Flash Fiction by Shareen K. Murayama
In the Magical Kingdom called The Suburbs
The individual families decide how many to procreate. The offspring are schooled with books, sports, and hobbies. The individual families become couples in a house with half-filled rooms, holding just-in-case beds for their offspring. The individual couples work, sleep, retire, and age. They forget having fender benders, how clean a hip breaks. They never see offspring enough. The individual couples worry about the falling action: they treat cancer, install a commode. The ending is always the same: the individual is the last half of the couple. Some offspring return. Some offspring cannot, living in their own magical kingdom called The Suburbs.
The Origin Story
After falling in love with all things ballads, I lost the ability to hold numbers in my head—my super power. I drop numbers from bills and balances, their straight lines, pointy elbows slip through cerebrum. I lose track if my best friend needs five days of radiation over two weeks or was it two weeks of five-day treatments? If she hires a CNA at $18/hour for four hours a day, how many family members will fill in the gaps of the clock’s arms for the other hours? What I love most about the ballads is knowing there’s a beginning, a middle, and an end. And if you like the ending, you can always start over again.
Grammar Terms to Review
CONNOTATION – Using a word that may carry a different interpretation than its literal meaning. May be positive, negative or neutral.
Example from your number one MFA program choice: Your pieces show much potential. Example from your ex: You’re too much more of a sister than a mother.
MODIFIER – A word or phrase that describes, modifies, qualifies the meaning of the word.
Example from your ex: When you come home, your bitchy remarks clear the room. Example from your current partner: Yes. I can be your bitch-baby. Come over here.
INDICATIVE VERB – Used for facts, opinions, and questions.
Example: We failed. It was both our faults, too young. Did our kids suffer too much?
IMPERATIVE VERB – Used for orders or advice. Example: Stop second guessing yourself. Keep breathing. Keep holding on.
SUBJECTIVE VERB – Used for wishes, requests, or recommendations.
Example: I wish my kids would aim for their goals no matter the roadblocks. I hope they know some things can be temporary, like potential, until one stands on the other side of that word: accomplished.
Comb and Wattle
My father’s decision had been made months before the new recruiter arrived in port. Stand up, straight! Show me your hands. Easy money. Three meals a day. Open your mouth. All week, my mother’s mood rotated, like learning to jump rope, not knowing when to enter. A dormitory to sleep in, minutes away—not miles—from work. Fetch me a cup of water; be quick. Days off means “not required to work in the factory.” I imagined threading through unknown streets with many people I wouldn’t be able to recognize by clothes, their shuffle.
Mr. Kimura, the recruiter, reminded me of our goat, his beard long and short in different patches. He apologized for his appearance, traveling on the road was so difficult, would it be possible to shower before heading back out? Some hairs disappeared in the bamboo cup.
My mother pulled me to stand behind her. They exchanged words yen and contract, my father and Mr. Kimura. My mother tugged my smock down, flattened it against my thighs, grounding my thoughts to the greens sprouting in orderly rows, red dirt, the blue-ish black rooster strutting. How he postures tall, thrusting his head forward, prepares to announce his victory.
She said, you’ll get used to it. More snoring than weeping, especially the first month. Numbness, we controlled, between midnight and five. Not only our appendages depressed on tatami curled like silk cocoons we tugged and threaded all day. She was fifteen, a year older than me. It doesn’t have to be difficult. The supervisor’s shadow probed beneath the doorway. She sat up, swept down her fly-away strands, left for the lavatory. The sounds were not new, not nightly: girls sniffling, kicking overlapping legs, blankets pulled over heads, the thumping of sex in the next room.
Here There are No Water Buffalo
Because I deliver malasadas sugar-dusted warm in a pink plastic bag. Because a few days later, you impart a tub of onions with smoked meat; bananas exchanged for mangoes. Because we jaywalk our neighborly streets forth and back, the catchiest part to a song. Because I might truck over the hospital bed my mother once used; or I’ll offer to sit your cat because your care home won’t allow pets. You know we’ll visit often. We don’t share how your peppers have wilted, while your kids wait for a buyer; the melody, dismantled. The new neighbors have brought their own potted herbs and habaneros. And do I think they’ll take well to this corner of the yard?
Shareen K. Murayama is a poet and educator. Her first chapbooks, HEY GIRL, ARE YOU IN THE EXPERIMENTAL GROUP? by Harbor Editions and HOUSEBREAK by Bad Betty Press will be published in 2022. She reads poetry for The Adroit Journal and cnf for JMWW Journal. Her art is published or forthcoming in Pilgrimage Press, SoFloPoJo, SWWIM, The Willowherb, Scrawl Place, and elsewhere. You can find her on IG & Twitter @ambusypoeming.
Flash Boulevard is edited by Francine Witte. Banner photograph Wes Candela.