Flash Fiction by Howie Good
Yes, Dr. No
I’m told to go sit in the waiting area while “the laser heats up,” and for an instant, I’m not at the clinic or some anxious old man unable to see out of his left eye, but with Sean Connery/James Bond in Dr. No, the scene where he’s tied spreadeagle on a steel table, and even as the fiery red laser beam that cuts through metal creeps closer and closer and closer to his, well, “junk,” he banters with the archvillain, demonstrating to each of us caught in our own desperate straits the art of living courageously under imaginary circumstances.
Sometime in the middle of the night they reached the house. I was jabbed awake with the point of a dagger. A tall man with a scraggly chin beard and eyes that were noticeably misaligned stood over the bed while an accomplice stayed back in the shadows. Not something, the man said without prologue, but a whole world of things. He said it so quietly I had to strain to hear. Before I could even process his words, he and his accomplice had slipped out the door. Clouds shaped like vague suspicions of vast conspiracies were just starting to pinken.
Everything appears gray or white, and after only a few days, I start to miss seeing things that are green. The people I depend on for advice don’t want to talk about it or even acknowledge a problem exists. I scan the morning headlines. Bosnians are still finding in woods and fields and under rubble bodies from the genocide their leaders claim never happened. A year passes, two. The dentist bangs on my tooth. “That hurt?” he asks. Through an open window, I smell grass, hear birds. So what if the tooth can’t be saved? A bird hasn’t an arm but the continent of the sky.
A Whole New Ball Game
The pitcher forgets to cover first on a slow roller to the right side, as we were warned in urgent texts and agonized dreams he might. A massive glacier heads for home. The catcher tears off his hockey-style face mask and shockingly the top half of his face with it. In the visitors’ dugout, the bench coach is applying Kabbalistic numerology to uncover a hidden message in the uniform numbers of the players on the infield. A dirigible emblazoned with a death’s skull logo comes floating over the stadium. The umpire points up and signals for timeout and then vanishes in a puff of blue smoke. Panicked voices fill the broadcast airwaves. Women are knocked down; children, trampled. The baseball gods look away. “Beer here! Cold beer here!” vendors in the stands just go on howling.
The unfortunate phrase “the rising tide of communism” for some reason still sticks in my mind. A lot of people my age didn’t realize when they were growing up that they were being watched. Now before I speak, I look around to make sure no one is listening who shouldn’t be. Somewhere bombs fall on a theater, a breadline, a maternity hospital. We only see what the camera sees and with the detachment and stigma with which the camera sees it. Give us, please, assignations in shadowed archways, and flowers on the dogwoods, and spontaneous parades with banners inscribed with wild ribaldries.
The TV detective with the Basset Hound face stands on the riverbank, staring glumly down at the mutilated corpse of a schoolgirl dumped there overnight. He sighs and then pats his pockets for his cigarettes. Existence for me also is a hackneyed series of performative gestures. I read somewhere that 6-foot-4 Jeff Goldblum is the tallest actor in Hollywood. Such facts accumulate quickly and in overwhelming variety, a function of our dysfunctional times. You know what I need? I don’t either. The headline says, “Pope Prays for Peace.” Deep red drops of blood drip on a bunch of white daisies.
Running Falling Flying Floating Crawling
Irreplaceable words are missing, perhaps sent to the camps to be murdered, perhaps buried in blast rubble, perhaps overcome by restlessness, so that now I live under the tyranny of images, global PTSD, my every waking moment crammed to its physical limits with thick, white smoke, a kind of choking confusion in which I feel myself running falling flying floating crawling, an aged child of the frantic new century with little to guide him but whispers of rumored whereabouts.
Mother woke me up unusually early with the news that a lake of ash had appeared during the night and behind it a pair of wrinkled mountains like a giant’s cracked, dusty boots. “Ah,” I thought, “the cows. . . .” I couldn’t have been more wrong. By the next day, men in trench coats and fedoras would be grabbing people right off the street and taking them away in unmarked cars. But, for now, there were steel bars on windows and suicide nets on roofs and a sign out front of the palace saying, Help Wanted/Apply Within.
An international crew of astronauts are rocketing through space on a life-and-death mission to the cosmic womb. While still years from their goal, their sanity begins to fray. “Every little town has its share of evil,”the captain observes, then laughs maniacally. It’s soon raining again. The second in command is disappointed and confused. He thought he would see God by now, a fat Elvis in a white satin outfit aglitter with sequins. The ship passes through a band of rusty space junk. Crew members only slowly realize that they have breached the border of a bygone era. 1955. I’m four years old, playing by myself on the grass, when I look up at something that isn’t there.
Howie Good is the author most recently of Failed Haiku, a poetry collection that is co-winner of the 2021 Grey Book Press Chapbook Contest and scheduled for publication in summer 2022. His previous poetry collections include Famous Long Ago (Laughing Ronin Press) and Gunmetal Sky (Thirty West Publishing).
Flash Boulevard is edited by Francine Witte. Banner photograph Wes Candela.