Tag Archives: flash fiction

Brooklyn Bridge Is Falling Down

If she drops off her child wearing inorganic rubber-soled shoes, they will notice. If she feeds him one fewer leaf of kale, they will notice. If she comes one minute later than she did yesterday, they will notice that, too, because they stand around before yoga and watch her, and they will notice how Manhattan she looks while doing it all.

She does not fit here.

A few miles over the bridge, Nick promised Melinda a lot of things. That was years ago, and the things that she wanted to grow grew: their relationship, his bankroll, her stomach. And then there were three. Polka-dot bordered stationary with a blue bundle of joy cartoon.

The great migration. It was Nick’s idea.

Gavin’s getting big, he said, and Melinda nodded, mostly because he was. She heard the tapping of her heels on the slanted floorboards in their Upper East Side walkup as she did. She kicked one of Gavin’s toys under the couch, where it stopped, lodged there until the day they moved.

In the Brooklyn Brownstone, everything changed. They spread out. Nick suggested they learn how to cook, which meant Melinda would have to learn how to cook. Nick bought a set of golf clubs. They had space. And they had enough spare rooms for a twenty-four-seven nanny to live in.

Did you know they make those? They’re new, like the next iPhone or something, Melinda marveled from behind her desk with the view of Fifth Avenue. She still put on her heels every morning, and walked her pencil-skirted-size-two-self to train each morning before Gavin was old enough for school.

But when Nick suggested—no, said—the nanny would go upon Gavin entering Kindergarten, Melinda nearly had a fit. In her heels, of course. Outside of the natural food store, of course. Nearly, because on the side of the bridge, people don’t have fits, of course.

At home, she spread out.

And now, every day she is on the wrong side of the bridge. It’s late, and she’s thinking about what to wear tomorrow. She steps away from her closet, puts her glasses down on the nightstand, and comes downstairs.

Nick, she says, you take him tomorrow.

I can’t, he calls from the basement, where he has set up a putting strip.

Yes, she says. You can.

Eight Days Later

I don’t worry, but eight days later the thought crosses my mind, much in the way that it occurs to me to tell my mother that we’ve run out of toilet paper in the bathroom, or that I’d like to try a different breakfast cereal. It is nine p.m., an hour before the pharmacy closes. I creak open the door to my room just slightly and peer through the slit, and can see light glowing from underneath my mother’s room. I slip quietly out the front door and walk twenty minutes, one mile, to the closest drugstore.

This is the first time I have shook. Of all times, it is now. I don’t know why, but I already know the answer.

Now it’s dark enough for the streetlights, but they don’t help enough.

I buy the test on sale. It is a name brand, which seems like the right decision to make in a moment like this. I’ve brought a poetry book with me, and I slip the box off the shelf and try obscure it between the pages. It’s too big, and my plan doesn’t work.

They are cleaning up already. They should be. It’s time to close. I step over a broom leaning across the aisle and walk to the register.

Pay cash.

Walk a mile home.

A Portrait of My Mother

My mother has never been like the other mothers. She has always worn more makeup and different clothes, and she has never been very good at cooking dinner, or signing permission slips, or making decisions. She likes the Lean Cuisines because they have the most appealing names and make her feel the best about herself, and she eats them at the kitchen table putting down her fork between each bite like one of the magazines has told her to. She uses a lot of salt. Once I asked her whether or not she thought that was a good idea and at the same time she took a bite of one of the frozen parts of the meal that hadn’t cooked through.

When I go to my poetry club meetings after school and in the evenings at Mr. Rose’s house she watches Hollywood Insider and Extra and shows about people that she would like to look like, and these are the people she brings pictures of to the salon when she gets her hair cut. She has always made a point to tell me that she’s proud of me that I go to Mr. Rose’s, and that I take AP English as a junior, and that she thinks that the Italian women who work the hair-washing stations at the salon are trashy-looking with their “talon nails”. My mother keeps her nails pretty short. She asks why I do not paint mine.

For my mother’s thirty-fourth birthday this year, she asked for a sushi dinner, and told me I could bring a friend along. I told her I would ask De’Andra, and she asked if there was a boy I would like to bring instead.

Tonight, she sits on the couch, and she is plucking her eyebrows. They are the only hair she has left that is brown. I know, because I have seen it all.

They Say That the Captain

I scolded you for not looking before you leapt. At least I leapt, you said. You just kept staring into the hole, looking at things that would not change. The hole caved in, I said. The hole sunk. Down with the ship, you replied. The best always do.

I stopped trusting mirrors because I knew they were not the places in which I’d find myself once I’d been lost. You don’t trust anything, you said. You have to start. I’ve lost my gut, I said. My gut had been you. You were eaten alive, you replied. From the inside out.

I did not stop having dreams, because one doesn’t have the power to control. Learn to blame, you said. Start to absorb it, too. You don’t know this view, I said. I don’t need to, you replied. I always just start walking.

I moved to move, because that’s what I thought one should do. You didn’t say anything. I waved my hands; first, like a flag, then, like someone drowning at sea. Down with the ship, you finally replied. The best always do.

Evening Prayers

Shawn can fall asleep anywhere. He can fall asleep on the school bus to and from school even when all the other kids are screaming and giggling about nothing in particular. He can fall asleep on the train ride to and from his grandma’s house in Braintree, where she bakes him cookies and smokes her cigarettes outside even though the entire house smells like an ashtray and the walls are an unintended yellow. He can fall asleep with his dress shoes on, still wearing his Sunday suit that’s gotten too small for him too fast and makes his mother wince whenever she tugs the jacket onto him. He can’t fall asleep in his own bed though, with his mother right down the hall so that when he shrieks and pretends it was a bad dream which is impossible because he hasn’t fallen asleep in that bed in the months since his father stopped coming home, she can be next to him, kneeling as in prayer, repeating, I’m here. I’m here.

Sometimes it takes her eight seconds, sometimes ten. Tonight it has taken her eleven seconds, which still did not give her time to put her left house shoe on, the toe of the right one toe sticking into his carpet like a tree stump or one of those cars being swallowed up by the desert.