Like my favorite songs, great flash fiction hits me in the gut and lingers in my mind. As in the best ballads, flash fiction gets to the essence of the story, reveals plot, conflict, character and resolution with brevity and eloquence. My most beloved lyrics and short stories are just ambiguous enough to invite me, as a listener or reader, to read between the lines. I love a story with a strong beginning, middle, and end, but enough breathing room to make the “hinted at” narrative unique to my own interpretation.
Unlike a good song, flash fiction delivers the elegance of poetry and the elements of fiction without the aid of redundant stanzas or repeated lyrics. A good story makes the words sing without the aid of a melody or back-up instruments.
I love the challenge of telling a story in vivid, tight prose. I hope to learn more about creating economical and intimate plot while incorporating the emotionality of music and poetry and the elements of great fiction.
I received a call for submissions for flash fiction – under 750 words. The info about submitting to this anthology from WW Norton appears at the end of the following piece, one of three short-shorts that I submitted. The editors prefer previously published work. How often does a writer see that request?
Gravy word count 487
No religion, no politics, no sex at the supper table. Mother does the cooking. Mother makes the rules.
My father invites me and my lover to dinner. Last time we ate dinner at my parents house my father implied that my lover was not a lesbian because of the way she devoured a drumstick. I’m a vegetarian. My father believes that all lesbians are vegetarians. My lover was invited tonight. She declined.
My mother cooks a stew, calls it vegetarian stew even though it has two inch chunks of beef in it. I eat my mothers’ stew even though I call myself a vegetarian. My mother assures me that the meat she buys is so lean that there’s not a chance in hell that one fat globule could melt into the gravy. I don’t tell her it’s blood, not fat, that alarms me. She picks out the meat with plastic pickle tongs that she got free at a Tupperware party, before passing me a plateful. She discards my meat on my fathers’ plate.
“Who ever heard of broccoli in stew?” My father says, picking out the little green trees and piling them on my plate. I eat the top off a tiny one, after smelling it. I want to ask my parents if they think the broccoli smells like meat, but I’m afraid that might lead to breaking Mother’s rules.
I get pumpernickel bread out of the freezer and nuke it in the microwave for thirty seconds so we can sop up the nonfat gravy. When I sit back down my mother is trading green beans for pearl onions with my father.
“Anybody want to trade gravy?” I ask.
My father says, “No thank you I don’t eat vegetarian gravy.”
“This isn’t vegetarian gravy, it’s brown,” I say.
“Alright, I don’t eat a vegetarians’ gravy,” my father says.
Mother says, “Vegetarian gravy can be brown. You just add a little Worstershire and a little Gravymaster.”
Father takes a spoonful of gravy from my bowl, tastes it, shakes his head, says, “No protein. You got unnatural gravy.”
I take the spoon out of his hand and have a taste of his gravy. “Hormones,” I say,
We must be talking about religion, politics, or sex , because Mother is pissed. She gives us both a disgusted look and takes her plate in to the den.
I follow her. “Ma, do you like the smell of broccoli?” I ask, contrite, by way of polite conversation.
“Ask me after I finish my meal,” she says.
Father comes in with a second plate of meat- laden stew.
Mother gives us both a warning glance. “Put on ‘Wheel of Fortune,” she says.
Father and I sit on the couch, on opposite sides of Mother. We finish our stew and watch Vana turn letters. We behave during ‘Wheel of Fortune’. Jeopardy is a different story, but the meal is over by then.
International flash anthology: We’re looking for stories under 750 words for Flash Fiction International, due from distinguished publisher W.W. Norton in 2014.
We generally prefer recent, previously published work (recent=within the last ten years or so), but we will also consider unpublished submissions. The stories must be in English, originally or in translation. Limit of 3 stories.
Editors for the Norton Sudden and Flash Fiction book series, James
Thomas and Robert Shapard, are joined by Chris Merrill, director of the U of Iowa International Writing Program.
We would be grateful for any leads to authors we should read, besides yourself. Also, please let us know if you know any good, brief quotes that can be related to very short fiction (for example, Friedrich Nietzsche said, “It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.”)
Send submissions by email attachment to james45387ATyahooDOTcom, or send print copy to James Thomas, 99 W. 3rd St. #5, Xenia, OH, U.S.A. 45385. Deadline is August 15.