Wednesday, January 18, 2017

How Can a Mother?

By Bacopa Literary Review Flash Story Editor, Kaye Linden

Bacopa 2017 submissions included the genre "flash story," which could be fiction, creative nonfiction, or memoir of 750 words or less. Below, I have posted a piece of memoir that could be submitted as flash story, flash memoir, flash creative nonfiction, or as a prose poem of 748 words not counting the title This piece is character driven, with a prose poem format that leans enough towards a story with a tiny plot or series of events, that I would accept as a flash story. Note the eccentric use of language and lack of traditional grammar. I'm a nontraditional poetry and flash story editor and invite you to submit your tightly written stories or prose poems next year. (See also my 35 Tips for Writing a Brilliant Flash Story)

How Can a Mother?
A memoir in flash
748 words by Kaye Linden
The folding unfolding picnic chair, yellow, green, white striped against dark wooden legs, folding down into a canvas seat for a three-year old's little girl body to sit still, stay quiet, so the adults might converse over picnic lunch, (Kentucky fried slaughtered chicken and other innocents) on the edge, innocents on the ledge ...

Who does that?
What mother places an unfolding folding chair on the crest of a cliff?
For a three-year old in a red and white checkered dress, (lace collar and flouncy skirt, white sox and white sandals)
a larger cliff than for a mother, a large folding cliff that folds down and around and in on itself, bendy yet rigid, up and down and rocky and fashioned with tiny rocks and pebbles and hurting sticks and stones that do break bones and what mother does that?
What mother places an unfolding folding chair on the brink of a cliff?
A mother who is watching someone else,
a mother whose eyes follow a man with ginger hair,
a mother who only has eyes for the man who carries the picnic basket.

That mother doesn't see


The red and white checked dress with the lace collar and flounced skirt, the white sandals and white sox, so disgustingly innocent, but I can still feel the seer-sucker texture of the new skirt between my chubby fingers, the gut-stirring excitement of a trek up the winding path of the sandy hill, the sound of crashing surf over ancient rock, the anticipation of a day in the Australian sun, on an aboriginal icon where weathered carvings in moss-covered boulders spoke stories of boomerangs and kangaroos hunted. A wind blew strong that day, my fine blonde baby hair blowing around my round face.

That day, my father insisted on bringing his best friend--the ginger-haired man he encouraged my mother to see every day, his large frame shadowing the paths along which he walked. He tossed me onto his shoulders and neighed like a horse blowing beer breath, everyone laughing at his Australian humor. They told me to call him "Uncle Hank." But he wasn't a blood uncle, just a "close friend" who should be "respected" like an uncle--
a bastard with heavily freckled arms, muscled all over, a punch worthy body, huge fists, calloused knuckles, a beer bellied bastard
At the top of the hill, my parents and "Uncle Hank" laid out folding picnic chairs on the flattened, beaten down grass dirt surface, kicked away sticks and stones and other bleached half-eaten chicken bones tossed by other mindless people seeking a retreat into well-worn trails. The cleared space allowed my parents and the man to decorate the red tablecloth with silver spoons and forks and what was wrong with plastic spoons and forks except that, oh I get it now, they could have blown away in the wind, over the cliff edge.
A shadowed figure of a mother hovered over the folding unfolding stool and placed it hastily on the cliff, close enough to the edge, randomly placed, I'm sure, not a murderous intention but a thoughtless one.

More beer came out, warm and hot, Australian Lager at its best.

"Let's drink to friendship," the glass mugs clinked. Large biting ants crawled across the picnic blanket and over my legs, biting until red welts appeared. I cried.

"What's the matter?" the how- can- a- mother voice beamed, sap-filled sweetness, dripping

"Ants are biting."

"Just brush them off."

I brushed and swiped, slapped red the child skin

The folding unfolding stool rocked and rocked, unfolding in slow motion over the edge

a tumble, rocks scratching like cats' claws shredding new girl skin, jabbing, stabbing at  

the child rolling over pokey sticks and bits and pieces of wave-dumped debris.

Not a killing fall,

but a wake-up fall.

Down she fell to the rocks where surf crashed and spray sprayed the seer-sucker dress, a piece of lace collar and a sandal tossed onto rocks.

White foam. Salt air. Cuts, scratches.

Frantic adult voices from above. "Are you alright?"

"Uncle Hank's coming to get you."

The lumbering of heft and heroic strength slide down the cliff on large man buttocks, a starving soul desperate for salvation.

Where was my father?

The man picked me up and laughed. "You'll be ok" said in a croon supposed to dismiss pain.
She cried big girl tears that day and ruined a perfectly good picnic.
Oh well.

I'm sure they had many more.
~         ~           ~
Note from Editor in Chief Mary Bast: See Stephanie Dickinson's 413-word "Emily and the Bobcat;" also her "Iowa" and "Marjorie." Then get your hands on Margaret Atwood's collection The Tent -- "a collection of very short pieces, some only a paragraph long" -- plus other flash collections mentioned in LitHub's A Crash Course in Flash Fiction. Also the superb, 241-word "Esse" from Czeslaw Milosz (listed at the Nobel Prize site as a "poem" and in Flash Fiction International as "fiction"), Marco Denevi's amusingly weird flash fiction "The Lord of the Flies," "Aglaglagl" by Bruce Holland Rogers (also a Bacopa 2013 contributor), Jessica Goodfellow's "Landlocked," Tara Laskowski's "Little Girls."