The Chute #Flashfiction

“Today is the first day of the rest of our lives.” Joab stood at the end of the field on top of a wildflowers patch. Mount Shasta loomed in the distance behind him, grand in its snow-capped beauty, an allegory of the universe and an intelligent design greater and more powerful than any one being, especially a cow.

“I had a vision,” Joab continued, “Friends, the humans will slaughter us no more. Look to the east.”

East from where Joab and the other cows had gathered was a construction site. A meandering corral in an S shape led to a squat structure painted in blinding white.

“Is that why the trucks hadn’t come?” asked one cow.

“The trucks!” yelled another cow, in high-pitched hysteria.

Many cows had seen it happen before. The humans would prod and wrangle groups of their friends and co-cows into trucks until not another cow would fit. The cows would moo and kick; their pupils dilated in a fight or flight craze. And when the truck was shuttered, and the humans exhaled in a job well done, the driver would climb into the cab and pull away disappearing down the long country road.

They never saw those cows again.

“Things will be better!” said Joab, “The humans will take us away no more. They are building a permanent home for us, where we will stay and live, right here, forever.”

The cows liked this. They liked the thought of walking through that S-shaped corridor. It seemed inviting. The humans had painted it bright orange.

“I like orange,” said a calf.

“It’s orange just for you!” said Joab.

That week, the cows went about their business, grazing, mooing, and basking in the sun. They talked about the weather and gossiped with one another. Sometimes they would look to the east and speculate.

“But how come the man with the needle came and poked me like always right before?” asked a cow.

“It’s not bad to get poked. It’s good!” said Joab. “The humans want us to be healthy and strong. Before it was poison, but now it’s medicine.”

“But how do you know?”

“I saw it in my vision.”

And so the cows were satisfied and had a blissful season. And the days were long and hot, but the nights were cool. And then the days got shorter and the nights turned cooler, until one day the snow-capped Mount Shasta became snow-covered Mount Shasta, with peaks like heavy whipping cream.

The man arrived with the younger men and threw open the gate to the S-shaped chute.

“We’re finally going inside. it’s too cold out here!”

The cows gathered around, Joab led the way. He stepped into the chute, the walls came in close, and hugged his sides. He felt comforted, his hooves stepped with confidence on the skid-free netting on the ground.

“Follow me!” he said. The rest did. But Joab could not see them. He led the way. And he followed the path until he reached the building. The chute continued inside and the wind had stopped. He heard the hum of machines and the vibrations of voices. Still, he walked and walked as if moved in a hypnotic trans.

He arrived to a contraption. It was shiny and u-shaped. The walls got more narrow, Joab walked right into it.

“My friends, it’s wonderful! I’m comforted and warm!”

A human arrived. He wore a big hat. He placed the stun gun in between Joab’s eyes and pulled the trigger.

The Etch-A-Sketch #flashfiction

Elizabeth is an Etch-A-Sketch artist. She discovered the Etch-A-Sketch at a boutique toy store called Retro Fun. She used to walk her neighborhood street in search of places to sketch. One day, she drew the New Orleans style house on the corner. The next, she drew the abandoned cottage that took in three feet of water during the hurricane.

In college, she started a YouTube channel. It shows her in time-lapse, drawing intricate landscapes and architecture. At the end of every video, she shakes the Etch-A-Sketch, permanently erasing what she just created.

The summer before her senior year, Elizabeth’s class took a trip to Spain. Elizabeth planned to drink beer and take selfies with her friends. She also brought her Etch-A-Sketch for her YouTube channel.

One morning while her friends slept in, Elizabeth stopped in front of the Cathedral of Malaga. She walked it. She studied it. She learned all its details and secrets. It wasn’t until she loved it that she attempted to draw it.

The morning was magic. She wanted to keep it forever. On the steps, with her tripod and her phone, Elizabeth fixed her eyes on the magnets inside the screen. She watched the little black line render an exacting image of the Cathedral. Tiny bones in her hands ached with each micro-movement as she turned the Etch-A-Sketch knobs.

She ended her YouTube recording early. She did not want to shake the Etch-A-Sketch. Her friends soon showed up in their shorts and giant sunglasses. Elizabeth put her drawing in her bag. The beach in Malaga was pure magic.

“We’ll remember this place forever,” her friend said.

Then the trip was over, and the senior year began. Then Thanksgiving. Then Christmas. Finals. More memories were made. Then Spring break. At graduation, she laughed and cried and hugged her friends.

“We’ll remember each other forever,” her friend had said.

And when Elizabeth packed up her room for good, she remembered her Etch-A-Sketch and pulled it out of a storage box. The cathedral had faded. The details were gone. And she looked outside at her friends loading cars with boxes and bags.

Land Survey #flashfiction

Two neighbors Sam and Dennis, live side by side in a residential area. Sam is built like a refrigerator and lives in a colonial-style home. Dennis is very tall and has a habit of hitting his head against things. His is a Spanish style home with vaulted ceilings. Established oak trees line the streets. Heat radiates off the pavement.

Sam pulls into his driveway one evening and crosses the lawn to Dennis’s front door.

“This tree is causing damage to my property,” says Sam, “Come, let me show you.”

“But I’m having dinner. Can I come after?” Says Dennis, a fork in his hand.

“Please come now.”

Dennis follows Sam to the invisible line that separates his lot from Sam’s. On top of that invisible line sits an oak tree. It’s roots jut out from the ground like city walls. Sam’s driveway has started to split and buckle.

“I have a land survey,” says Dennis, “that we can review, but in case this tree does sit on the property line, I’ll go 50/50 in getting the tree removed.”

“But I don’t want the tree removed,” says Sam. “I want a smooth driveway and a better house and a better car and a better life. But this tree is the start of it. It’s all because of this tree.”

Dennis stares at his neighbor. “I can’t help you with any of that,” he says, “except the tree. We can remove the tree.”

“But I don’t want to remove the tree. I want a front yard that doesn’t look like shit. And a better house, and a better job, and a better wife. It comes back to this tree.”

“Well, listen, I can’t help you with your driveway. Or your car or your house or your life. But I can help you with the tree. But you can keep the tree and still fix your driveway. Then you can have the oak tree and a nice driveway.”

Sam glares at Dennis. “Screw you, Dennis. Screw you and your Pollyanna advice! I’m not a child!”

Sam rages off across his lawn and into his front door. Dennis is left standing by the oak tree. It’s a good looking tree, Dennis thinks. It provides a lot of shade. It helps keep his house cool in the summertime and helps keep the electricity bills low.

Dennis returns to his house to eat his dinner, which is now room-temperature. As he’s loading the dishwasher, he thinks about the tree. He doesn’t want to remove the tree. What a pain in the ass it is to have a tree sitting on a property line.

Shattered glass jolts his attention to the front room. One of the arched windows facing the street is broken. There’s a brick on the floor wrapped in copy paper, attached with a rubber band. Dennis opens the note and reads.

You deserve this brick through your window for your stupid advice.

Dennis sweeps up the glass from the floor. A piece scratches the hardwood. He remembers the cardboard box from his new picture frames and covers the window with the cardboard. He searches the city website for tree ordinances.