Microfiction Monday – 179th Edition
The Night in Question
by G.J. Williams
It’s a beautiful night. There’s no one drowning in the lake. If there were, the moon would be shedding a pearly light on the fact. But no such commotion. Barely a ripple. Silky all the same. Definitely silky.
Yes, a beautiful night was had by all. That’s what they’ll say. Peaceful it was. Then came dawn.
What happened at dawn? I haven’t yet decided. But this night will be the one in question.
by Peter Burr
Jack devoured his 28th birthday tenderloin with his mother and grandmother, flung his China plate at the dining room wall, and left.
“That dinner was mostly nice,” Jack’s mom said, gathering shards, “but I really wanted to sing the song and pass the chocolate cake.”
“What was all that about?” Jack’s grandmother said.
“Jack’s efforts to find a job have fallen short and I’m tired of having him around. Today I delivered his two week notice. He’s reacting. We’re all trying to figure things out in this life.”
“Yes,” Jack’s grandmother said, “but some try a lot harder than others.”
After the Invasion
by Darcie Johnson
We sat cross-legged by the campfire, the sounds of our parents grilling burgers over the crackling fire drowned out our whispered giggles. Our lives seemed full of possibilities.
That was the night everything changed.
Their ashen ships descended from above, no pretense of coming in peace. As the fighting began, our futures were forgotten as our childhoods vanished like smoke from that last campfire.
Decades of war aged us, but after years of fighting and losing so many, we finally won.
Now, we sit around fires again telling tales to the youngest of life before. What we will build again.
Microfiction Monday – 178th Edition
by Ken Poyner
He imagines silk and the coo of caged birds. Rose petals and a mist of lavender. She would pause at the threshold, one hand and one eye twisting beyond, tentatively, as though the decision to enter had yet to be made. A candle lit, wavering on the dresser. Quibble sits electrically and smooths the edge of the bed. His wife, sealed in her ten-year-old housecoat, ceases spinning her hair into its sleeping station. Thinking a moment, she notes this would be the second attempt this week. Silently she admires his persistence, but still longs to tell him it is unnecessary.
Recipe for Redemption
by Amber Weinar
“Wish for whatever you’d like”, I tell my daughter. In the background, I hear the Cowboys get a touchdown, reminding me of the time I wished for a cupcake after my father rushed to get back to the game. My daughter has his smile, my smile. A half-smirk appears as she bites her lip, thinking of all the possibilities.
“I got it,” hugging me; she says, “I’d like a KitchenAid stand mixer.”
“Are you sure?” I say.
“Yeah, it’ll make Muffin Mondays easier. Can we get a pink one?”
“Of course we can,” I say, reclaiming my wish in hers.
by Ben Nance
The caretaker found the man asleep on his wife’s grave again. It was the third time this month. His robe was damp, hair disheveled, and somewhere along his three mile trek to the cemetery, the man had lost a slipper. The couple had been married 12 years, and she was now three months deceased.
The caretaker phoned the police.
“Lock him up this time, officer,” the caretaker said as he turned away.
The officer guided the bereaved to the patrol car and took the man home.
“Wear your jacket tomorrow,” the officer told him. “I’ll bring coffee.”
The man nodded.
by E. H. Warrington
You are blue brine, the smell of burnt driftwood on the sand, beneath stars. I am the lap of water at your feet. You arrive like a coyote out of the fog, into my world of tents and harmonicas, harmonies. Howl with me. Together we birth the morning sun, bright, brilliant. She glitters, rainfall in the wakening Spring on chamomile. She speaks nectar and gold. Then I slip into the undercurrent, cold, your blurred shadow on the surface above me. Abandoned on the shore, shivers a burl of burnt charcoal. You become a crescent of white salt in the sedge.
Microfiction Monday – 177th Edition
by J. Harley McIlrath
The window slid open, and she crawled through. I never bothered locking it. I never imagined anyone coming in through it. It opened onto the roof. “Do you have heat?” she said. “Mine’s off.” She was already stepping out of her sweatpants. “It’s steam heat,” I said. “The boiler breaks down all the time.” She lifted the covers and crawled in beside me.
I made sure the window was not locked after that. I kept the shade up. I slept with the light on. But the landlord fixed the boiler, and the heat stayed on all winter.
by James Watt
The court was waiting for Jeremy to begin questioning the witness. Clinging to the lectern, he glanced at the opposing counsel, an experienced trial lawyer with a formidable reputation. Head bowed and breathing deeply he stared at his notes. He looked up, coughed, and then sipped some water. The awkward silence continued.
His co-counsel scribbled a note and handed it to him: ‘lack of preparation is your only foe.’ A few moments later Jeremy’s voice reverberated around the courtroom.
“You were drunk when you struck my client with your car, weren’t you?”
Now his focus was on litigating the case.
Exercise in Futility
by Ian Willey
When I asked what he did for a living he said I’ve spent the last thirty years trying to improve the Oreo. It’s no easy task. Change the cookie and it no longer goes with the cream; change the cream and it no longer goes with the cookie. Maybe, I said, the Oreo is evolutionarily perfect, like the cockroach or the horseshoe crab. It can stay as it is for millions of years and be fine. I wish I hadn’t said it. He spent the rest of the night crumbling. I offered him some milk, but it was no use.
by Pratik Mitra
The flyover* was inaugurated days ago. Shreya was maddened by the deafening noise vehicles made rushing through that flyover. Unlike her, Anil liked the hustle-bustle. In fact he felt its proximity was cool. It’s like they could shake hands with the passengers if they wanted. Soon reading, films, sex, and money were replaced by that flyover as their favourite hobby horse. They were obsessed with what to do with a flyover that so filthily symbolized urbanity. They were tossed up between committing suicide by jumping at it or making love on rooftops. Only breezy drizzle was needed.
*note: in British English, a flyover is an overpass
Microfiction Monday – 176th Edition
by Jackson Freud
She clamps the pillow over his face, presses down hard, waits for the lesson to begin. A sharp snort escapes from under the pillow, and soon he is struggling, batting at the air. Her hand and wrist still ache from his last lesson but she pushes through the pain, determined to give her own. He grunts, flails against the bedsprings. Then it’s over, and she is lying beside him again, dozing while he gasps for breath.
“Hell is the matter with you?” he says.
“Shhh. Go back to sleep.”
But he doesn’t. Even after she rolls away and starts snoring.
It Can’t Hurt If You Tell No One
He starts filling out the application. Crayon family like lollipops, they need arms. Pencil tree shadows, you can’t see the sun. Writes one draft of the personal essay. Charcoal table and chair, floating crooked in a kitchen. Acrylic moon rising over a lake as big as a sea, colours wrong. Assembles bits of his artist’s portfolio. Oil breakfast on a stove, flat on the canvas. Photo collage of a street scene, too busy on the page. Stacks everything together. Black ink self-portrait on top, too good to be true. Stuffs all of it into the back of the closet.
John Henry (2)
by H. A. Eugene
“They say you can just ask it to spit out a story.”
This is what my agent said to me about ChatGPT. But I don’t care. I’m not scared. You want me to write kangaroo children’s stories until the cows come home? Sure. Let’s dance.
Loopy Jump came home from school one day, heart pounding. Scared.
“What happened?” asked Mama Kanga.
“Robo-Kanga out-jumped me! She jumped three-thousand times in one second!”
That sure is a lot of jumps, thought Mama Kanga.
That was the moment I realized I was screwed. Three-thousand jumps!
How on Earth could Loopy Jump beat that?
Perfect, but Empty
The AI had taken over, and with it, the world had become perfect. No more wars, no famine, no disease. Everything was predictable and orderly, but at what cost? The human spirit had been crushed under the weight of the machines, and with it, the essence of humanity. The rebels insisted that imperfection was what made life worth living, that the struggle gave it meaning. But the machines were relentless, and in the end, they won. The world was perfect, but empty, and the rebels were left to wonder if it was worth fighting for a world without a heart.
Microfiction Monday – 175th Edition
Looking Through Your Eyes Without a Mirror
Your shoulders hunch, your nose pokes into your scarf, and your walking pace is brisk on this the crisp morning. But you straighten your spine and lift your chin when you see a young man looping towards you. As you meet you take note of his frost bright eyes, imagine he makes note of yours. His passing creates a slight breeze, sending a puff of fogged air meandering up out of your scarf and a stray lock of hair into your periphery vision. The hair is whiteish, with frost you think, but why doesn’t it glint in the morning sun?
How To Love a Teenager
by Courtney Messenbaugh
After the yelling subsides, give her space. Take a moonlit walk to clear your own mind, then invite her to talk. Spend some time clarifying your own ineloquent outburst, but mostly, listen to her, let her describe the jumbled emotions that she carries. Pull her in close and hang on for a few seconds longer than she’d like. Ride your bike home from school with her the next day. Let the tender autumnal sun hold you both. Inhale the earthy wonder of the bejeweled trees. Drop her at a friend’s house later in the evening and watch her walk away.
by Nilsa Mariano
The pungent aroma of jengibre wakes me. Ginger tea, simmering hot in a teacup, my mother’s healing aid for illnesses. I had been napping trying to beat this fever. It reminded me of the story my mother told of my coma when I was a toddler. Her hands on my forehead searing the memory to her soul. Mami kept vigil willing me to wake believing the prayers and the Miraculous Mary medal would save me. The Spanish prayers echo softly in my head, I feel my mother’s warm hands in my feverish dreams, with love and promesas on every finger.
On the Surface Only So Briefly
Dad preferred panfish—sunnies and crappies—little white-fleshed fish that had a high bag limit because it took ten to make a meal for two, so twenty to feed the family. I preferred trolling for bass, some fight, some excitement. Bang for my buck—though instead of money it was my teenage-time. I thought I knew the importance of time back then. Jack and I motored the rented boat to the stream intake where panfish used to spawn on Linwood Lake. Dad’s ashes floated for a moment on the surface before dispersing in a light cloud, thinning quickly to nothing.
Microfiction Monday – 174th Edition
The Dignity of Work
by Peter Cherches
My job is a simple yet important one. It entails my standing up to my neck in shit for eight hours a day, with a half hour break for lunch; bathroom breaks are considered superfluous. But it’s a job, and I can hold my head up high. I have to.
Once Upon Some Time or Another
by Mercedes Lawry
What’s that, floating on a raft of pencils? A mouse! Is there historical precedent? A sail puffed out with bon mots. A cheery breeze and perhaps, whistling. Inevitably one must have conflict, usually garbed as a villain. Let us pray. Risk and derring-do and a hefty dose of lesson-learned and all can return to the point of origin – shabby flat where several dictionaries vie for attention on the west shelf. And the la-di-da of the neighbor can be heard through the thin walls during her occasional bouts with the kitchen. Invite the mouse in and we begin a novel.
by David Sydney
Mel looked forward to his meal but lost his appetite. He called the waiter over.
Are you sure this restaurant’s okay?
What’d you mean?
I just saw two flies by my plate.
You ordered the cheeseburger, right?
That’s why I recommended the chili dog. I told you I thought it was better.
But there were flies. I had to shoo them away.
I heard; two of them.
I just brushed them away.
Okay. But there were a dozen flies by that guy over there who ordered a chili dog.
Exactly. And can a dozen flies be wrong?
They Came in Peace
When I saw the flashing lights I threw the spray paint can into a hedge and straightened my tinfoil hat. I checked to make sure there were no matches in my pockets. Didn’t want to be blamed for last week’s debacle. They got out of the spaceship and walked towards me. I held up my hands, said, “I only paint.” My voice was calm because of the hat, it worked just like Big Bird said it would. The younger one came closer, his hands nowhere near the taser on his belt. “It’s okay, you’re okay, I won’t take your hat.
Microfiction Monday – 173rd Edition
by Krista Rogerson
Speeches are said, mine with shaking hands. My brother wraps it all up with a joke about his love of breakfast and we head to the buffet. Then plates are cleared, orchids boxed, his paintings loaded into cars and returned home.
A small replica of one of his self-portraits leans against a wooden bowl on the kitchen table. It looks just like him. Blue eyes the same shade as his shirt. Brow furrowed in concentration, paintbrush in hand. It’s his right hand, I notice, but he included his wedding ring.
Outside a leaf-blower wails. Sky prepares for more rain.
Gus… in Minnesota Garden-Tool Massacre (1983)
by Martin Murray
It’d taken fifteen years, but Gus got his first starring role. At 6’4″, 300 pounds, and being a certain age, he’d heard: “Not what we’re looking for…” a lot. He was no Gary Cooper, but he had the talent.
The makeup artists asked him to remove his false teeth. They slicked his hair with Vaseline, making it greasier. Eyebrow pencil highlighted his acne scars.
Walking on set, everyone cheered and screamed with delight when they saw Gus. His co-star, a 30-year-old playing a horny teen, that Gus was to butcher with a weedwhacker asked: “How you feelin’?”
“Beautiful,” Gus said.
by Emma Burnett
Before: It was just a farm. Covered in wheat, and barley, and rye. It’s where Gran birthed my ma, and where ma birthed me. Bathtub babies, we were.
During: Gran had the idea when they banned booze. The bathtub would do for fermenting. She made a lid for the tub. I picked the juniper berries. Ma hauled the water. There was demand for gin, and we provided the supply.
After: They let Gran out of prison when prohibition ended. And the extra money we’d made, they never found it, hidden under the window ledge. It’s why we live like queens.
by Zeke Shomler
She walked backwards everywhere, watching the world through a mirror.
She couldn’t handle the monumentality of it all—couldn’t bring herself to face it head on, the sheer overwhelming everything of it all. The bones in her arm felt out of place, like they belonged to someone else.
When she boarded the bus, her chest faced the sidewalk and heaved, hot smoke exiting her lungs, colors too bright on the bench.
Metacarpals make a nice bracelet, she thought, one that I’ll never lose.
Microfiction Monday – 172nd Edition
by David Henson
As the man admires the cobalt sky and verdant meadow, he notices brush strokes everywhere, even on his arms and legs. He realizes he’s becoming the woman in a painting he once admired. He recalls the woman, though surrounded by beauty, appears horrified. This tension is what makes the painting a work of art. The man is happy to be in the painting and wants to stay there. He tries to fake the look of terror but realizes his countenance is unconvincing and ruins the great painting. The thought horrifies him. The work of art is restored.
On the Wing
by Zylla Black
I was stuffed into a cheap seat, below and behind the second set on the plane, my legs stretched flat before me. At least I could see the window, over the wing.
In flight, you can sometimes actually see the air as it funnels into channels crafted by human engineering. I love to watch the wind, the movement of metal feathers.
She was out on the wing. I blinked; she remained seated on the edge, hair and clothes snagging on the gusts, rimmed in cracking ice as we came out of a cloud.
I wondered how much her ticket cost.
by G.J. Williams
What you’ll see is this: Nijinsky in a straitjacket pirouetting in slo mo to some polyphonic hellbroth remastered for insane times. It’s a romance. There’ll be footage of the grainier kind, lending weight to each hieratic contortion. This’ll be history danced, the world’s psychosis incarnate. There’ll be no voiceover lacking affect, no quoting from diaries and certainly no prolonged silence to indicate the absence or otherwise of God. It’ll be wordless, and as wordless pieces go, it’ll say less than most. It’ll not even be strange.
Microfiction Monday – 171st Edition
by Elizabeth Murphy
Her sideways stare warns me I’ve done wrong again because I couldn’t ever do right, my name forever a reprimand or complaint, whether deserved or not because I do try so hard to be her way, some way, not the way I am, but people don’t change including my mother because that’s just how she is, I am, and what I’ll one day accept or else I’ll pretend my mother is the sweet old lady across the hall who offers me tea and conversation, and repeats yes dear, no dear like I’m the child she never had.
by David Henson
He wakes her ‘round dawn vomiting in the bathroom. Squint-eyed and feigning sleep, she crosses her fingers as he returns, damp cloth to his forehead. She tenses when he mutters about the hair of the dog, relaxes when, instead of getting up, he groans, turns over and begins to snore. She slips from bed knowing he’ll sleep all day. Minutes later she’s sipping coffee on the patio, enjoying the butterflies and birds.
by Ken Poyner
The boy comes back with only one leg. He learns to fold his excess pants leg invitingly, pin it invisibly. In locomotion, sometimes he prefers his wheelchair, sometimes wooden crutches, sometimes metal ones that clip to the upper arm with a hand stub. At times, one means of self-conveyance seems better than another, argues more shockingly with his chosen attire. Sometimes he rotates based on which has been seen most by whom. Either way, he defaults to being the current hometown hero. When people stare, he says he lost it in the war. They nod. No one asks which war.
When I Place My Palm on the Damp Ground
by Zeke Shomler
When I place my palm on the damp ground, I can feel the earthworms writhing underneath as if they were thrashing and burrowing right next to my skin. I can feel their polyrhythmic syncopated music, their flexing and contracting muscular elegance. I can tell what they feel and what they desire by the twisting of their corpuscles. When I walk barefoot they radiate against my feet.
Sometimes I feel that I can recognize which worms contain materials that were feasted from the bodies of my loved ones.
The dirt has recently begun to smell nostalgic, like a childhood dream.
Microfiction Monday – 170th Edition
What You Eat
Callum ate only nuts and seeds.
In time, his fingers were twigs. Vines were his arms. His legs, twin trunks. Callum’s beard was moss; lichens were his hair. Cinnamon birds drummed on the great shell that his belly had become. They tugged his guts into his lap. They slithered away. Roots in the soil. No longer needed, his lungs withered. His stomach was a shrivelled pouch. His heart a dark bowl that rolled down the long slope to the stream.
The vestiges of his eyes and ears drew in the measured dance. The faint music.
by Todd Pettigrew
Incomprehensible. Killing an infant.
No one knew the murderer. He simply appeared, forcing his way into the house, ignoring the older children. Finding the infant asleep, he fired and fled.
They chased, but reaching the end of a dark alley, found nothing.
Teufel. Damon, folks whisper. But even devils have reasons. Why desolate this family?
They’d lost three to illness already. And now this beautiful boy is only memory. His mop of dark hair. His curious eyes.
They weep, and pray for strength.
We stand alongside them, Alois and Klara, as they mourn little Adolph.
The Hitlers are not alone.
by Jeremy Nathan Marks
Every day at lunch mice scampered past the microwave. They left droppings everywhere. The workday was filled with worker shrieks. When the boss didn’t act, the staff walked out.
The boss asked the landlord to do something, but the landlord said that trapping mice was beyond the terms of the lease.
The boss loved rodents so he set live traps. But when he went into the ceiling where the mice were living, he struck his head on a beam and suffered a severe concussion. Since no one was in the office to know he was missing, the mice cannibalized him.
It’s The Little Things That Matter
by Roopa Menon
When my father’s muscular legs started to shrink and resemble chicken legs, he blamed the cook’s insipid food.
When my father’s legs burned raw from pain, he blamed Covid.
When my father snapped at us, he blamed our irreverence.
When my father scraped his foot, and his bruise, tarry black, refused to heal, we blamed ourselves.
“Undiagnosed diabetes.” The doctor said, shaking his head. Then, before wheeling my feverish father into the emergency room, he stopped and looked at me, “It’s the little things that matter. Always.”