Flash fiction consists of stories that are 1000 words or less in length. All of the following are by Kim-Lee Patterson (Anna Lee) and subject to copyright. Do not copy, reproduce, or recreate without permission from the author, which can be obtained by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
She had this unsteady quality to her gait. I wasn’t quite sure if she had injured herself, or if she was just trying to look cool. One could never really tell with her. I assumed after a while that she wanted to fit in with the boys. I never had the heart to tell her it wasn’t working. After all, she was the only person I had in the world. What was the sense in ruining things between us? A little insecurity never hurt anyone. Or, at least, I couldn’t tell if it was hurting either of us.
My fingers were flying… not quite as fast as my brain, though. The loom kept me sane, in a way, burning up the energy she didn’t seem to have a use for. She complained once that I was going to bury us both alive in my creations, but I told her she’d appreciate it all once winter came back. Which she did, judging by how many of them she wore out of the house this morning. I couldn’t quite say why I stayed with her. She didn’t talk much and she was not much of a looker either. She definitely wasn’t a romantic. I suppose she was a damaged soul in need of fussing over, and that just happened to be that fussing was the one thing I knew how to do.
I must have been thinking too hard again. I didn’t notice she had come in and was watching me. Odd, really. She didn’t take much of an interest in my hobbies. I would have asked, but the likelihood of a proper reply was slim to none. So I continued to weave away, pretending I still hadn’t noticed her. That hurt less than to reach out and have my efforts hurled back at me like a boomerang. I wondered how long I could hold out this time. It usually wasn’t that long. She sat in silence, her eyes darting here and there to follow my movements. The mother instinct washed over me again.
“Did you eat?” I asked, sorry that I hadn’t held out longer. “There’s soup on the stove.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“I can get it for you, if you’d like,” I insisted, ignoring the lie. She nodded. I put down my work and stomped into the kitchen. She looked at me, curiously. I hadn’t done that before. No, that was new. Usually I was light-footed and kind. But now I felt cheated. Deprived. Not once did she think to pleasure me with so much as a kiss. I may have been a glutton for ill-treatment, but I was no fool. I knew when I was being taken advantage of, even if I foolishly chose to stay.
I splashed the soup into a bowl and turned back to the sitting room, nearly knocking her over.
She had come up behind me unawares.
“I love you,” she said, running her fingers along my thigh.
The bowl slipped from my hands to the ground.
Til Hate Do Us Part
The wicker rocking chair creaked, its tired legs straining to carry me in its arms. Apart from its relentless moaning, the room was quiet. That, and the occasional crackle from the fire. Chin in hand, I felt almost hypnotized, rolling back and forth like an ocean wave. A crack opened up in one of the runners.
I was too dazed to notice.
Closing my eyes, I let my head fall back, resting my hand on my ample stomach. No sooner than I had touched it, I felt a foot just above my navel.
“Oh, must you, child?” I moaned, now wide awake. The kicks were coming more often now. Fiercely, too. Sleep was a luxury that neither my husband nor my tormented fetus were keen to afford me.
I shifted my weight to the other side, hoping to feel better. My efforts did little but coax more eerie creaks from the rickety chair.
“You should let me fix that thing, woman,” my husband grunted. “Let me be a man around here, dammit.”
My eyes trailed over him from head to toe.
“As if,” I scoffed, stifling my laughter.
Let him be a man, was the cry.
Yet, there he sat, smoking a pipe and reading yesterday’s paper in a couch with only three good legs and all the stuffing coming out. Behind his square, thick-rimmed glasses, I thought I saw him raise a brow as he grunted.
Nothing new. I assumed he was raised by gorillas. Plumes of smoke curled upward, filling the room with a bluish-grey haze. I wrinkled my nose.
“You could quit smoking that stinkin’ thing.”
His lips parted at first, but then disappeared entirely, leaving only a tight, thin line.
Ignoring my sighs, he sipped his coffee and lifted the paper to shut me out of his view. I shook my head and tugged my shawl up around my neck and shoulders. Nothing disgusted me quite like the sight of him with that pipe in his mouth. Telling him wouldn’t be enough for him to quit, though.
It never was.
“Listen,” I cooed, moments later. “It’s just… well, it won’t be good for the baby. You know. The smoke and all.”
He lowered the paper, slightly. We locked eyes for a moment, then, he smiled.
His way of calling my bluff.
My feelings had nothing to do with our child. Smoking was just one of a laundry list of things he hid from me. I didn’t find out til our wedding night. I had a mind to call the whole thing off, but I would become the talk of the town and an outcast.
Too much for my fragile heart to handle.
I wish I was as cold then as I was now. But that milk had long been spilt and was not worth a tear anymore.
I was a nice girl once. Now, I was just his wife–his miserable, angry wife.
Dropping the paper on the table, he leaned back and took off his glasses.
“For the baby, you say?”
He was a man of few words when it came to me. And that smile? It wasn’t a friendly smile. It was the kind you give when you just can’t be bothered to frown.
Clearly I wasn’t worth the energy.
He took a deep draw of his pipe, savoring every last bit of smoke. The look on his face was so content, so peaceful. I cringed. A tobacco-filled pipe pleased him more than I ever did. Without a word, he knocked its contents into the ashes on the fireplace. When he sat back down, he just returned to reading that god-forsaken paper.
My eyes fluttered downwards. I didn’t dare look up. I had a serious mind to chuck a shoe at his head. There was no ‘used to’ for anything to go back to, because this is how things always were, since the wedding.
Every morning I greeted the sun with a sigh, and hissed when I told it goodnight.
Brick after brick piled up on my heart until it could not handle any more. My choice of words were not the best, but they were the truth, which I hadn’t told in a long time.
Not ever, actually.
I have to guess that my venom took him by surprise. I’m sure he knew that I hated him, but I had never dared to breathe a word that might show it.
He just figured.
Now he knew I was nearing my breaking point.
That sick smile said it all.
Our wedding night was the beginning of the end. I died that night. My body went on living but my spirit and soul were long gone with the winds of the prairie we built this sad little house on.
I was a walking corpse.
Undead, as they say.
Burying my face in my hands, I hid the tears that started to fall. I’d never seek pity. Not from him, anyway. He had none. I searched for life in his eyes, but today, like every other day, his thoughts were with the rise and fall of the stock market.
I brushed the tear of my face and rubbed my aching jaw. This was no way to live.
Mother did say I could always come home.
She had never liked him.
Dad never liked him either, though they were so alike. But he was the pot that would never curse a kettle for being black. His only response to our engagement was a long draw of his Cuban cigar.
Grasping the arms of the chair, I tried to ease myself up on wobbly legs. I was thirty pounds heavier and they weren’t used to it. Neither was he, for that matter. He kept saying I’d better be ‘like those gals who bounce back.’
As if carrying his spawn wasn’t bad enough.
My child kicked me again. I leaned harder on the chair arms, taking a moment to catch my breath. Not knowing it had reached its end.
I remember the loud crack.
And him rushing to save me.
But it was too late.
I hit the table, then the floor.
Pain shot through my belly.
I must have blacked out.
For what I can’t remember, is how I came to be here.
In this bed.
And a widow.
I couldn’t leave the house that way. Torn, tattered. A bruise over my right eyebrow. I’d put on my good dress and try to cover the marks with a little makeup, if only I could get to the bathroom.
Where were my glasses?
My eyes were no good in the day, much less in the utter darkness she’d left me in. Most of my good things were hidden in the nooks and crannies I found in the big old house. She’d destroy them all if she knew I had them. What was her problem, anyway? She seemed to think that I would steal her glory–that she could only shine by eclipsing me entirely. Shaking my head, I clawed into the air, searching for something to hold on to.
I needed to find my glasses.
I had never been able to see very well, but it had gotten worse. Neither of us really knew it, or acknowledged it, but I was legally blind. The strength of the prescription I needed was so strong that no one could borrow my glasses, even for a moment. They would see nothing but a blur, with their better-functioning corneas.
My hand struck the desk.
I cried out, clutching my fingers. They stung horribly, but at least I had a sense of direction. Grabbing on to the edge, I pulled myself up and felt around for my flashlight. Just a little light would help me make my way over to the door without hurting myself again. Darkness always made me lose my sense of orientation. The ceiling may as well have been the floor. I’d be okay once I flipped on the light and found those glasses. I needed them to get out of here. To get help. I needed to get away from this place, but how could I do that if I could barely see my own hand in front of my face?
I found the flashlight and hurriedly switched it on.
Nothing. It was dead.
I would have to crawl around and find the door. My step-sister’s room was nothing like mine. It was like a maze with a million and one obstructions. That’s probably why she dragged me in here before beating me within an inch of her imprisonment for life. She knew that I couldn’t see my way out in the dark. And finding the switch for the lights was no simple feat for me in an unfamiliar room. I had never been in her room before. Nothing was familiar, and I knew that crawling around would only hurt me more than I already was. But I had no choice. The bitch had left me with a dead flashlight in a room with only a sliver of light to work with.
And no glasses.
I dropped to my knees, ignoring the sickening crunch echoing in my ears. The tears fell faster than I could brush them away. No, I couldn’t cry. Not then. I needed to find a way out of here.
A sharp pain shot through my consciousness. Something was stuck in my knee. That crunch. Wait a minute.
I touched my knee. It was warm, and sticky. Bits of glass were stuck to it.
My breath caught in my throat. I frantically patted the ground around me, trying not to think the worst. My hand curled around a familiar frame.
But it was no use to me now, warped and bent, with its lenses stuck to my skin.
A Day in Peter’s Pocket
Ever since I met Peter, I have been convinced that he is a demon straight from hell.
Why, before he’d even say hello he’d be turning me over and around as though I were a gold piece! And as if that wasn’t tortuous enough, he found it perfectly polite to push me right into his pocket.
And what a pocket it was!
Remnants of some oatmeal-flavoured rock with bits of a gooey, dark substance stuck to their surfaces made for an interesting snack … that is, until I caught sight of my long-lost cousin lying cold and dead as a nit–caught in some loose threads along the seams.
“So that’s where he died!” I cried as I frantically began to search for an exit. To meet the fate of my fellow multiped was a thought I could not stomach–and neither was the taste of that rock of human origin. I scurried up the side of the rough thread patchwork and tried to get over the edging.
But, alas! Peter, in a highly considerate mood, sat sweetly down and nestled me tightly between his thigh and the denim edge. Oh, what fright! I had visions of dying an ignominious death as I gasped for air. Finally, the sorry imp stood up and I dropped to the bottom of the steaming abyss. I winced as a bramble poked my belly and vowed that, should I have to the greatest fortune not to die, I would always and forever run for my life at the sight of any human.
A wishful thought, for sure … for at the rate at which Peter walked, it wouldn’t be long before I suffered death by demolition, asphyxiation, or a stroke from all the heat. Another bite of the sweet rock quelled my hunger and lifted my spirits. I was about to climb again when–of all things–Peter not only sat down again, but crossed his ample legs as well!
Oh, what was a bug to do? I had to take a risk. My teeth were sharp, but could they made it through, all the way to his skin? There was only one way to find out. I sunk my head as far as it would go into the fabric, then took the biggest bite of my life.
A sudden jerk …and suddenly I was exposed to the air. Peter’s face was as grotesque as my body, and I hung on for dear life to the seams of the out-turned pocket. It wasn’t long before I–along with the brambles, corpse and sweet flavoured rocks–were sent flying through the air and into the bushes.
Ah, home sweet home.
And so went my day in Peter’s pocket.
“Please don’t leave me.”
“Felipa, you know the barracks is no place for a woman.”
“Well neither is this shack at nights!”
My brother was silent. I could see the struggle in his hardened face. I was terrified and making this harder for him than it had to be, but I had been left in the dark before, and I never wanted that loneliness again. I clung to his arm, tears spilling over my plump cheeks. He stiffened, then breathed out a long sigh.
“I know,” he began. “I don’t like leaving you here alone either.”
“Then take me with you!”
“I can’t, woman!”
I gasped. Surely my only brother wasn’t going to leave me alone for another night. Did he not care about me at all? How could he do this to me? Did he not know what kind of men lurked the forest at night? I let go of his arm and got up, slowly walking backwards towards the shack.
“Felipa,” he pleaded. “I can’t take you with me to the barracks. It’s all men. Most of them haven’t seen their wives or girlfriends in months. Years, for some. It isn’t safe, and I wouldn’t always be able to be nearby to protect you. You’re safer here… I…”
His voice trailed off. I swallowed hard. He had a point. I hadn’t thought about that. The air grew toxic and heavy. My eyes lingered on the gold buttons of my brother’s uniform. They stood out so beautifully against the deep blue fabric.
“Niel. Have you packed yet?”
“No. I’m waiting on new uniforms.”
“Oh. What will you do with the old ones?”
“Scrap ’em. Or give them to a new recruit.
“Give them to me.”
“So I can smell them whenever I start to miss you too much.”
He seemed puzzled at my odd request. I wasn’t usually sentimental, but Neil was the kind of person who believed there was a first time for everything.
“Sure, I guess. You can have them. I’ll give you this one when I take it off, but the rest are in my closet. Enjoy.”
He fell right into my plan. I could barely contain my excitement as I rushed off toward’s the shack.
There was no way I’d let him leave me again.
The Old Man and the Church
Snowflakes fell from earth to heaven at a pace that could rival a snail’s. Yet, the old man walked on, scarcely noticing the white blanket all around him.
Oblivious to the evening chill, he stopped on the step of the grand old church he had once loved. Once the talk of the town, it had run down to nothing as older generations died and left its care to their wayward children.
A tear flowed down the aged cheek as he touched the crumbling brickwork and eyed the broken panes. Slowly, he climbed the steps to the entrance and stepped inside, fearing what he might see, but unable to leave without knowing.
The sight that greeted the tired, dimming eyes was nearly unbearable. Peeling paint and cracked plaster, retouched by graffiti and colored chalk. On the floor there lay broken benches, and dust formed a coat over the old, silent organ.
As the old man strode down the center aisle, his mind traveled 40 years back in time–to a day when the pastor stood tall at the altar and solemnly said, “you may kiss the bride.”
He glanced behind the pulpit at the large baptistery, its fancy borders rusted; its meaning lost in obscurity. He remembered a day two-score and five years before, when in the name of Father, Son and Spirit he gave his life to the Lord.
A wrinkled hand reached down to take an object from the floor. Small and black, he knew he must have seen it once before. Indeed, it was the Bible that the pastor always loved–thrown aside by his careless son who had no care for God above.
Tucking the tiny book between his heart and winter coat, the old man took one last look at the church of his childhood, then stepped slowly out the door. The winter winds blew harder now, and the moon gave only the dimmest light–but the old man was cheered and comforted that he had found intact the LIGHT.
The Diamond’s Fate
The clock lay in a hundred pieces on the ground. “I guess that’s one way to stop the ticking,” she said, shaking her head at me. “You realize you can’t replace that, right?:” she asked, wrinkling her nose. I said nothing. Grabbing the broom from beside the refrigerator, I swept up the slivers of broken glass. There wasn’t really anything I could say. It was a family heirloom, or so I was told. My sister would never forgive me, and frankly, I wasn’t sure if I could forgive myself either. The clock wasn’t the only thing this family had passed down from generation to generation. The Diamonds were known for one thing besides mining the jewels whose name we bore: our rage. A feud with one of our kind could only be settled by the sword, or sometimes, a heart-stopping game of Russian roulette. Women were no exception. Though our feuds didn’t normally end in death, it may as well have for the loser.
And Diamond women never lost … except, perhaps, to each other. This was one such case. My sister and I were always at odds, but it had escalated to the point of a fight to the death. Not the death of the body, or the soul, but the death of reputation—the manner in which we women settle our feuds. In my rage, I had broken an heirloom that had been passed down for more than 5 generations. Unforgivable. Still, without a word, I trashed the broken clock, and marched upstairs. Throwing my things into a small bag, I snatched up my purse and a few documents. The sooner I could make it to the train station, the greater my chances of starting a life somewhere new, before word could spread throughout the kingdom that I was a dead woman. The moment my sister dropped the news, I would be scorned at home, and possibly abroad …forever.