The Road To Her True Self #flashfiction

Nova traveled along a straight arrow highway in her four-door Honda Civic. Her book of CDs lay in the passenger seat. She had been on this road, the road to being her true self, since leaving her parents’ house for good.

“Be careful where you stop, Nova. Be careful who you’ll meet.” Her mother had said.

At first, Nova only stopped in well-lit places for gas and fast food chains. In this way, Nova made excellent progress on the road to her true self. She stayed steady and healthy and safe.

One day, Nova’s hands gripped the wheel at ten and two, when she noticed the country road expand to an eight-lane thoroughfare with north and southbound traffic. She waved at her fellow travelers, but they moved too fast to notice.

Eventually, she spent too long on this road. It was hard to get noticed by other people. She became very lonely, and took the off-ramp headed west. The sun was an orange ball of fire in the distance.

“I’m going to stop today,” she said out loud. “I’m going to stop, first chance I get.”

It was a squat brick building on the side of the road. The sign read, “Welcome Weary Travelers!”

Nova made a friend in that squat, lone building. They hit it off. They took a chance. Nova’s friend would join her on her journey. She didn’t have to be alone anymore!

As the two pulled away in Nova’s Civic, her friend popped a CD in the disc player. It was a long-distance back to the highway. They rode with the windows down. The music blared, the night was chilly, the moon shone bright.

“It’s just up ahead,” Nova’s new friend had said, “the highway is just past this light.”

It was more of a toll booth, a giant structure leading to the highway. Hundreds of cars waited in line. A massive mechanical arm moved up and down, letting each one through. A little man sat in the control tower.

“Okay,” said Nova, a little unsure. She turned to her friend. “I guess we wait?”

The night turned to day, and the day turned to night. The full moon that illuminated their faces and street and other cars disappeared behind the cosmic shifting of the earth. The days turned to months, to years, to decades.

“I know they’ll let us through,” Nova told her friend, “We just have to wait a little longer.”

Nova’s friend began to lose hope. To her right and left were other cars that had been waiting too. There were grey-haired men and women with wrinkled faces. There were corpses at the wheel.

“Don’t you see!” Nova’s friend finally said, “They’ll never lift the mechanical arm for us!”

But Nova would not give her friend up. She would wait until the end.

Nova’s friend died the next morning, in the passenger seat with the CD case on her lap. Up ahead, the traffic moved. A giant mechanical arm lifted. A green light shone up above. Nova changed the CD, turned on the ignition, and continued on her journey to the road to her true self.

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.