flash fiction

All posts in the flash fiction category

Euthanasia Forgiven

Published January 6, 2020 by Nan Mykel

I’ll never euthanize another pet.  Maybe that’s an overstatement, but the need would have to be extreme.

We were sitting comfortably in a circle in my living room at the time, each with our own glass of wine, as usual. It was our weekly consciousness-raising group, and the mood was mellow until a spunky friend I admired said, “Pet owners are being cruel when they let their pets suffer rather than have them put down!”

She wasn’t talking about me, but I let the remark fester until I saw myself through her eyes, a cruel mistress to my aging cat Lucky, a misnomer if there was ever one.

At the time, Lucky had become both deaf and blind, but living in my bedroom he could find his food, water, litter box, and accurately jump up into the darkness to find his own place of comfort on our shared bed. I now believe that I over-reacted when he started losing weight and I had him euthanized. He trusted me kept going through my mind.

I missed him, felt guilty, and overall miserable. I had allowed someone else’s opinion to bully myself into “putting him down,” and yes I do think I was protecting my own feelings.

Two weeks of loneliness passed before my muscles twitched and while lying on my bed  I felt the mattress jostle gently and a soft knot of pressure lay against my back. That night I fell asleep with a smile on my lips.

Lucky chose a different spot to occupy each night, but his warm presence continued to soothe until the morning I felt his soft paws tapping on my face. That wasn’t a surprise; he knew how to wake me when he was ready for company.  So familiar were the gentle pats that I reached out for him, half asleep, and found myself with a fistful of empty air. And noticed a thin veil of smoke and the acrid smell of scorching.

The smell led to an outlet in the living room that was sparking and snapping and ready to combust. Between a 911 call, the power box, a raincoat lying nearby and the arrival of the fire department, the danger was over within minutes.

I returned to bed, sensitized myself to reconnect with Lucky’s presence, but he was gone, mission accomplished I supposed. Also gone were my pangs of guilt.

The following week scorch had been replaced by the odor of blooming honeysuckle just outside the open window, and after pulling my hair into a pony tail I headed out.  Would today be my own lucky day?  I wondered as I pulled into the Animal Rescue Center’s parking lot. Sure enough, there they were, a playful pair or young brother and sister kittens. They seemed to have been waiting for me.

 

c. nan mykel

SALVATION — flash fiction

Published November 17, 2019 by Nan Mykel

      “Who’s Cremeans?” asked 10-year old Johnny, coming into the kitchen from play.

      Up to her elbows pummeling dough, his mother Elizabeth blew the hair out of her eyes and replied, “I give up. Who is he?”

      “Running for president, the sky says.”

     “Whatever are you talking about?” She noticed his muddy hands and said, “Come to the sink and wash up.”

     Johnny, tall for his age, was wearing a striped tee shirt and jeans. Red-headed like his mother, he did as he was told, then dried his hands and said, “Cremeans. Who is he?”

     “Mr. Cremeans was my high school principal. Why?”

     “He’s running for president, is all. Come look.”

      Elizabeth stepped out the back stoop to humor her son, dough still clinging to her hands. Johnny pointed up to the sky, where a line of disintegrating letters proclaimed, Cremeans for President.

     “Good question, Johnny. Don’t know that one….President of what?” Johnny shrugged his shoulders and watched as the small plane flew out of sight.

     Elizabeth was standing behind Johnny, and also watched as the plane disappeared. “I wonder which party he’s running for…or she.” Elizabeth returned to pummeling the dough while Johnny returned to searching the banks of their backyard creek for anything—mica, arrowheads, quartzite…

     Come suppertime the delicious fragrance of fresh baked bread wafted around the small family. James, husband and father at the head of the table, reported  the day’s news after giving the blessing.

     “They say a well-heeled dark horse has entered the race for President. No one’s heard of him before but he’s kicking up a storm.”

     “What party?” Elizabeth asked.

     “A new Salvation party. Evidently it’s been in the works a long time, undercover. All legal, t’s crossed.”

     “Salvation!” Elizabeth laughed. “We could use it!”

     “Where’s Cremeans from?” Johnny wanted to know.  “He might be Mom’s high school principal.”

     James threw up his hands. “The news people haven’t determined that yet—mystery man, mystery candidate, mystery funding.”

     Elizabeth buttered her toasty slice of bread. “I like the name of the party,” she said. “We registered again after we moved, didn’t we?”

     “You bet.” The conversation then turned to other topics—the Braves, the most recent mass shooting and the new movie playing at the local theater.

     The deadline for filing came and went, and Cremeans  was scheduled to make an appearance along with other front-runners.  The stadium was packed and a hush came over the crowd in anticipation of the first entrant. Applause greeted each one as they took their place on the stage, dressed to the nines, each wearing a silk necktie. There were no duplicate ties, nor near duplicates. Their secretaries must have conspired together.

     Each candidate was introduced to applause as they walked on, but the silence of a staring curiosity greeted Cremeans when, as the last of the candidates, he walked onstage dressed in working man’s clothes.  He was tall, rugged, middle-aged, bearded and sported a navy blue hooded duck quilted jacket, work jeans and journeyman’s boots.  His hair was iron gray and his blue eyes twinkled. Despite his blue eyes, Cremeans projected an Abe Lincoln aura. He did not remain for the show,  but addressed the audience: “Who here have their roots in England? Many hands waved.  Asia?..Ireland? China? Africa? …South or mid America?  He paused before asking…“North America?”  A small scattering of hands raised from the handful who resembled  Native Americans.

     He added, “If you elect me to be your president I swear to serve you with truth, compassion, and justice.”  With those words Cremeans strode off the stage to tumultuous applause, catching  a number of those cheering off guard, surprised by their own response.

     Conspiracy theorists who had been asleep before Cremeans’ appearance awoke with joie de vivre. Everyone, in fact, had a story. He was Lincoln’s reincarnation, maybe the Holy Spirit come to forgive the sinners and set them on the straight path.  That deteriorated into an argument about the definition of  the Holy Ghost, followed by the suggestion that Cremeans was really God incarnate. From whence had he sprung and where did the contents of his heavy coffers come from?  Perhaps them golden streets, it was rumored.

     Some swore they saw an aura/halo around his great head, and let themselves be mesmerized by Cremeans’  penetrating glance.  That he displayed strong compassion was beyond dispute.  But who would he select for a running mate?

     It appears he has a son.

                                                                           THE END

Copyright Nan Mykel 2019

A FAIRLY TALE – Flash Fiction

Published November 8, 2019 by Nan Mykel

A FAIRLY TALE

Broom in hand, I was trying to quietly steer the bluebird’s flight as it swooped around the sleeping body of Mr. Marvin.  Glancing down, I noticed my employer appeared to be having a seizure.  He was shaking and muttering and looked uncomfortable to boot. As his “man,” I had no choice but to wake him, without mentioning the spectacle he had been making of himself.

I was pleased to see him collect himself upon rousing. It was no seizure at all, as I knew; I’d been with him going on twenty years.  His first words were, “Is that beggar still sleeping under our elm?” to which I had to admit.

“Where does he relieve himself, Chadwick?” Mr. Marvin was a little cross; it was unclear whether it was due to being awoken, the trespasser, or by the dream he had been having.  Suddenly becoming aware of the bird’s flight overhead, he bellowed and threw the covers over his head.

I’d rather have coaxed the bird out an open window, but they were stuck with fresh paint. Since I feared Mr. Marvin would squash the bird in his hypnopompic state, I encouraged it into the next bedroom down the hall with my broom, and closed the door.  Was a bird in the house an omen of death or was this a bluebird of happiness?

My master’s voice called from his room, “Where does he relieve himself!”

It was cheeky of me, but I shouted back, from the hall, “I don’t know. Would you like me to post a watch on him?”

“Lord no,” he grumbled as I re-entered his room and helped him on with his attire. “If you took him a breakfast tray do you think he’d be willing to scamper off?”

“I can ask him, m’lord,” whereupon he scowled at my flippancy.

 

“Ahem.”  I cleared my throat, standing over the huddled figure still buried beneath his ragged blankets.  “Have a spot of tea…and vittels?”

The blankets parted, and I had my first glimpse of the fellow who looked to be on the underfed, gaunt side. Watching his uncut dirty blond hair swing side to side as he woke up, he reminded me of a wet dog trying to shake off water.  “Wha?”

“His lordship thought if we fed you breakfast you’d be willing to amble off to someone else’s…er, tree.”

The bugger made an undescribable response and extended his arms to receive the tray which contained a nourishing breakfast—a grand breakfast for one such as he. I am not bereft of pity, but what would the neighbors think?

He mumbled something that vaguely sounded like “Thanks,” and looked up at me. I noticed his eyes immediately travel behind me, and discovered  Mr. Marvin who, dressed now as though for the city, was eyeballing our interloper, literally looking down upon him.

“What’s your name? Why are you trespassing on my land?”  As the trespasser finished swallowing, Mr. Marvin added, “And how old are you?”

The seated figure was still leaning against our elm, and only answered the second question.  “I’m looking for my bird.  He flew over this way and I can’t find him.”  He motioned with his arm and as he did so a round globe rolled out from under the blankets.  Everyone froze for a minute, staring at the object.

“What’s that you have there, something you’ve pilfered?”

“No. It’s mine, has been in my family for years.”  The trespasser tucked it back under the blanket.

Mr. Marvin smacked his lips and said “Well, well, what do we have here?  A magician …”

I interrupted Mr. Marvin, “Just searching for his blue bird of happiness, m’lord.”

The beggar sat up straighter. “You found him? Is he all right?”

Mr. Marvin can be a rapscallion at times, and now he said, “What do we get in return for the bird?”

The man who was now cast into a magician’s role said, “I’m the beggar and you’re the lord and you’re trying to swindle me?  You’re no better than me!”

Those had been my thoughts, exactly, until Mr. Marvin clarified. “I only want my three wishes, magician.”

I dared to interject. “Shall I fetch the bird?”

M’lord shook his head. “Not until he can prove his mettle.  My three wishes?”

The magician hung his head, putting on a pitiful face, and did not respond.

“All right!  Leave these premises now,” Mr. Marvin said sternly, whereupon the figure seemed to fade from sight into the tree trunk.

Mr. Marvin was speechless for once, and I spoke up again.  “You have two wishes left, but he’s not here to grant them.”

The lord of the manor bellowed, “Come back here,” whereupon the trespasser—or the beggar or bird tamer or magician, whoever he was—slid back from behind the elm, one side of his lips curled into a grin—or was it a smirk?  Hard to tell, since he was so in need of a washing up.

M’lord’s face turned dangerously red, and as he tried to loosen his collar his eyes rolled back and he fell to the ground; but he wasn’t suffering from a nightmare this time.  Outrage was getting him. I turned to the tramp.  “He has one more wish!  Save him!”

The tramp looked regretful but slowly shook his head.  “He has to make the wish.”

The unholy sounds from Mr. Marvin continued, but he finally croaked, “Yes!” and immediately it was as though a giant hand that had been squeezing him relaxed, and a peaceful silence followed.  I looked at the trespassing magician.

“I’ll get your bird,” I said.

 

942 words                                         THE END

c.nan mykel

Old Man Fred –flash fiction for d’Verse

Published June 15, 2019 by Nan Mykel

Although age and poverty had taken its toll,  when far away an interrupted cry woke him from his sleep, he shuddered.  He knew he lacked boundaries, was too easily empathic. That tendency had led him to  panhandling in the evening of his life.  It was getting more and more difficult to arise from his seated position on the sidewalk and retrieve his upturned hat from the pavement before him.

Someone at the Center had stolen his flute, so he had  nothing left to offer passersby than  the one song he could remember all the words to, Old Man River.

The children still stood round and begged their parent for a dime to drop into his hat. The children stared. The adults avoided his eyes.  He thanked them all.

128 words

Original Flash Fiction: Encounter

Published April 11, 2019 by Nan Mykel

ENCOUNTER

He is a big man, sitting stirring his coffee. Francine, in apron behind the counter, regards him. Her gaze does not waver. Looking up, he is startled. He looks away first, sipping his coffee.  “Do I know you,” she asks.

“Do you?”  He seems disinterested.

“If so it isn’t a happy memory.”

He throws his hands up and shrugs. “Not guilty.”

“You did something.”

He holds the cup to his mouth with both hands now.  “A lot of things.”

Francine  speaks to a co-worker and comes out from behind the counter to sit beside him. “Why did you come back?”  She studies Roger’s expressionless face.

“I never left.” They are both silent.  He sighs.  “I drive long distance trucks all across the country.  I’m just passing through.”

“You did too leave, and broke Mama’s heart.  And took Jenny with you!  Mama’s still waiting for you both to return.”

Francine looks around. “Where’s Jenny?”

Roger sighs again. “Can you take a break and step outside for a minute?”

He tosses change on the counter, leads the way outside to a long-haul van and opens the passenger door.  “Afraid to get in the cab with me?”

“Of course not,” she replies as he helps her up into the cab and closes the door.

Once inside, Roger speaks immediately.  “I hear Dad died of a heart attack ten years ago, soon after I left.”

“You mean after you and Jenny left. Neither one of you came to the funeral.”

As Francine looks on, Roger’s eyes close in a wince which he holds for several seconds. “Francie, Jenny’s in the ground under what used to be our bulb flower bed.”  He pauses and blows his nose, looking away from Francine.  “You had all gone to church, and I stayed home with strep throat.  I watched from my attic bedroom window.”

Francine makes an unintelligible sound and says, “Who!”

Roger’s face knots again. “You know. I don’t want to say his name.”

She sits, uncomprehending, then says, “Dad?!”  Her voice is tight.

Roger does not answer at once, then says, “You may not have known it, but he had been molesting Jenny for months.  I think she finally threatened to tell, and he couldn’t afford that.”

Francine, speechless, stares at her brother.

Roger continues, “I was a coward. I knew he would see it reflected in my eyes, and I was afraid. But I couldn’t destroy Mom.  Or even turn my own father in.  I left the house immediately, grabbing my medicine and a few things at random and hitched a ride south.

“But I never left, Francie. My whole life has been anchored to you and Mom.  I couldn’t destroy Mom, and I couldn’t transfer my burden onto you.”  He pauses a minute. “Or see my dad rot away forever behind bars, or worse.

“I’ve always missed Jenny, too.”

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