San Antonio #flashfiction

Natalie grew up in the town of Concord, Massachusetts as an only child. She lived in a light blue colonial near the city park. Her father took the commuter rail to teach western civilization to Harvard undergrads. He had done his dissertation on modes of communication during the Roman Empire. Her mother taught private music lessons.

For college, Natalie attended a liberal arts school in Vermont. Her parents loved the intimate experience of a liberal education. They encouraged Natalie to find her intellectual passion. She majored in Spanish and spent a semester in Spain. When graduation came, Natalie had announced to her parents that she wanted to join Teach for Tomorrow. “I want to make a difference as a teacher for English as a second language students.”

Natalie and her parents loaded a U-haul trailer before setting off on I-95 south. They pressed on along I-10 into Texas, flanked by a flattened landscape and oversized trucks. When they reached San Antonio, they made a trip to The Alamo before parting ways at the airport.

Natalie loved San Antonio and she loved Texas culture. She made close friends and found her passion teaching. Natalie met her husband in Teach for Tomorrow, and while Natalie continued teaching, her husband moved on to law school.

When Natalie discovered she was pregnant, everyone was thrilled. Natalie’s parents made frequent trips to San Antonio. She and her mother prepared the nursery with a forest animals theme.

“Have you put in your notice at the school?” her mother asked. “You’ll need to take a few years off, at least.”

“I had planned to take maternity leave,” Natalie said, “There’s a cute little nursery where the baby can go.”

“You don’t need to work anymore!” Her mother said. “Your salary will go almost completely to the nursery. Let go of teaching. It’s not that important anymore. The best thing is to stay home for a while.”

Natalie frowned and set down the mobile with flying raccoons. “But you and dad always told me to find my passion. You told me it mattered what I did.”

“We did,” her mother said, paint brush in hand. “But we forgot to tell you the rest.”

“What’s that?”

“Your passion only matters until you have babies.”

Earthquake #flashfiction

The year after Samantha left the military, she found herself in a one-bedroom apartment waiting for an email from a corporate recruiter. She was in the middle of a prestigious MBA program. Her boyfriend thought it was a stepping stone. Samantha thought it was a shortcut.

“If I get into this program, it will funnel me to that kind of job, and if I get that kind of job, I will have made up for lost time.”

“Lost time for what?” her boyfriend had asked.

“Lost time in the military.”

And so, the race was on. But rather than start the race late, Samantha was going to travel to the alternate universe. In the alternate universe, Samantha hadn’t joined the Air Force but went straight from undergrad to her prestigious graduate program to corporate. The alternate universe and reality would meet on Samantha’s 39th birthday at a top-tier executive position.

Samantha moved with her boyfriend to Sacramento. Every Monday, she said good-bye and boarded a plane to the alternate universe. But things were different there, and standard rules of physics didn’t apply. Time moved faster. Samantha had to work harder than the others who weren’t operating in an alternate reality. She became a tiny factory pumping out spreadsheets, slide decks, emails, and white papers. The only interruptions to output were sleep, food, restroom breaks, and travel.

“So, when are you coming home?” her boyfriend would ask.

But it was difficult to come and go from the alternate universe, and eventually, Samantha brought it home with her. And since the rules of physics are different, she couldn’t see or hear anyone on the outside very well. In the alternate universe, only spreadsheets, slide decks, emails, and white papers made sense.

Samantha broke up with her boyfriend and spent all her time in the alternate universe. No one outside of it called or bothered her anymore. She moved into a small apartment where she had an Ikea dining table for late-night work sessions and takeout. One night, in Sony headphones behind the glow of a laptop, a shallow fault earthquake rumbled. The building around her collapsed. It wasn’t until the paramedic removed her headphones and shut her laptop that she realized what had happened.

Fog Desert #flashfiction

Arica is a port town on the border of Peru and Chile. If the South American continent were a T-bone steak, you’d find Arica on the left, at the little corner where the filet meets the strip steak.

Elias lives with his parents in a row house bleached white by the sun. His mother has a hair business on the first floor, and his father works at the consulate. Sometimes, Elias likes to ride through the town where green palms and red bougainvilleas stand against a blinding sky. The dry air envelops his face until he sees it, the Pacific, in the distance at the edge of the earth. It is never a dull sight. Until the fog.

One evening, the weatherman on the noticiero points to a large purple blob on the screen.

“It’s going to be a hard one,” his father says. Elias goes with his father to the store. They purchase batteries, canned food, water, and candles.

The next morning, Elias finds himself in a thick cloud. He reaches out his hand but cannot see it. He feels around the floor with his feet and lets his hands guide him to the hallway outside of his room.

“Mom? Dad?” Elias calls out.

“We are here, mijo,” his mom says, “Your breakfast is at the table. Be careful as you move around.”

Elias feels the pit in his stomach. Four days of fog desert. Four days without seeing. It fills him with dread. Elias feels his way to the kitchen table, and cannot not see his mother at the table or the stove. He does not know where she is exactly. He eats his beans and does not move for a while.

In this way, the days pass. Elias ambles about the house, reaching out for walls and furniture, every day more absorbed inside his mind. The forth day comes and goes. And the fifth, and sixth. A week into the fog, Elias hears his mother sobbing somewhere in the kitchen.

“Mijo,” she says, “I’m so tired of being tired. I’m tired of this fog. I used to love cooking. Now I hate doing everything.”

Elias understands. He feels the same way. He spends most of the day in bed now.

“Mami,” he says, “remember that this one will pass, as the rest have passed. Soon you will feel like yourself again.”

Elias walks toward the sniffling. He reaches out into the fog, and finds his mother.

Book of Secrets #flashfiction

On his tenth birthday, Liam reached a milestone in his family’s chosen faith. That Sunday, he and the other 5th grade boys and girls sat in the pews at the front of the congregation and ascended to the pulpit, one by one, as the pastor called out their names.

“Blessed are you, Liam Smith, may the Lord guide you and keep you.”

With his hand extended, Liam received the blessed sacrament. He placed it in his mouth, where it dissolved instantly. Liam turned around and took his place at the front with the rest of the children facing the congregation, where he spotted his mom and dad. It occurred to Liam that the wafer had tasted a little sweet, but it was otherwise unremarkable.

Following church services, Liam and his family lunched at a popular cafeteria. Sunlight spilled into the restaurant hall from the arched windows that flanked the center aisle.

“I’m so proud of you,” his mother said, and she handed him a gift. Liam tore open the blue paper and beheld the Book of Secrets.

“The Book of Secrets,” his mother explained, “was written 1,000 years ago. It has been passed along and translated from generation to generation. It has stood against historical scrutiny, and we believed it to be true. Inside, you’ll find all the stories you’ve learned in church and many more.”

In the car, the book felt heavy in Liam’s lap. He thumbed his name, embossed in gold on the cover. He turned to the book of Wisdom, a chapter filled with parables for living a good life. After a moment, he placed the tassel back inside the book and closed it.

“Mom,” he began, “everything in the book of Wisdom says, ‘woman,’ or ‘all women’ or she,’ or her.’ It doesn’t say anything about boys in this book.”

“Oh.” His mother said. “When The Book of Secrets was devined, the world was just women. That’s until God created man to join her. Just take all the teachings and apply them to yourself as if it said, ‘he.’”

Liam met his dad’s eyes in the rearview.

“But it doesn’t make sense that when I do that, ” Liam said.

“Don’t be silly, ” said his mother, “everything applies to you just the same.”

Liam left the Book of Secrets closed on his lap and looked out the car window at the miles of dense forest along the road.

Echolocation #flashfiction

“Does the back of my hair really look like that?”

Mandee looked on as Kye scrolled through the pictures on his phone. She joined him on his beach towel after an afternoon spent baking in the sun. He scrolled through images he had taken from the car of the dense tropical landscapes and green rolling hills. And pictures from their hotel room balcony of the curved cityscape along the coastline. There was the video of a ship moving slowly through the canal lock-system on an overcast day, but only one picture of the two of them, standing in front of the giant vibrant colored lettering that read, ‘Panamá.’ She stopped Kye at the picture with her facing the ocean.

Kye shrugged. “Yeah.” He resumed scrolling through his phone.

It was in seeing their whole trip, distilled on Kye’s phone, that gave her pause. Mandee saw very little of herself depicted in it.

“You didn’t want to go to the Darien Gap,” she said, “I wanted to see the end of the Pan-American highway.”

Kye set down his phone and turned to face her. “It was completely out of the way from everything else we wanted to see.”

“You want wanted to see,” she said. “It’s always all about you.”

Mandee returned to her beach towel and sulked for a while. The sun sank in the distance, an orange half dome emitting its rays against the clouds and the ocean, a beam of light along the water that led straight to her.

“I’m going,” she said. “I’m breaking up with you.”

Kye looked at her and sighed. He shook his head. But Mandee didn’t get up.

“Why?” Kye asked.

In the distance, dorsal fins broke the surface of the water. The pod of dolphins emerged, light reflected off their skin as they came up for air.

“Do you know,” Mandee said, “dolphins communicate by echolocation. They make these little pulsing sounds in the water that bounce off stuff, maybe food, maybe one another.”

“That’s cool,” Kye said.

“But you know, when I send signals, I never get much back from you.”

Mandee gathered her bag and her towel and started toward the cabana.