Zephyr Zefferelli by Nicola Ashbrook

Zephyr Zefferelli

Nicola Ashbrook

 

I have always felt ridiculous. Always that fraction too tall so I loomed over boys. Always doughier of stomach and thigh, as if Mama hadn’t only fed me pasta for every meal but suffused it, glutinous and swollen, to my skin. My too big hair – its own unruly entity writhing from my scalp; my buck teeth locked in battle with impossible to conceal braces; my too many to count freckles, spilt clumsily across my cheeks.

Too everything. Too visible, for sure.

Genes are one thing, but a name? She could have called me anything – Sophie or Anna or Jane. Any name would have been better. You can’t blend in when you’re called Zephyr Zefferelli. You can only be ridiculous.

*

I almost didn’t ask before it was too late.

Her baby bird breaths wounding my heart; the mustard tinge of her skin nauseating. It was a diminishing I couldn’t, wouldn’t, accept. I was compelled to stop it, whilst wishing it never to stop. I knew this time was precious – I should conserve it, eek it out, explore every corner of every nanosecond. I mustn’t waste those laboured gulps of oxygen.

“Why did you call me Zephyr?” I blurted, immediately regretting it. There were so many other things I could have asked.

*

It was burn your feet hot, like the whole of that June. Kneading the pasta sent beads of mercury-like sweat down the funnel of your spine, the tomatoes shrivelled and water grew scarce. It was oppressive, as though the temperature had stolen the air. Desperate for the feel of a breeze to soothe my skin, I went at night to the olive groves, up the only hill, seeking relief.

This night, I wasn’t alone. He was dark; exotic.

“What are you doing up here?” he asked.

“Hoping for a little wind,” I said.

“Me too,” he replied, “but, in my country, we call it a zephyr.”

The way his tongue curled around the word, rolling the ‘r’, elongating it, playing with it; his teeth grazing his plentiful lips; the gentle caress of the breeze we both desired; the moonlight; his eyes, penetrating mine.

Your Papa.

*

I’m glad I asked.

Why should I blend in? I’m Zephyr Zefferelli, exotic goddess, carved of Italian soil, smouldering desire and a gentle breeze.

 

***

About the author: Nicola is a new writer of flash fiction, with pieces at Reflex Fiction and Clover & White. She is seeking representation for her first novel. She tweets @NicolaAWrites and blogs about trying to find her way in the writing world at www.nicolalostinnarration.weebly.com/blog

If you’ve enjoyed Nicola’s story, please leave a comment below letting her know!

Emmylou, Patron Saint of Dirt-Poor Folks by Sharon Boyle

Emmylou, Patron Saint of Dirt-Poor Folks

Sharon Boyle

 

The bank sits a half mile out, as if it doesn’t want anything to do with the rock-bottom town it serves. Emmylou is the only customer.

‘I am robbing this bank,’ she says. She is pointing a gun to prove it.

The bank teller sheeshes. ‘First railroads, now women raiders.’

‘I am progress, old timer. Quit yammering, get filling.’ She throws him a bag.

‘The swing of a rope don’t scare ya, miss?’

‘Hunger scares me.’

The teller grins, showing baccy-blackened teeth. ‘You know you’re goin’ to hell?’

Memories flash: her ma working till sick; brothers and sisters dead; the small hands she held as the owners started their celestial journeys. The teller is right, she is going the other way.

She nods to the window. ‘Is that town of goddamn dullness as desperate as it looks?’

The teller cackles. ‘Sure is.’

It’s true. The minster on the other side of town is praying that progress will come – he doesn’t use words like goddamn though. He wipes his neck, the air warm like the breath of a grizzly bear, and studies the funeral party before him, wondering again how he ended up among these woeful folks.

A sudden wind shakes the church.

Emmylou and the teller glance up at the bank’s rafters shaken by that very same gust, before Emmylou grabs the half-filled bag and bolts. The teller waits till she crosses the threshold and lifts his gun from under the counter. The bullet gets her in the leg.

Emmylou’s mouth spits curses. She hears the teller rip-skitter toward her and twists round, pistol up. One shot zips out. She doesn’t know who is hit till she crumples to the ground. Her other leg. Groaning, she drops the bag. It splits open like a crooked grin.

‘I ain’t going to hell yet,’ she wheezes.

‘Good,’ cackles the teller, ‘cos, I can’t get frisky with a dead woman, can I?’

He pauses to ponder the notion that perhaps he can – a dearth of affection makes a man hee-haw crazy. Pondering over, he steps toward Emmylou just as the wind whorls up dollar notes in front of his face. A playful wind. He intends to be playful too.

He undoes his britches, then stops. Indignation dents his face. A crimson circle spreads on his chest. Smoke wisps from Emmylou’s gun. His lips part.
‘Goddamn.’

The congregation leaves church: hearts heavy, stomachs light.

A flit. A flap. A burring of wings.

Folks look up, wide-eyed, at the flock of green-tinged angels swooping above.

The minister knows they have flown from the bank and if he hadn’t been taught not to question he would wonder how. Instead, he blesses the soul responsible. A saint, surely.

Two souls, a half mile out, are caught on the wind. One is sucked down, way down. The other is buffeted upwards, as if tugged along by small hands.

 

***

About the author: Sharon has had short stories and flash pieces published on-line and in magazines, including Writers’ Forum, The Moth and Sentinel Literary, and won first prizes in the HISSAC short story award and the Exeter’s Writers comps.

If you’ve enjoyed Sharon’s story, please leave a comment below letting her know!

Never Buy a Car from a Shaman by Andrew Boulton

Never Buy a Car from a Shaman

Andrew Boulton

 

Because my dad’s an idiot, he bought my car from the shaman.

Now, as well as smelling like a pond’s arsehole, whenever I press in the cigarette lighter, Tom Hanks appears in the passenger seat.

I was into it at first, because it was a young Tom Hanks and we did some kissing and he’d tell me about celebrities who were shitty.

But then, don’t ask me why, he started telling me to run people down. Once he tried to grab the wheel.

I know I could just stop pressing in the cigarette lighter. But really, what would that solve.

 

***

 

About the author: Andrew Boulton is a creative advertising lecturer and copywriter from Nottingham.

If you’ve enjoyed Andrew’s story, please leave a comment below letting him know!

The Night Before Driving Back from a Camping Holiday, Mid-August 1977 by Sherry Morris

 

The Night Before Driving Back from a Camping Holiday, Mid-August 1977

Sherry Morris

 

I’m refusing to sing along when the radio interrupts: 

The King has died on his Graceland throne.

You pull the car over. Your hands grip the steering wheel so tight your knuckles go white. 

You rock and sob down sorrow.

Mom’s fine. She’s always been a Barry Manilow fan. 

Around the campfire you’d curled your lip, shook your hips. 

Me and the crowd clapped and cheered for more. 

Later, I spot you through a window. 

In a camper that’s not ours. With a woman who isn’t Mom. 

It’s a different, though somehow similar, performance.

That’s really when the King died.  

 

***

 

About the author: Originally from America’s heartland, Missouri, Sherry Morris writes short stories, flash fiction and monologues which have won prizes, placed on shortlists and been performed in London and Scotland. She lives on a farm in the Scottish Highlands where she watches clouds, pets cows, goes for long walks and scribbles stories. Her published work can be found on www.uksherka.comor follow her @Uksherka.

 

If you’ve enjoyed Sherry’s story, please leave a comment for her below!

The Problem with Seven by Sally Doherty

The Problem with Seven

Sally Doherty

 

There are seven leaves on the new pillowcase. My breathing quickens, as if the pattern of vines entwines my chest. I divert my attention. Eighty-two leaves on the duvet cover. Forty-six spots on his pyjamas.

Seven. Seven.

Seven: your age. Seventh: the date. Seven: the number of minutes late the ambulance was.

I run to the garden. Thirteen paces to the pear tree. Grasp a plump leaf. Pluck. Thirteen paces back.

Your brother sleeps on, his breathing rhythmic. One, two… I count till seven passes.

There are eight leaves on the pillow. My body loosens. Eight will keep him safe.

 

About the author: Sally Doherty lives in leafy Surrey with her two-legged husband, three-legged Labrador and four-legged Jack Russell Terror. She recently started dabbling in flash fiction with pieces published by Reflex Fiction and Spelk Fiction. She was also delighted to win Retreat West’s June Micro Fiction competition. Primarily, Sally writes middle grade novels. Her debut TOBY AND THE SILVER BLOOD WITCHES will be published by March Hamilton.

 

Summer by Charlie Swailes

 

Summer

Charlie Swailes

 

In the summer I gather leaves. Fagus sylvatica, acer campestre, elm, oak. Then I undress them. With loving care, my fingers peel the succulent, green flesh from around each groove, leaving the thin veins beneath.

I did this as a child. Portions of green and red and brown littered the house during the summer months, as I left the dainty, delicate wisps of seams and stems on windows, in books, on the fridge. My sister hated them. “They’re like skeletons. It’s gross. It’s like you’re dissecting them and leaving corpses around.”

When she died, I covered her coffin with them.

 

About the author: Charlie Swailes is a secondary school English teacher in West Yorkshire, where she lives with a husband, two little boys and an antisocial cat. Writing flash fiction in the little free time with the little free energy she has gives her a lovely warm sense of accomplishment.