Do You Remember Me? by Nancy Ludmerer

Do You Remember Me?

Nancy Ludmerer

 

‘You really remember me?’  he asked on the phone.  ‘After 25 years?’

‘Of course,’ I said. ‘From Honors Lit.’

He was between jobs, suggested lunch, wanted to discuss the law.

At the restaurant, he lied and said I hadn’t changed. I lied too and mouthed the same words about him. He had changed, from a cute sandy-haired kid with a never-ending supply of pot to a jowly sad-eyed fellow in pinstripes. Over salads, we discussed how we both took up law because there was no living in poetry. We spoke about his girl and my boy, both twenty, both named Jamie – how crazy was that? I commiserated because, unlike me, he’d not remarried after divorce and was still brooding about it.

In my purse I had the business card of a friend who placed temp lawyers and another card for someone who hired out-of-work attorneys as paralegals – but I wasn’t sure that’s what he meant by I’ll take anything right now.

‘You really remember me?” he asked again.

I said I remembered we both loved Delmore Schwartz (which made sense for a Jewish girl from Queens but less so for a prep-school Irish-Scots blue-blood). I remembered when six Honors Lit majors got high and played charades. He acted “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities.” I solved it.’

He remembered my kindness.

Then his tone changed. ‘Here’s the truth. I spent three years in rehab. My daughter doesn’t speak to me since I stopped paying Skidmore tuition. I can’t even get an interview with a firm – you’re the only person who agreed to meet me. Will I ever work as a lawyer again?’

I said I didn’t know.

We sipped coffee. His hand shook and his spoon clattered against a silver dish of vanilla, his nails bitten to the bone.

I grabbed the check, opened my purse, saw the two business cards nestled there. Undisturbed.

I closed my purse.  Paid the bill.

‘Funny,’ he said. “About the charades. I’d forgotten that.’

Only after we said goodbye and good luck did I confront myself in a storefront window.

Unrecognizable.

 

About the author: Nancy Ludmerer’s short stories and flash fiction appear in Litro, Fish Anthology 2015, Bath Flash Fiction Vols. I and II, Brighton Prize Anthology, Green Mountains Review, Kenyon Review, North American Review, Cimarron Review, Vestal Review, and New Orleans Review, among other fine journals. Her flash fiction has won prizes from Grain, Night Train, Blue Monday Review and River Styx and is reprinted in Best Small Fictions 2016. She lives in New York City with her husband, Malcolm, and cat Sandy, a brave survivor of Superstorm Sandy.

 

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Agape by Fiona J. Mackintosh

Agape

Fiona J. Mackintosh

 

As we set off for Piraeus, the handsome cab driver folds his yellow cardigan neatly over the back of the passenger seat and taps his wedding ring to show us he’s doing it to please his wife. I nod and smile and glance at you, but you’re turned away, looking up at the shabby concrete

buildings, bristling with television aerials and dipping lines of laundry.

We have to stop just beyond the Plaka for a funeral procession. People carry wreaths on the end of long poles, dropping petals on the asphalt, and the driver catches my eye in the mirror. ‘Minister of Finance. Big guy.’ Through the open window, the sky’s a bedsheet of white scored
with ancient columns, and I breathe in petrol fumes and ancient dust and watch the police hold hands to keep the crowd at bay.

There’s a long delay at Piraeus. As the sun slowly sinks over the tangle of the city and the scrubby hills beyond, we follow other passengers onto another ferry, only to see the first one leave before ours, and I hear a woman laugh, ‘I guess we’re on Greek time now.’ For five hours
at sea on the windy deck, we sit apart in silence, wrapped in all the clothes we have. It’s too dark to read so I watch the moon trail on the ship’s wake and strain above the engine’s noise to hear the creak and splash of oars as the triremes of Athens keep pace beside us.

At midnight the ferry groans into Parikia, and the hotels flare into life like streetwalkers on the watch for sailors. They fire up again in the early hours to greet another ship, flooding our room with sudden light, and I see your back’s turned against me in the narrow bed, the sheets
thrashed around your legs.

Morning unfurls into sunshine, a dazzle of whitewash and Cyclades blue. Breakfast in the hotel café is hot chocolate dipped with almond bread, the tang of honeysuckle so strong it seeps in through the closed windows. Outside, the meltemi is sharp despite the sun, and I’m glad of my sweater. We walk through the crooked streets, past paint pots bursting with white geraniums, and, by a church with a red slate roof and a lemon tree hung with bells, we pause to watch the feral cats slumbering on the hot stones and you reach out at last and take my hand.

 

About the author: Fiona J. Mackintosh is a British-American writer living near Washington D.C. She won the 2018 Fish Flash Fiction Prize and the 2018 UK National Flash Fiction Day Micro Competition, and her flashes have twice been nominated for The Best Small Fictions. Her short stories have been listed for the Bristol, Galley Beggar, and Exeter Short Story Prizes, and she was honored to receive a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist’s Award in 2016.

 

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Friday in the Firelight by Sally Zigmond

Friday in the Firelight

Sally Zigmond

 

Friday nights began with the sting of Vosene, tears in my eyes and Mum yelling at me as she dragged the comb through my wet tangles. Dad would shout over his newspaper. “Calm down. I’ll do it later when you’re off with Tony Twist.”

“Mr Twiss, as you well know, is teaching me proper ballroom dancing. You refused to come with me.”

“I prefer the Jitterbug myself,” laughed Dad. “None of this foxtrot fandango,” and put Twisting the Night Away on the Dansette. She’d flounce off slamming the door behind her. Dad and I twisted until we both fell over in a tangled heap of giggles. Then it was fish and chips in front of the fire and his funny war stories at which Mum always rolled her eyes, but I loved. As the firelight dwindled to a warm glow, Dad gently combed my hair into molten gold.

Mum waltzed off with Mr Twiss six months later. Dad and I stayed together until his mind tripped the light fandango. I wash his hair now with “No More Tears” shampoo. We laugh until we cry.

 

About the author: Sally Zigmond rediscovered her love of writing fiction in her 40s. She lives in North Yorkshire where she writes flash fictions while she’s redrafting her current novel.

She Called It ‘Mauve’ by Jeanette Everson

She Called It ‘Mauve’

Jeanette Everson

 

My grandmother wore old age as shades of purple. The flowers I put on her grave shrivel and die, yet with every plum I shine on my sleeve, the Merlot that swills in my glass, the amethyst flash of my mother’s rings, I see my grandmother’s layered purple skirts. In the bruise of my shin from the horsefly bites and the iridescent varnish on my fingernails as I scratch at the pain, I feel her touch. In my garden, lavender fragrance mingles with chive pompoms to conjure her ghost. Remember me, she says, in the folds of my daughter’s curtains and the stripes of my favourite shirt; remember me.

I wait behind an elderly woman in the supermarket queue, the basket heavy in her hands. Meals for one. Soft food, easy to chew. Budget purchases, weighed against the price of a pension, laid softly into her wheeled bag after the coins from her purse are carefully counted by her violet-veined hands. The cashier fidgets while the woman who is not my grandmother fumbles with the fastenings. I abandon my basket without apology, to hurry after that mauve scarf, those faltering footsteps, to help her to her car; I remember.

 

About the author: Jeanette was first published in Horse and Pony magazine at the age of ten. She’s striving to achieve equal accolade now she’s (allegedly) a grown up, and has a couple of flash fiction contest wins lying around somewhere. Jeanette runs her ceramics business from her home in rural Ireland, which she shares with her husband, her children, a steady stream of visitors from overseas, and far too many animals. She quite likes to shut the door on them all and write.

The Dare by Helen Chambers

The Dare

Helen Chambers

 

‘I dare you,’ he said.

She peeled off her clothes, folded them neatly. Water flowed in widening circles as she stepped into the pool from the flat rocks, flexed away in one fluid movement, her body green-flecked beneath the unsettled surface. Tendrils of damp hair frizzed and curled like pondweed.

‘Now you,’ she said.

Breathing hard, he yanked down his shorts, floundering, splashing and gasping as the cold scorched his skin. He lurched to her, grabbed her wrists and tried to kiss her.

She flicked away. ‘Don’t. You’re hurting,’ she snapped.

‘I can’t help myself.’

‘Let go, or I’ll bite!’ she spat.

He laughed.

She frowned. Muscles clenching, contracting into themselves, her limbs flattened and shrank. Her skin thickened like armour. Power flowed through her, and her scaly tail flicked. His laugh faltered as she widened her jaw, incisors gleaming. He jumped, but she was upon him, sinking teeth into his arm.

While his blood muddied the water, she submerged, holding him fast, rolling around his flapping body in a lugubrious twist. Finally, she released his floppy torso and crawled out, basking in the pine-scented air until she felt herself again. She dressed and left the forest without looking back.

 

About the author: Helen Chambers enjoys writing flash and short fiction, walking, and taking part in Open Air Shakespeare productions. She won the Fish Short Story Competition 2018, the Felixstowe Short Story Prize in 2016, and the Hysteria Flash Fiction Prize in 2014, as well as reaching other short and long lists for her work. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Essex and blogs at wivenhoewritersblogspot.com

It Starts Here by Dave Murray

It Starts Here

Dave Murray

He believed the world would stop spinning when she walked away. She wanted to press her hand to the globe until the friction set her fingers on fire. He watched the earth burn in fiery sunsets and raging dawns. She sang to the icy rain until it doused the fire within.

He picked up a knife, spread his fingers wide in a fan and stabbed each gap, willing himself to draw blood but scared of the piercing pain. She dragged her fingers along narrow alleys feeling the reassuring heat of the friction, grimacing every time her skin punctured open, tiny traces of coagulated blood scarring the surface like breadcrumbs to mark her path.

She knew she would never return this way.

They sat on opposite mountain tops where the air is thin, setting fire to love letters until the flames burnt their fingers, watching the smoke ripple and rise in the air. ‘Look what you’ve made me do,’ they sang to each other. ‘Look what you’ve made me do.’

 

About the author: Dave Murray writes flash fiction, poetry and plays based on the world he hears on the streets of the city, the trains he regularly takes, and the social, environmental and scientific issues he hears in the media. He has had short plays performed in Manchester and London, braved open mic in Manchester, Macclesfield and Reading, and has several pieces of poetry and flash fiction published.