Flash Fiction by Frankie McMillan
Eddy Sparkle’s Bridal Taxi
I went through twelve little brides that first year.
A doll has to look fresh riding on the bonnet of the taxi, white satin streamers coming off her shoulders, her sweet face braced to the wind. They took a buffeting out there in all weathers and even though I only brought the sturdy ones, not the cheap ones, and even though I didn’t leave them on the bonnet overnight but took them inside, gave them a wiping down, removed the streamers — the tiny bridal frock soaked overnight in the tub — even so, I went through twelve of them that first year.
There were other hazards to the dolls, beside the weather. Kids. Running alongside the taxi. Kids shrieking and one cheeky bugger making a leap at the bonnet, trying to snatch what wasn’t his. I stopped the taxi. Wound down the window, “Ask before you touch,” I said, “you always have to ask.” I looked in the rear vision mirror to see how this lesson was going down.
The groom was busy; his hand halfway up the bride’s frock.
“May the years ahead be filled with everlasting joy,” I said as I pulled up at the church. I did a courtly bow to show how things should be done.
“Wishing you all the best for today and always,” I yelled at another couple who spent the whole ride wrenching at a bit of bridal train stuck in the door.
It was the horses that made the business falter. Horses were the new way to arrive at the church. A team of them, white plumes on their head, bells rattling, trot trot trot, the bride and groom in the carriage, waving like the Windsors. In a small town you can’t compete with that.
So …nights, my empty taxi cruises the streets. Down Main Street, along the river and over the bridge. On the bonnet is the thirteenth doll. She braves the wind, the rain — bridal frock flashing through the dark — streamers flapping, and as I drive on with no notion of where we’re heading, no notion of what happens when the fuel runs out, I wind down the window. I’m yelling to her but I could be yelling to all the brides of the world. “God bless you,” I cry, “on this wonderful journey!”
Even Aetna, Ruler of the Lava, Had Her Bad Days
There was a man I loved who didn’t love me, but that wasn’t why I set myself on fire. It was part of an act where— goddess-like — I leapt around a bare stage, fire erupting from my knees.
Now when I think back to it, I see a lonely crazed figure in search of applause. I want to reach back and say, hey, hey, you. I want to pick up all those ruined tights with charred knees, the bottle of kero used for soaking the cotton padding, the hundreds of matches, the armloads of smoke, the drifts of music, Albinoni, and I want to plunge them all into a tub. Along with the man I loved who didn’t love me. Yet other days I look back with a less jaundiced eye, and I see a disciplined figure; working out just how much kero is needed to soak the knee pads without setting all my clothes ablaze, how many seconds it takes to do a set of moves from center right to center left, the best way to land on my knees. Without all my skin coming off. Good on you, I want to say, you did it. You got away with it.
You got away with it. Without all your skin coming off. You were disciplined. All those hundreds of matches, the bottles of kero, the ruined tights. Smoke in your eyes. Smoke in your hair. The smell followed you everywhere. Filled the stage, backstage, his dressing room. There was a man you loved who didn’t love you. It takes a while to snuff out an old flame. For a while you leap around and around in circles, sparks flying off your hair.
Frankie McMillan is an award- winning poet and short story writer from Aotearoa New Zealand. Her latest book, The wandering nature of us girs (Canterbury University Press) will be launched, August, 2022. Her work has been included in the Best Microfiction and Best Small Fiction anthologies.
Flash Boulevard is edited by Francine Witte. Banner photograph Wes Candela.