halfway spilling out of the shelves. But what caught her attention was the shattered snowglobe, the carpet a wet stain with white sparkles and a smiling snowman scattered on the floor surrounded by glass that had fractured into a hundred pieces.

She felt light-headed, her face heated in anger for a moment before the blood seemed to drain from it completely. There was no use getting angry, and though anger was easier, the overwhelming sense of loss was more than she could bear.

Liza leaned against the doorjamb and slowly let herself fall to the floor, legs crossed and hands dropped onto her knees. She leaned her head back and let the tears fall down her face, felt the heat like a balm on her cheeks. Her eyes burned with the sheer unfairness, not of some silly bauble crushed on the floor, but the loss of a great man who meant so much to her.

The sobs wracked her body in a way she’d never let anyone else see. She was alone, no one to pretend for, no one to save from her misery. She wailed out her pain, crushed into herself as she cowered into the doorjamb, held her arms to her chest.

When the sobs died down and the tears were a trickle, she felt the soft brush of fur on her forehead, and looked up to see Shena sitting in front of her. She wasn’t yet ready to forgive her and debated shooing her away when she saw she was holding something gently between her teeth.

She reached for it, and Shena let it go into her hands. It was a wooden frame with a photo, a bit bigger than the palm of her hand. She vaguely remembered seeing it in the living room. Looking closer, it was a picture of her entire family on her father’s last birthday. It was the last time when her immediate family had all been together, brothers, her father, and herself.

Curious, she opened the clasps on the back of the frame and found several other photos behind it, dating back several years, each featuring the entire family. She replaced the photos and clasps and turned the frame over.

She brought it closer to her face, realized that there were the tell-tale signs of teeth marks along with the wood—not just from today, but as if Shena had done this before.

A smile played on her lips and she gave Shena a fond look. “Trust dad to train you to bring him a photo whenever he was upset. Of course, he wouldn’t brag about something like that, would he?”

Shena butted her head against her cheek, nose wet and fur tickling her face. She giggled a wet sound that was equally laughter and sob. “Alright, alright,” she said and reached out a hand to pet her. “I guess you and I are going to get better acquainted then.”

Liza looked down at the photo, at the smiling face of her father, his square jaw, and close-cropped white beard. Happy.

“Family is family.”

<Back to Flash Fiction>

Stories

Here I have a variety of lengths and genres of stories that I’ve written and are available for free on this site, categorized by length.


Very Short Stories
These stories are about a paragraph long, and so are succinct and meant to grab you’re attention right off the bad.


Flash Fiction
Between 250 and 1,500 words, flash fiction is a step up from Very Short Stories, for breaks at work and when you’re waiting at the doctors office and need a quick fix.


Short Stories
Meant to be relished, short stories are longer and more involved, complete. In this section are also stories performed on podcasts.

Flash Fiction: We’re Only Braiding Roses

She wove in flowers and baby’s breath into the braid in my hair as I let the tears fall on the plush rug.

“It’s like braiding roses. Beautiful if you can make it work, but watch out for the thorns.”

I let out a sound somewhere between a snort and a sniffle that only makes me wish for a handkerchief. “Couldn’t you just cut off the thorns?”

She’s quiet for a moment as she braids, the feeling of her fingers in my hair soothing despite the terror wrapping like vines around my lungs. When she speaks it’s quiet and I can barely hear, but her reply is without any heart. “It’s a metaphor. You don’t remove the thorns from metaphors.”

We have run out of options. 

“Just mind your words, do as he says, keep yourself sparse until you know what kind of man he is. That’s what I did with your father. Maybe you’ll find yourself lucky.” We both know from the reports from the guards and nobles we’d bribed that this was unlikely, but she holds out hope. Has to for her own sake. I won’t disavow her of the belief, even when it turns out to be false hope. 

He is the worst sort of person, the man I am to marry. Quick-tempered, drunken tirades, a womanizer. A terrible ruler who is likely to run his kingdom into the ground.

But a treaty is a treaty, and my father won’t be moved.

“You’ll write,” she says with finality as she lets the braid drop. “And I will visit, of course.”

“Of course,” I repeat with no vehemence. I stand from the bed and wipe the wrinkles from my dress.

A lamb to slaughter has never looked so beautiful.

He hasn’t revealed his face.

The fact shouldn’t have bothered me, but it does. I had a story I’d run a thousand times in my head, that as they opened the towering doors to the cavernous hall with its cold draft and monstrous tapestries that at the end of that aisle I’d see the face of the man I was to marry, and it would be like a doorway to the life I wanted to live would be locked away forever. A key sliding into a lock and melted away that I could never retrieve.

But even that was forbidden to me. It would be another few hours it seemed, possibly after the wedding itself, when I would see his face, as he wears armor of all things. The tradition isn’t unheard of, but certainly a helmet isn’t necessary.

If the wedding guests are surprised they don’t show it, but then again, who would show surprise at the chosen wedding regalia of a king?

My father walks me down the aisle, me with an unnecessarily long train of blood-red velvet behind me that sweeps up the petals the flower girl has dropped before us. It all seems such a cruel farce that I want to vomit.

When we reached the end, at the moment when he is to give me away, I plead at him with my eyes. He looks back at me with no expression, but pushes away my arm with a strong grip, towards the arms of my suitor. There is no missing his intentions.

The rest of the ceremony passes by at a crawl, each word tiny cuts onto my shivering skin, and I feel a cold sweat along my neck. I want to scream, to choke on my own spit, to run. But I am surrounded by guards that I am sure my father will have no trouble using against me.

“I pronounce you wed. You may kiss your bride, my king.” I can feel the color drain from my lips, but I turn to my husband.

“If it is no offense to the church, I will save that for a more private affair,” my husband says, and I choke back relief, as brief as it will be. Instead, I am lifted by my knees until I am being held in a bridal pose. I squirm and instinctively move my arms to grab at his shoulders, hating myself for the action but wary of falling.

There are chuckles, and then cheering, but then my husband raises his voice to speak over the crowd. 

“I thank you all for coming. As it were, my wife does not look well. I fear the excitement has gotten to her. I would bring her outside so she may breathe before the festivities. Please, welcome yourselves to the dining hall, and we will join you soon.”

The terror is like ice in my veins. We are alone, and I’ve never known fear such as this. “Please,” I start, “let me down.”

We are in a side corridor, far from the wedding party. I know not why we have wandered off so far, but It can’t be for any reason I’d be happy to hear. Part of me wants to at least know my torture before I am to feel it.

“It’s me, Cael! I’m breaking you out of here!” My husband—or is it?—lets me down on my feet, and I turn to the stranger. They remove their helmet with difficulty, and I gasp as their face is revealed.

Mira?!” She is one of the squires, a young woman who I often snuck out to train with as a child, before my father had caught wind of it. We yet spoke though, through coded messages and late-night walks. “If you’re found you’ll be hanged!”

She smiles wide, showing her missing front tooth where one of the knights had knocked it out after she’d scratched his sword polishing it when she was younger. “No one’s going to find out, least not until it’s too late, because we’re making a run for it. I got two horses all ready to go, come on!”

She grabs my arm, and I don’t struggle as we run through corridors, sneaking past guards all the way to the stables where indeed there are two horses saddled and ready to ride.

It’s then that we hear the alarm.

“What’s that?” I ask, sudden suspicion clouding my mind.

Mira scrunches up her nose, baring her teeth and sticking her tongue through where her tooth is missing in amusement. “Probably found the king.”

“What do you mean found the king?”

Mira pushes me up to the saddle and pats my leg. “Well, I had to get to the wedding somehow. I snuck into his quarters and trussed him up like the pig he is. Guess they got impatient and found him.”

I can’t repress the laugher that follows, as Mira mounts her own horse.

When we’re both mounted and ready to go, the alarm of the guard ringing in my ears, I turn to her before chaos falls.

“What if they find us? Where are we going.”

She pats her horse on the neck, and this time there’s no teeth in her smile, only a soft blush and a hint of embarrassment.

“We’re going to Leoria. They won’t mind we’re married there. And you’re royalty. They’ll protect us.”

I raise an eyebrow at her, returning her smile.

“We’re married, are we? We didn’t kiss on it.”

She turns away, her face turning redder by the moment, and I let out a loud, throaty laugh before I kick my horse into a canter, then a gallop, leaving behind the only home I’ve ever known for the only home I’ll ever love.

<Back to Flash Fiction>

Flash Fiction

Here are a variety of flash fiction stories I’ve written, most of which were written for the Rue|LouPrompts Series.

Encore:
Stories are fragile things. I tell the story of my wedding day and what ’till death do you part really means.

Flappers & Finches (All That Glitters Isn’t Gold)
A one night stand that should have been more,  but maybe yet could be. AKA, when the peacock and magpie meet.

Framed
Left with the responsibility of clearing out her father’s home, it’s a four-legged, slobbering ball of fur that’s giving her the most trouble. But for how long?

 I’ll Be Your Misfit
They were both misfits, and maybe that was enough. The transformation from fellow outsiders to found family.

No Roots
A curse takes them one by one. Is there salvation or selfishness left for the final sisters?

Sinners and Saints
It wasn’t the ring Jyn had wanted to give Lila, but sinners and murder force their hand.

A Space Between the Stars
“‘You’re as dumb as an ox, Cam.’ He believed them, but felt he was made for more. As the years go by and doubt settles in, Cam makes a decision.

We’re Only Braiding Roses
A princess forced into a marriage of treaties gets an unlikely savior.

 With the Pieces
When a teenager breaks her own heart—literally—she learns how to fix it.

Flash Fiction: “I’ll Be Your Misfit”

It wasn’t that the dog was ugly, per se.

It’s fur was sparse, mismatched lengths in a mottled grey and brown where it hadn’t been shaved. It’s skin was pink with tiny bumps raised along the shaved areas—the adoption card said it’d recovered from mange. It was medium height, longish but not long, with legs that were shortish but not short. An in between that wasn’t quite enough of either to be cute, but rather came off as odd. In the low light of the shelter, it’s eyes—her eyes, the car said—seemed jet black, like they would suck your soul from your chest. Like she could devour you with just those beady black eyes from where you stood.

Okay. Maybe she was just a little ugly.

But so was he.

He bent down low on his knees, sticking his fingers between the links of the fence. “I’ll be your misfit if you’ll be mine? How does that sound girl?”

She didn’t move. She stayed laying down in her bed, staring at him with those dark, abyss eyes.

Her eyes weren’t black.

He didn’t learn this until the following day, as he sat eating his cereal at his kitchenette table. She’d spent the previous day sniffing through the house room by room, nose to the ground. He’d not been able to shake her from her task.

Today she stared at him—or more likely, his food—with honey brown eyes that melted his heart.

“Where’d those come from?” he asked her, knowing not to expect an answer.

She licked her lips, and he snuck her some toast under the table, even though there was no one to be sneaking from.

He was surprised to learn when her fur started to grow back that the mottled colors were actually a mix of black, white and brown splotches, along with tufts of grey from old age.

By the time it had grown an inch, it looked endearing, and she’d begun to sleep in his bed. When his niece had been spending the night and opened his door to ask for a glass of water, she’d growled at her loud enough to send her running to her bed. He’d tutted at her and left the room to calm his niece down.

When the fur had grown several inches, and she had become fluffy enough for the hair to stick to the couch, Lilah—as he had finally named her—fell asleep on the couch with his niece, and barked fiercely at his brother when he’d come to pick his niece up.

On her adopt-aversary, he went to the local dog bakery to get a special treat for Lilah. He became overwhelmed quickly at all the dog biscuits, peanut butter baked bones, scones, pretzels, and pupcakes, enough that other customers began to take notice.

One in particular took pity on him. The stranger came over, smile wide, shoulders relaxed and held out a hand towards the array. “Having trouble? Want some ideas?”

He let out a sign in gratitude. “Thank you, that’d be a big help. I just adopted Lilah a year ago today, and I can’t decide what to get her.”

The stranger chuckled and nodded in approval. “I love to hear about fellow adopters, and yes, it can be overwhelming. This may sound weird, but all the food can be eaten by dogs and humans, so me and my dog Leto will share a few treats together. The Strawberry Lemon cupcakes are great, so are the Carob Chip and Pretzel Bars. Oh, and we like the Dill Peanut Butter Pretzels. But we’re kind of misfits.”

He smiles, leaning in closer, and hopes that Lilah doesn’t mind sharing.

“I love misfits.”

<Back to Flash Fiction>

Flash Fiction: Flappers and Finches (All that Glitters Isn’t Gold)

She glittered like gold, and I was the magpie. It could have been love, but gold changes hands, and birds are born to fly. She was gone by morning.

I kept the delicate silver charm bracelet she left on my nightstand. Its chain shone in the light, a dove charm with jeweled eyes hanging from a link. I used the excuse that I didn’t have a way to contact her. I didn’t even know if that was her real name. The chain was too big for my thin wrist, but I wore it anyway.

In my memories I see her as a peacock, tail feathers dazzling in the light as she danced. But then I berated myself for my callousness. Peacock’s are beautiful, but dumb as hell. We hadn’t spoken enough for me to gauge her wit, but I don’t want to let my bitterness shadow who she could have been.

But the bitterness caught on my tongue when we met eyes at the next soiree (or so the invitation called it.) Her blue jay eyes offered no recognition to my own longing gaze, and the moment passed without the promise of a second one. I lose myself in the liminal space between the time where my heart beat with hope and the disappointment when hands that weren’t my own guided her on the tiled ballroom floor.

I’m no fool. I can rationalize that a one night stand isn’t the best foundation for a love story. But it wasn’t the memories of the room with a view that replayed in a loop in my mind.

We’d talked. Thrown together by happenstance, bumping into each other in a crowd too large and too loud for someone who spends their days in the quiet of the forest, cataloging bird populations and mating habits of chickadees. She saw something in my eyes, pulled me away from the dizzyingly glamorous lights. We spoke in hushed tones— first the weather, then our careers, an avalanche that dragged me down into conversations about our childhoods and our greatest fears. When there was finally a moment of silence between us, the room was quieter, the lights softer, the room emptier.

It seemed natural to spend the night with her but now I wonder if that had turned what could have been a love sonnet into a haiku of wit and impermanence. I was familiar with loneliness. The longing was a new agony.

I sat down my empty champagne glass at an open spot of a table lining the ballroom, adjusted my sequined and tasseled dress, black with geometric patterns in gold. My fingers itched to pull my hair free from my feathered headpiece, but it could wait until I reached the cool of the autumn air and the sparsely lighted cobbled street.

After I offered the host my thanks for the party—that more than likely cost more than my research budget for the year—I got my black fur coat from the doorman and made my way into the biting cold of the night.

I’m at the corner, turning my head to watch for passing cars, when I heard the voice. “Anya!”

I inhaled frigid air as I debated whether to ignore her approach or turn, but I am the hummingbird to her flower. I turned.

She was alone, walked towards me at a pace that had me worried about the height of her heels. In concern, I met her halfway. I found I couldn’t school my expression, and I feared that my annoyance and hurt were betrayed on my face. She smiled though, perfect white teeth and flawlessly red painted lips.

“I was hoping I’d see you tonight,” she said. There’s hurt transparent in her next question. “Why didn’t you come?”

I froze in confusion, caught in her brightness, and confused by words that don’t match my perception. “Come where?”

She pouted, and I wondered that she made it seem like a flirtation. “To my gallery opening. I waited for you, but you never came.”

I clenched my eyes, eyebrows furrowing. “You never told me about that. Or at least, you never told me when or where it was.”

She clicked her tongue in annoyance, and the noise is so like a birds twitter that I find myself falling already. Again. “I left the invitation on the nightstand. I had to leave for an interview with the press and I didn’t want to wake you.”

My chest constricted, and it felt like there’s ice in my veins. “That was yours?” I ask, and I suddenly feel like the biggest fool.

She laughed then, and the sound is like a songbird. “It was under my stage name, goodness me I forgot to tell you.” She leaned forward into me, the fur in our coats mingling, her hands guided mine to her waist. “Aren’t we the most awkward dame’s in the city?”

I gave her a lazy smile, held her close. “The most awkward peacock’s is more like it.”

<Back to Flash Fiction>

Flash Fiction: With the Pieces

It was a Tuesday when her heart broke.

There was nothing significant about that particular Tuesday. She wouldn’t even remember what day it was, if she hadn’t written it in her journal. She found it so odd that it would break on such a day, as Tuesdays have little to no meaning besides being the day after Monday, and far too early in the school week.

And yet, that was when her heart broke. It shattered into pieces, the sound a muffled cracking of glass. She took the pieces and placed them in a plastic sandwich bag, hoping the sharp edges wouldn’t break through. It wouldn’t do to lose pieces of her heart to a hole. Bad enough she’d broken it in the first place.

She placed it in her dresser, under socks and unmentionables, thinking surely her little brother wouldn’t get into it there. She feared he’d cut himself on the sharp edges—or worse, lose or break a piece.

She didn’t know what could be done about it, though, her broken heart. There were plenty of theories amongst her pre-teen girl friends, but no solid evidence that any of it worked.

Dating was one option, but she had no interest in anyone, girl, boy, or otherwise.

Her mother and father may have something to say about it, but she was too afraid to admit she’d broken something so important. No, she had to figure this out on her own.

But as many things do, the broken pieces of her heart wrapped in plastic in her dresser grew forgotten over the years. And what of it? She did well in her classes, she didn’t have any close friends but she made do with acquaintances. The teachers, her family and friends, they all loved her. What did it matter if she couldn’t love them back?

It was something her second girlfriend says that reminds her of the secret hidden in her dresser drawer. “I feel like you’re so disconnected,” she had said. “That you don’t let anyone in.”

This reminded her of her shame, because how can you feel connected to anyone without a heart?

Later that night, she pulled the plastic bag out of her dresser drawer. It was worse for the wear, years of being pushed back and forth between socks and underwear had worn down the sharp edges. She laid the pieces out on her bedspread, and found they didn’t even fit together anymore. How to fix something so broken?

She pondered on this for a while, dismissing ideas as they came. Finally, she thought that maybe she could glue it all together and hope for the best. But first, she needed to do a test- it wouldn’t do to mess it up on her first try. Not that it could get any more broken, but she didn’t trust in her own abilities to hold it steady.

And so she went to her desk, grabbed several sheets of crisp white computer paper, and traced every piece. When that was done, she thought she might as well decorate it, seems how art was one of her favorite subjects, and leaving it blank felt like a waste.

And so each piece took on a new theme- flowers, hearts, clouds, rainbows. When it was all done, she took clear tape and taped it all into a 3D montage until it’s stood on its own, a sort of delicate paper sculpture. She was ready.
But she was also tired. And so she replaced the pieces of her heart into a baggie, and put them back in her dresser drawer to start putting back together tomorrow.

The next day, she placed her schoolbag over the back of her chair, and stared at the paper heart. Just as she decided it was time, her mother knocked on the door, and came directly in—a habit she’d promised she’d stop doing, but that was her mother.

“Did you see that your father-” she starts, then sees the heart on the table. “Well isn’t that just gorgeous sweetheart?” Her mother walks over, leans forward to look at the diagram of the heart, beautiful in it’s simple and varied decorations. “It’s beautiful darling. We should hang this up in the living room, fishing line from the ceiling ought to do it.”

She opens her mouth to protest, but stops. Inside her chest, near her lungs and just under her ribcage, she feels a flutter. A wisp of feeling.

In a moment her mind is set. “I’d love that,” she says, to her mother’s surprise. “Can I help?”

In the following years, decades, and lifetime, whenever she felt those moments of darkness, when the hollow where her heart used to be aches, she picks up pen, pencil, paint—whatever she can find—and she creates with the heart she’s missing.

And she feels.

<Back to Flash Fiction>

Flash Fiction: A Space Between the Stars

“You’re as dumb as an ox, Cam.”

The other kids, his teachers, his parents, his best friend- they were all in agreement.

They weren’t wrong, he’d think. Cam imagined the cheerleaders, the jocks, the geniuses of his high school as stars of a constellation, each their own bright light. People like him, people who were as dumb as an ox, were only the space between the stars.

But Cam wasn’t going to stay that way. He didn’t know what, but he knew he was meant for something. Something great. Something his little town had never seen.

As he grew into his twenties and his picked up shifts at the grocery store became full-time employment, this belief never waned. He would be something someday. So he paid his dues- he stocked beer and toiletries, swept floors, and asked his peers to ‘have a nice day’ in the most pleasant and hopeful tone that he could muster.

When his thirties came, the thought became a mantra. He knew he was meant for something. And when it came, he would show the world he wasn’t just empty space.

His thirties flew by, and his forties hit like a sledgehammer. His mantra became more desperate, and the desperation was plain on his face. In his drinking. In his failed relationships.

By the time his fifties came, he hadn’t thought about his childish dreams in some years. He was too old now, he thought, too jaded. Too worn down for hope to be anything but a fantasy. He looked on at the youth wasting away their lives on their iPhones and swept the floor of the grocery store he still worked at.

At 60 years old, Cam was staring at Orion in the driver’s seat of his pickup, moments before he’d been ready to turn the engine over when something occurred to him.

He’d been waiting too long.

What if he took what he longed for?

This is where our story changes. Not in the narrative, the subject, the point of view. Cam didn’t become an artist, a writer, a Hollywood star. Instead, Cam did what Cam did best.

The following day, Cam put on a smile and asked the young cashier how her new baby was doing. He helped an older woman reach a jar off the top shelf- after all, Cam may be as dumb as an ox but he was also six foot two. He whistled as he swept the tile floor, making a toddler walking by giggle.

And Cam knew at that moment he’d become something.

Some people spend their lifetimes finding the place they’re meant to be, the person they’re meant to be.

We are all giants just waiting to stop looking at the ground.

Look instead to the stars.

<Back to Flash Fiction>