Flash Fiction by Lorette C. Luzajic
The little white house where I unpacked your picnic basket of white wine and Italy, where you laid me back and danced me to the end of love, was more like a grave. The pale tulips in the backyard were a funeral, and the future was murder. But you could never have known that, because I never told you the half of it. I read every single poem in those Leonard Cohen paperbacks you gave to me. And that’s why I listened with all my heart when you said you were in love with me, even if I never really believed you. Of course, what you felt was real, no doubt, but it didn’t and couldn’t change anything. So, I let it be, a story spilled on the kitchen floor where I first slipped out of my second-hand silk peignoir, slid out of scuffed slingbacks. I couldn’t comfort you in the conflict between you and the woman who hadn’t touched you in ten years, but it made me sick to think a sentient soul could leave a loving man like you out in the cold. It was something that struck close to home, how my patient, tender Daddy had been denied everything by Mother, then been tarred and feathered for that longing for connection. He never complained – I only knew it because of her constant reminders that me and my brothers were made by fluke the times that she had bitterly given in. She spat out our names, our lives, with disgust. It made me dark and angry, how sex is so often violence, and not just from the one with the loaded gun.
Benedict and the Pomelo
She is ugly, but Benedict loves her best of anyone. The fortune teller is a cascade of tinsel on the grubby linoleum. All dazzle and dangle, all shimmering ribbons and spangles. The jetsam and jangle cannot disguise the oracle’s barnacles or hirsute girth: she moves through each room like a gypsy caravan or carnival ship. It was love at first sight in the big tent, where she found him, frantic, fumbling for a lost orange. She saved his act when she pulled a pomelo from her skirts. She almost cracked a smile. He is skinny wiggle to her ample jiggle, tall and striped, a lean tower. Pinched and gaunt against her wide mean glower. She is the sybil, he is the juggler.
Mrs. Jones wrests apart her fortune cookie with a click of a callous, pries loose the truth with fake fingernails and admirable dexterity. A crackle of crumbs tumbles down her lapel, into the leftover rice. Her date waits word, awaits his fate, with the mildly bored expression of an enamoured paramour used to his object of amusement. What now, Mrs. Jones? he asks, reaching for the paper that will dictate what happens next. Mrs. Jones purses her soy-smeared lips, gives him a coy, sidelong glance, hands him the verdict. Better luck next time, it is written.
The Wishing Machine
You are afraid of sleeping in a room that isn’t yours. It is why you can’t sleep deep enough for renewal; your mind grasps for familiar markers as you drift and toss. You keep the laptop on for blue light, to see the outlines of your world when you stir or shift. There are other small terrors in your treasury of memory, and in bundles you have yet to open. There is a rusty key with a thin red ribbon, and a shriveled monkey’s paw, bound in bloody silk. There is a box within a box within a box, and a sachet of petals and crushed glass. The spindle, the crank and rattle, the medley of small seeds. But the worst of the curses that surround you is her psionics device. With its nifty dials and intricate web of wires, it could almost be proudly displayed, a beautiful curiosity, at a museum of invention or intention gone wrong, an oddity in the dustbins of science. But it is a ball and chain. It is a thing that cannot be put aside or buried. You can’t leave it behind: it must be passed on to someone you deem worthy. Be careful what you wish for is the oldest lesson in story-time and psych, never mind all those smug mottos about manifestation and vibrations. So you simply won’t hand it off, give another the curse of their desires. The deception of it all surrounds you, keeps you from action, from what you know is the only honest way of making a life out of life. You floated into this world of spells and signs on the salt waves of a woman who promised you would inherit her gifts. It was a poison you can’t shake off. You were woven out of her. If only she had spent less time baying at the moon and wiggling her fingers in the aura glow of dead ancestors, she might have seen how much you wanted to partake in the here and now, to join the living. Instead, you are still shivering, you are easily startled, and you haven’t slept in years.
The Keychain Monkeys
The zookeeper always watched for the girl in the yellow dress. She walked up to the boulevard and past the bougainvillea every school day around three, on the other side of the fence. He would fiddle with the faucets at the vantage point of sighting, rinsing slop buckets or filling bottles, until he saw her. She was always alone, like him, not part of the gaggles of gangly limbed girls as noisy and mean as the geese they marched past on the other side of the zoo. He was friendly with those kids anyways, lifting his hat or tossing off an awkward wave. Some of them mocked him for his limp or stutter, but mostly they didn’t notice him at all. They were looking for the baby tigers or the meerkats on their way home. The girl in the yellow dress always stopped where she did in hopes of a glimpse of the pygmy marmosets, still and intent for a long time on the other side of their enclosure. Their preferred quarters was a box nestled in the backdrop of blooms, but if you stood in the slight parting of greenery adjacent you could find them. She always called out to him if she saw him, pestered him with questions about their names or their natural habitat. She listened patiently when he stumbled over the answers, waiting for him to find the words. The girl called the creatures the keychain monkeys because they were so small, like ornaments. He loved her pale little hands on the fence between them, her skinny fingers, and the jumble of too many teeth in her small rosebud mouth. He loved the mop of curls she sometimes pinned back with flowers. Once one of the gardeners overheard their chatter and gave him a pitiful, disgusted look. He was mortified, and it took all of his courage to speak up and correct him. You’ve got it all wrong, he said. She’s the spitting image of her mother.
Lorette C. Luzajic is from Toronto, Canada. Her prose poetry and small fictions are widely published, with recent or forthcoming appearances in Voice and Verse (Hong Kong), Gyroscope, Free Flash Fiction, Bright Flash Review, Club Plum, New Flash Fiction, Wild Word (Berlin), and Indelible (Dubai). Her Pushcart-nominated flash story “The Paper Dark” was part of the award-winning anthology, The Group of Seven Reimagined (ed. Karen Schauber, Heritage Books.) A recent flash story won first place in a contest at MacQueen’s Quinterly. Her most recent of five poetry collections is Pretty Time Machine: ekphrastic prose poems. Some of her works have been translated into Urdu. Lorette is founder and editor of The Ekphrastic Review, a journal devoted to literature inspired by art. She is also an award-winning visual artist, with collectors in 25 countries from Estonia to Qatar. Visit her at www.mixedupmedia.ca.
Flash Boulevard is edited by Francine Witte. Banner photograph Wes Candela.