Debra A. Daniel won Bacopa Literary Review 2015's 2nd Place in Fiction for her 515-word story "Cinderella Visits Her Stepmother at the EverAfter Assisted Living Home." While we're not inviting flash fiction for the 2016 issue, there's no clear agreement on what constitutes "flash." Synonyms for flash include: gleam, glimmer, glitter, sparkle, luster, illuminate. No, we don't want 50-word submissions. Yes, we do want fiction that illuminates.
We think you'll agree that Debra's short story has a certain luster:
Cinderella touches the sleeve, says, This isn't your gown.
The old woman's fingers curl into knotty fists. She says, Keep your hands off. It's mine. The mouse with the secret messages on his arms gave it to me. The mice have sneaked in with gifts every night since you imprisoned me in this dungeon.
This is a hospital, Mother, where they care for you. Mice don't sneak in, Cinderella says as she picks up wadded tissues littering the floor.
Soft white mice are around your feet right now. I'll order them to bite you, then you'll see. The stepmother snorts, I want to be in my own castle, not in this evil torture chamber. And look at my hair. Get my magic wand and fix me.
Cinderella finds a silver comb in the nightstand drawer. Standing behind the wheelchair, she listens to her stepmother's ragged breathing and slowly detangles the wiry tufts of hair.
That hurts. What a spiteful girl you are. I'll command the mice to leave you in the forest just like Snow White with nothing to eat but poisoned apples.
Mother, please, just let me help you.
The old woman slaps at Cinderella's hand. The comb goes back into the drawer.
Let me feed you some applesauce. It'll make you feel better, Cinderella says and scoops a spoonful from a tiny golden cup.
Remove that vile potion. I'll eat when I'm ready. The stepmother's voice is so high-pitched that a male nurse walking by enters the room. Ah, the handsome Prince, the old woman says.
Mother, he's not the Prince. The Prince left a long, long ago.
The stepmother's eyes fix on the man. I know that. This is a toad transformed into a coachman or a page, at best. He's certainly not royalty. Her voice softens to a croaky whisper. The Prince sent him to rescue me from the dungeon.
As he leaves, the nurse bestows a longsuffering smile upon Cinderella. The old woman glares at her and says, Who are you?
I'm your daughter.
The woman says, You're not. My daughters have frizzy hair and crooked horse teeth just like mine. You've never, ever been my daughter.
So it goes all the while Cinderella is cleaning the old woman's horse teeth and gathering soiled garments for laundering. She sits beside the bed until her stepmother tosses into unhappy sleep.
Then Cinderella heads to where she parked her old dented pumpkin. Behind her, she hears footsteps, lots of them. When she turns she sees the mice heading in for the shift change.
How was she? the one with the tattoo says.
She's a little worse every day now, but, at least she knew you were there last night. Thanks for the gown.
Don't mention it, says the mouse with the cropped tail. Did she eat the applesauce?
Cinderella sighs. No, I won't force it. We'll both know when she's really ready to take a bite.
The mice leave Cinderella leaning against the pumpkin. For a long while she stands there, all alone in the dark, dark of life ever after.
Debra A. Daniel is the author of the novel, Woman Commits Suicide in Dishwasher, (Muddy Ford Press) and two poetry chapbooks, The Downward Turn of August (Finishing Line Press) and As Is (Main Street Rag). She was twice named SC Arts Commission Poetry Fellow, won the 2002 Guy Owen Prize as well as numerous awards from the Poetry Society of SC, the Piccolo Fiction Open, The SC Fiction Project, and was nominated for a Pushcart. Her work has appeared in many publications including The Los Angeles Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, The Sound of Poets Cooking, Kakalak, The Inkwell Magazine, Southern Poetry Review, Tar River Poetry, and Gargoyle Magazine.
Bacopa's Submissions open until June 30, 2016