Flash Fictions

Having Vacuum Cleaners

There’s a bridge between our small island and the continental land mass to the

west.

The bridge spans nine-thousand six-hundred and fifty-eight feet, and is attached

to bed rock with twenty steel girders on either side. And because you are trying

to help my lines to be more logical and generally clear, you ask, in that

worldly workshoppy way, who is the we in this short-short story? I explain

defensively that the we is intended to be poignant and universal, symbolizing

all of us. And because you are so concerned for my reader’s enjoyment, you ask,

in a helpfully condescending voice, why are the physical dimensions of the

bridge so important to your collection of sentences? I explain, in rapid

incoherent syntax, you just don’t understand. The bridge is just setting. And

in this story, it’s not having vacuum cleaners that makes the we so powerful.

Wood-Grained Metal

She has a small garden. And she is really very old. Her children are dead. Her

grandchildren are dead. And all but one of her neighbors deal crack cocaine.

Thirty years ago, two weeks before her hundredth birthday and near death in the

hospital, a salesman with white shoes and no socks offered her a fair price on

siding for her house. The decorative aluminum has held up well, and her home

still looks new and protected from the elements. Behind her house is a small

garden. Occasionally a reporter will drop by and find her there, digging holes

or spreading fertilizer. They’ll ask for some quirky folksy sound-bite

explaining her freakish longevity. Leaning on a shovel, she’ll point to the

ground, and explain how all things are scoopable. Dirt, cat litter, marriages,

all objects and experiences, she’ll say, can be scooped up and moved around.

It’s not important where things or emotions begin, or even whether they end up

in trash cans or orgasmic fits. It’s the transferring, the scooping and moving

of critters and emotions and gold-plated silverware from one location to any

other that keeps us young. Taking pictures of her garden, the reporter will

respectfully thank her, try to imagine her naked, and then begin mentally

planning a story about the benefits of organically grown food. And when the

young reporter walks to his car, and drives off in his suped-up Z28, the old

woman will look over at the wood grained metal surrounding her house, and know

that this siding with its lifetime warranty is the best investment she’s ever

made.


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