The Weeping Woman
By Melissa Bowers
In the aftermath, Maya goes to check on her mother. They were supposed to meet in Amarillo when the rain started, but it’s been 79 hours with no word, so she parks far away and wades to the porch in waist-high water. The house is a Picasso painting – warped, misshapen. Somehow upended.
Maya slips past the swollen front door and down the hall. She calls out but finds instead her mother’s favorite gown, a sequined void collapsed and sodden on the flooded floor.
How carefully she zips herself into the bodice before she tries to float.
How heavy the weight.
—Melissa Bowers is the winner of F(r)iction’s most recent flash fiction competition. Her work has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, selected for the 2021 Wigleaf Top 50 Very Short Fictions, and featured in SmokeLong Quarterly, The Cincinnati Review, and several others. Read more at melissabowers.com or find her on Twitter @MelissaBowers_.
There’s No Place Like Home
By Jen Moreth
Girls in rollerblades thunder down my streets like ribbon-clad freight trains. Hello, my name is Suburbia. I pack you in so tight and cozy, your children drink poison under your noses. There’s no place like home.
Come in, dry your soul by my imitation fireplace. Drive by thousands of clones of your front door. Trees bow to my mighty empire; one by one they fall. Built by bricks of greed, sidewalk slabs of fear, I sprawl.
Isn’t it better, with no concerns? You’ll buy me, love me, live me – never leave. I’ll take good care of you. Come home.
—Jen Moreth studied psychology and neuroscience at McMaster University. She currently lives in Ontario, Canada, and spends all her time writing short fiction and reading horror novels.
By Paul Leyva
We were at Sammy’s Shoveling Spoon like every Tuesday since we began, where people settled like wax long after the candle burned out and Maude flaunts her oxygen tank like it was salvation rather than a postponement, when Nikki declared there’s got to be more to life than this. I thought of our 23-year engagement and told her that rock on her finger wasn’t a weight but an unbreakable bond. I swore great changes were coming. So, proving my point, I got my usual two sunny eggs with bacon instead of the sausage I love. Baby steps, I tell her.
—Paul Leyva currently lives in Teaneck, New Jersey, and is using recent lessons picked up from writing 100-word stories to eliminate 50,000 words from his first manuscript while growing tomatoes and assisting customers around the nation.
Tonight I Washed the Curtains of a Woman I’ll Never Meet
By Tracy McKee
Tonight I washed the curtains of a woman I’ll never meet. I expected a pragmatic consistency; starchy fabric of bears and pine trees for this woodlands house. Yet like a note in the wall, the curtains bore their own messages. One set, a stiff gesture of welcome to an occupant unlikely to care about being there. Another set, perfunctory material that said, yes, you are family; there was never any question about that. The last set was rich linen with extraordinary soft yellow blossoms and gentle fern shadows. Superior, glossy, they waited breathlessly for someone in particular to come home.
—After spending 30 years ghostwriting for corporate executives, Tracy McKee is now writing, teaching, and birdwatching in the mountains of Vermont.
Learning to Weep
By T.J. Brantley
I was 15 when Grandpa pulled me aside to show me the photos. He kept them in a footlocker under his bed. They had government stamps on the back – “NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION” – and stole my breath. Bodies, faces, railroads, ashes. Figures in black and white that made my heart clench. He squeezed my shoulder and told me it didn’t matter if I kissed boys, only if I treated people like people. I asked him if he had cried. He hadn’t been much older than me when he had taken those photos. Not during, he said, but after. You keep crying.
—T.J. Brantley is a graduate student at the University of Chicago. Born and raised in Kentucky, she is currently working on a novel of historical fiction. This is her first publication.
By Cindy Newell
She could hear her mother talking on the phone, making plans with her aunt for tomorrow’s Christmas dinner. Her baby brother, 8 months old that day, fresh from his bath, lay on the sideboard wrapped in his towel. She had been rubbing his back, letting him teethe on her finger, keeping him from rolling off. Keeping him safe.
A heartbeat ago, he was still alive, breathing. A sudden arch of the back. A pained gasp for air. A lifeless collapse under her hand. She was 5. Her mother was coming.
What could she possibly say?
—Cindy Newell is a retired massage therapist, avid reader, sporadic writer of memoir and personal essay, and voice actor. She lives on an organic farm in eastern Massachusetts with her partner and their Aussie Shepherd.