The Flash Fiction Friday Fandango and Fiesta Bake-off on JD Mader’s website keeps getting better and better. More writers join; more magic happens. If you want to read a bunch of great instant flash (just add phosphorus), check out what everyone wrote this week. My three two-minute pieces, some a little longer than two minutes, are here. Note: no small red birds were harmed in the writing of these stories.
A doctor barely old enough to shave told him they could do no more for his bum hip, so the punk had the nerve to look him in the eye and tell him that he had to just “find a new normal.” He still didn’t know what the hell that meant. But he did learn how to make an uneasy friendship with the fast-slow hitch-step of dragging his bad leg behind him, and he took up walking. Not to the mailbox and back, but two, three miles every day, wet, dry, cold, hot, he took to the road, pulling his windbreaker tight against the weather. His wife said it would keep him alive. Mainly he thought his wife wanted to keep him out of the house, so she could do her chores and such without him underfoot. So he walked, until his good leg tired, sometimes needing to hitchhike back home, smiling and waving at a neighbor kind enough to give him a lift, kind enough to allow him as much old normal as he needed.
The sea boiled pale blue against the white October sky. She ripped open the plastic bag of candy corn and ate one after the other, losing herself in the place where water and horizon met. The sand wasn’t as soft as she’d thought, nor as warm, and the chill seeped through the seat of her jeans. Home wasn’t an option, however. And she’d already spent two hours riding the subway, changing from one line to the next, without thought, and eventually ended up here. She didn’t see the man until he was next to her. His hair was long and he wore one of those Guatemalan sweatshirts that she’d always hated. But his eyes were kind, the same color as the ocean. Without words they worked out an agreement that he would sit with her, and share her candy corn. She remembered all the warnings from her parents about strangers with candy, but to him she was the stranger, and she had the candy. She shrugged to herself and continued their silent conversation. Eventually, though, he cleared his throat and said, “So, uh, what are you doing out here?”
In response, she rose and, leaving him the bag, began walking toward the roiling waves.
I’ll admit that the first time my head met a solid surface, it was a miscalculation; perhaps I’d been suffering from a sinus infection that had thrown my navigational abilities. But then I saw the lady in the cage. She was sitting straight as an arrow in front of a little box, her wingtips fluttering furiously against a device that sent squiggles up on the object in front of her. Fascinating. I perched outside her cage for a while, trying to get a better look. Then she began her song, in that funny, up-and-down way humans sing, and I guessed she was singing what was up on the object, because she appeared to scan it while she sang. I’d heard the humans sing before, some of their voices were quite nice and some dull and not worth a pause to listen. But this song from the lady in the cage was really lovely and soothed the ache in my head. It was telling me a story about a magician and his assistant, and it reminded me of my friend the dove, who was kept by a magician in a cage—a lot smaller than the one the lady was sitting in—and not treated very nicely at all. I wanted to tell the lady about my friend. Maybe she would sing to the other humans about my story. But mostly I wanted her free from the cage. That’s why I kept trying to get her attention. I wanted her to know that she didn’t have to be stuck inside there. That she could come outside and sing her story while we flew circles around the trees. I’ve never seen humans fly, but maybe they could. Maybe they just weren’t trying hard enough. This lady human, though, I’d bet all the grubs in my nest that she could have done it if she tried.