flash fiction

All posts tagged flash fiction

I BECAME JENNY HARRIS

Published September 12, 2021 by Nan Mykel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SMARTY PANTS

I was born in June, but I became me oh, about March. I didn’t know that this would be the best time of my life.  More’s the pity if you can’t remember the gentle, reassuring warmth of the timeless sea rocking you. One with the world—no, the World itself.

We can all hear while still in the womb, but few are sufficiently fortunate to receive an early education through the pulsing walls of their mother, as she taught her first grade students. I suspect it was her sprightly voice delivering my first knowledge base that helped sharpen my hearing.

What was fortuitous for me posed small problems for my family, because I was reluctant to talk during my first three years. I wanted to think and absorb the daylight scene. I was busy absorbing and disinterested in verbally engaging.  I already knew there were three people in my family: Annie Harris—Mom, quick-witted and energetic with soft flowing dark hair and twinkling eyes, although I wasn’t sure what color her eyes were; Harry Harris—Dad — balding, horn-rimmed glasses, smiled a lot when he looked at me; and Tristan Harris, big brother, who took some getting used to.  Just kidding, he was at that awkward age, I think they call it.  I soon learned to recognize my own name, Jenny Harris.

The information I took in visually, however, was brand new.  I had to sort out colors first, having no idea what colors were when my mother pointed them out in her classroom. Although I was slow to learn my colors, I spent days absorbing my family’s features.  Mom had lots of hair, and it was curly.  Dad’s hair wasn’t much so I didn’t know if it was curly or not.  Tristan’s hair was longer than my dad’s, and not curly.

For a long time I studied their eyes, but not knowing colors I couldn’t label them at first. They were all crinkly and reassuring, however. The family was glad to see me, although later I caused problems for them.  I gained weight and crawled as they expected, even walked and ran.  But as the months passed and they peered at me expectantly, I didn’t talk.

Mom took me to the doctor regularly and finally told him about my not talking. He looked at me and smiled.  “She can. There’s nothing wrong with her vocal chords.”  He tapped his eyeglasses on his hand and said, “Can she cry?”

Suddenly Mom recalled my word-free howls when displeased, and laughed.  “Can she ever!”

The doctor gave me a conspiratorial wink and said, “She will when she wants to, I ‘spect.”  I knew he was my buddy.

Soon after I came out, my family got a new member.  A black and white kitten –Mom said it was a girl– came to visit, and stayed.  Mom thought she had been abandoned, which made me feel sorry for her, so I kind of mothered the kitten, I guess.  Her lips were colored—I later learned they were “pink,” and Tristan named her “Tulips.”

While other children might hug their blankies, I had my Tulips to snuggle with.  Note that I considered myself a child from birth. There wasn’t a lot of baby still in me at birth, other than size.

Mom was intuitive, which means comprehending without being told. She could tell from looking in my eyes that I understood more than I let on, so from almost the beginning she began to read me stories.  I sat in her lap and followed along, and that’s how I learned to read—painlessly, the way it should be.

We soon used up the story books left over from Tristan’s childhood and so one fine sunshiny day Mom popped me in the stroller and headed for the library.  Oh, that magnificent building!  Mom gave me a choice of books, by holding several out until I pointed at one.  Or two. (I was secretly reading to myself when Mom wasn’t around.)  Tulips would snuggle and purr, and I would silently read.

Mom took me to the library every week, and gradually I began pointing at books for juveniles, not infants.  Intuitive Mom got the hint, and followed my lead in reading selections. So it was that one evening in my third year, as we were dining on spaghetti and meat balls, I said my very first word.  It was not “spoon,” which I was reaching for, but “Meowr.”

I was half joking, but Mom became tense and said, “Don’t over react.  We don’t want her to become mute again.”

They resisted handing me the spoon, however, until I said the magic word, thereafter continuing to live up to the new name they gave me: “Smarty Pants.”

Luckily my uniqueness was kept secret, even from the neighbors, who had no children.  We just took me for granted, a blessing compared to what some special children are exposed to in the media. My dream was to become me.

I can remember back to when Tulips was “fixed.”  I was horrified.  I didn’t want to be fixed!  What if my mother had been fixed?  I knew Mom had enjoyed teaching school and I also knew I was a bump in her road.  As the family’s ever questioning pest, I asked her about it.  .

Her answer was reassuring, just a warm hug, a kiss and her dear smile. Then she added, “We chose to have you. When you grow up you can choose what you want to do with your life”. That sounded pretty good to me, so I went back to Tulips and Google.

TARGETS – Flash Fiction

Published December 8, 2020 by Nan Mykel

My folks had retired to Costa Rica, that’s why they were unable to accompany me to the meeting with my rapist, as had been recommended. The Restorative Justice people made an exception and allowed a friend to join me in the session, for emotional support. They didn’t realize that Mitzi had also been raped by Hairy Harry Findley, the perp.

I’m Allison, another survivor, I first met Mitzi in my livingroom, when she attended a small women’s consciousness raising group composed of women survivors of sexual assault who were slowly learning to think of themselves not as victims, but as survivors.

We waited for Hairy in the prison psychologist’s office at Greenville State Prison. The phone had been pulled to avoid interruption, and Mitzi and I had ten minutes to wait, alone in the office. A one-way mirror offered reassurance of safety. At the time I remember wondering who the reassurance was for, him or me, since although my rage had cooled during the last year, I knew it was capable of swift re-ignition. For all my moxie, I was conscious of a dry mouth and banging heartbeat.

Mitzi and I both wore loose shirts, loose jeans and tennies, presenting as asexual as possible for the session. The stated purpose of Restorative Justice was to heal, not to dissuade reoffending, but my purpose was the latter. I’ll admit, however, that the motivation for the meeting (I thought “confrontation”) was a tad murky–I wanted to look my attacker in the eye.

We heard a small click, the door nob turned and a corrections officer ushered Hairy in, handcuffed, and guided him to a chair opposite us, across a table. He was anything but appealing as he sat slouched in his bright orange prison suit that revealed long black hairs that covered his arms and the back of his hands. A five o’clock shadow had apparently sprouted in the past hour or two, but his head was shaved. The officer left us alone.

Although I assumed Hairy’s presence was due to the hope of making a positive impression on the Parole Board some day, I said, “Thanks for coming.”

He dropped his head in acknowledgement, without making eye contact. My ears started ringing and I had to briefly shut my eyes to get centered. I said, “Why are you here?”

“Here? Do you mean in prison or in this room?”

I silently gritted my teeth. “I know why you are in prison, believe me. But why are you in this room with me?” He paused. “Curiosity.”

“What do you want to know?”

He was silent.

“Do you regret the sexual attacks?”

“I regret prison.”

“But not causing the physical and psychological harm you did to me?”

He did not answer.

“Have you ever been raped? I hear that sometimes happens in prison.”

He rolled his shoulders and snarled, “Not likely!”

“Were you mad at me? Did you want to hurt me?”

“Yes. Yes, I wanted to hurt you and all women who play so hard to get. I belong to Incel, and women won’t have anythjing to do with us. We can’t get any!”

“Any–love? Tenderness? Friendship?”

“Pussy!” He shouted.

I had read about this group of unattractive men who had clustered on an internet blog, and that their activities have been referred to as “weaponized misogyny.” Mitzi beside me was squirming uncomfortably in her chair as he ranted.

“It’s true,” I said in an aside to Mitzi. “Evolution scripts females to be attracted to males who have the most regular features.”

Hairy’s face turned red and he gave a subdued roar when he overheard me speaking to Mitzi. “It isn’t fair!”

“Nor is it fair to rape and destroy a woman’s healthy sense of self for a life in which she sees herself a victim of herself!” I frowned, regretting having used the victim word myself.

Hairy didn’t respond immediately, but began fingering his fly, whereupon I rapped sharply on the one-way mirror. I was glad to note that he wore a puzzled expression on his face as he was led out to rejoin the prison population. Mitzi sighed. I squeezed her hand.

“No, a lot’s not fair.”

By Nan

THE RETREAT

Published January 7, 2020 by Nan Mykel

The afternoon shadows were lengthening as the last car drove into the makeshift parking lot in the field adjacent to the camp and a hooded figure covered in drapery exited from the wooden gatehouse. The figure, shrouded in a yellow toga, said, “Welcome. You are Tee. You are familiar with the rules?” Tee guessed that it was the voice of a man, but could not be sure, due to utilization of a voice modifier. Only fingers flashed momentarily from beneath the loose sleeves of  a toga, with which everyone had been supplied in advance.

Tee nodded. Tee was covered in a green toga.

“You are assigned to the third cabin on the right down the path. Dinner will be in the large building further along the path, and will be announced by a gong, as will other gatherings, in the same building. You are not to reveal your birth sex to any person, whether registrant or staff.” A pamphlet describing the rules and goals for encampment changed hands, as did a proffered voice modifier and a pad of paper and pen. “Most folks write notes instead of talk….Oh, and each cabin has its own privy and running water….And you’re just in time for dinner.”

Tee’s head bowed briefly. A week of meditation, contemplation, education and sharing with other non-binary individuals lay ahead. Twenty individuals had paid the tuition, seeking what?  An additional six had completed an earlier camp and functioned now as staff.  The combination totaled the 26 letters of the alphabet, each letter assigned as a name for members of the gathering. Tee’s stomach spasmed alarmingly. What was he afraid of?

The large suitcase on wheels rattled as it passed over occasional rocks along the well-trod path. Tee deposited the suitcase just inside the door of the third cabin, and headed for the privy just as the gong sounded. Following other robed figures in silence beneath a canopy of occasional bird song felt unreal as though Tee was in a stage play.

Well, it was staged, but it wasn’t playful. Would everyone really maintain their anonymity for an entire week? Of course an accidental flash of skin would reveal little, since all were either in a pre-transitioning, current or post-transitioning stage.

Upon entering the rustic mess hall which would double for meetings, Tee was greeted with silence. Only the clinking of plates and silverware along the self-help cafeteria line filled the air. Someone stifled a sneeze. What few sounds there were echoed hollowly. A figure in the corner at a rear table seemed to be weeping silently. A scrap of paper was handed down the long table at which Tee sat: please pass the salt.

The meal was tasty, a large serving of either regular or vegan vegetable soup and a mixed garden salad. It was not until the dessert of baked apple had been finished and each participant had returned their utensils that a figure of medium height spoke, utilizing a voice modifier.  The figure was wearing a hooded yellow robe and stood, directing the registrants to the far side of the large room.

“Welcome, bearers of the life force!  If you are seriously on the non-binary journey that phrase will not sound smaltzy to you. I am Ex. Our first task is to bond, and to facilitate that we will join in chanting, an old and revered tradition. You may have heard recordings of monks chanting, as well as nuns. We will develop our own version, after first listening to the following recording.  At any time you may add your voice through the voice modifier or naturally—we won’t notice the difference.”

The lights were dimmed and a  recording began to play. After several minutes of absorption with eyes closed, Tee imagined God being present, then with a start realized he was He: binary. So much for trying to tie religion into this concept. Evolution was responsible. Tee had earlier felt a connectivity that floated above, below, within, accepting the totality of one’s own being. That feeling was returning now.

So religion was out and spirituality was in. Was it the chanting or the setting that was responsible for the increased percolating of realizations about the binary/nonbinary conundrum?  The voices of an indeterminate sex rising now from the gathering blended in with those on the recording. When the recorded chanting came to an end the chanting of those present continued for an extended period, with the droning sounds rising and falling until there was absolute silence.

`           Tee became aware of a thrill or a chill, at least a quivering awakening inside. The bonding had begun–spiritual, if not religious.

There was a soft rustle as the entire staff, dressed in their yellow attire, stepped up to welcome the newcomers. Everyone’s identities were private. Only the body size could not be modified.

“We will break into two groups in order to share our hopes and expectations for the retreat.” The groups counted themselves off and sat at some distance from each other. Three of the staff accompanied each grouping.

Silence followed, as each reflected on their hopes and needs. Finally, one said through the voice modulator, “I’m tired of feeling like a weirdo. I want to feel connected to humanity.”

Another spoke, and another, the momentum growing. “I want to experience myself.”

“If I’m really non-binary I want to find out who I am, then.”

“I want to quit feeling ashamed of myself.”

“I want to understand what’s happened to me.”

“I’d like to know why.”

“I know I’m up against evolution, and that’s scary.”

“I want to connect with reality…if there is any.”

“As I get clearer things get muddier.”

And so it went, one of those dressed in yellow drapery joining in.  “I sought integration in the face of sexuality. I received help, but I need more.”

The silence was heavy as the new members—devotees—seekers—the wounded–departed for their assigned cabins, each wrapped deep in solitary reflection.

THE END

Words:  1014

c nan mykel

Philosophical Flash Fiction

Published December 30, 2019 by Nan Mykel

I think I’m one of the handful of our species who still carry a few Neanderthal genes in their DNA (another fantasy, or it could be truth?) I withdraw to my inner cave for comfort, also when frightened by the antics of my universe.

The entrance to my cave is narrow, if not hidden, and its roof everpresent, overhead and revealed by the spirits of the night. Inside I most often experience protection and shelter, but then unpredictably, for no reason, the sky is rent and the displeasure of the spirits falls through.  In 1971, without warning, joy morphed into fear as my precious wombling appeared, both mongoloid and terminal.  Fear had pelted from my sky, so long protecting.

The sins of the fathers, surely not mine?  I watched the rent in the sky, distrusting its false reassurance. .

Years passed, propitiation helping maintain the fabric of the sky, until the sky was rent again and again and the size of my haven shrank.  After years of succor by the cave spirits, fear moved in, and the floor of my cave became unstable.  Retribution was upon both me and the few family and clan mates who also had sought succor.

Expatiation for what?  As we look on, age, disease and a mysterious silence fills the cave.  A shepherd’s crook reaches down and snuffs out its own.  Finally, overhead, rocks begin to fall from the sky of my refuge and we crawl out to discover a frighteningly similar world.

The scene in this sprawling land of mountain crags of cautious and fearful humans creeping out from their places of temporary refuge feels somehow archetypal.  I look up and wonder, is this a new day or a new night?

285 words

c.nanmykel

 

 

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.”

Flash Fiction – 98 words

Published May 18, 2016 by Nan Mykel

For Friday Fictioneers               PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

 

ff

 

ENOUGH

They separated, the males and the females.  Not just the humans, but males and females of all kinds and species.  They  looked across the great divide between them, and bristled.  The sweet magical urge and pulse of survival had evaporated.  The vulnerable, having shared family or infatuation, were most guarded.  No one likes to be vulnerable to the enemy. And so it had crystallized, the letting go, the giving up, evolution’s insistent tide reversed in on itself. But the bacteria!  The microbes!  Sexless, they will endure as the roulette wheel goes round and round again until it stops.

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