Incredibly, defiantly, unbelievably short fiction

Sacramento Flash Fiction

Pieter Van Tatenhove reads and writes all kinds of stuff, especially comics. He sells insurance to pay the bills.

Pieter Van Tatenhove reads and writes all kinds of stuff, especially comics. He sells insurance to pay the bills.

Below, you’ll read the best supershort stories from this year’s Flash Fiction Contest. Each story (we received more than 100 submissions) was assigned a number, and all the qualified entries were assembled for anonymous judging by our in-house critics.

You’ll find stories that are mysterious, romantic, a bit twisted and with twisted endings. There’s a faux epic, a commentary on the current economic downturn and a piece that’s more double-entendre than porn (definitely PG-13).

Sit back, relax and start your summer reading with SN&R’s Flash Fiction 2009.

Kel Munger

First Place—“The Deaf Man”

It didn’t take the soldiers long to figure out the old man was deaf. Every day he would show up and pace the grounds outside the wall, his hands in his pockets, kicking at the dirt. And every night before dusk he would look up, grin and leave.

The soldiers would just watch with their guns in their hands.

The day he came too close was the first day in six months they’d seen clouds. One of the soldiers pointed out that he had a rain slicker on. Another one noticed that he kept stopping and shaking his pant legs. Then, instead of leaving, the old man walked towards the wall.

They told themselves they’d been right, that three warning shots were enough. None of them felt sure.

It rained that night. A week later the first flowers starting sprouting in neatly paced rows.

—Peter Van Tatenhove

Jason Conde lives on the Midtown fringe.

Second Place—“Grab Father”

By his bony ankles, we dangle Father upside down. Loose change and bills spill from his pockets. Joints pop in loose skin. Mother collects.

“You boys are always giving your father the shakes,” Mother says.

Father’s purple face a grape, a light bruise, the speckles in our molding eyes. His tight lips swell plump and tremble. Saliva pierces through the corners of his mouth, slicing down blood-filled cheeks into giant, jungle ears like shining scars of a Glasgow smile.

—Jason Conde

Jose Galvan is a father and husband who enjoys reading science fiction, metal music and preparing for his first marathon.

Third Place—“Pioneer”

Adrenaline coursing through his veins, sweat beading on his brow, clammy hands clasped together, he felt his mind race as his options slowly dwindled down.

A glance at his watch only confirmed his worst fears. What was once a whole horizon of possibilities coalesced into a narrow stripe of a half-dozen roads, each leading him further towards the unknown.

He was a descendant of hardy frontier pioneers who carved a life out of the wilderness and braved the Wild West for a chance at a better future. Now, he too faced a challenge that loomed and mocked him like a thunderstorm at a river crossing.

Again the seconds on his watch ticked, barely audible reminders that his time was running out.

“Sir, are you ready to order?”

With a sigh, he put down the menu. “I’m ready.”

—Jose Galvan
West Sacramento

Honorable Mentions:

“The Boy”

On my birthday the boy died. In the computer lab students grieved and told stories of the boy that I never knew. Of the scar on his chest, the heart inside that wasn’t his. His twin, Bliss, rocked fetal in a corner next to a humming surge protector.

The boy was my friend. We ran relays. As anchor he caught tight every passed baton.

In science we dissected the same squid. He cut right down the middle and we dipped our fingertips in the ink. When testing the pH balance of ammonia, we took turns taking whiffs.

We planned designs for the perfect robot.

He was with me onstage when my toothpick bridge won “Year’s Strongest.”

—Jason Conde

“Circa 1987”

In cerebral cinema prior to sleep, I play looped reels.

Frames flash: Him and I, I and He, one hit, one-fifth speed, one forever-dreamt punch to the face—his face–my fist, circa 1987.

Scene 1: Outside of P.E. class, at my locker with a stickered facade of my escapes, the Cure, Depeche Mode, the Smiths, Bauhaus and Siouxsie. Sometimes his carcass drops to the left, sometimes to the right, before he can say “Fa … ” He’s out.

Scene 2: Lunch Room, Them and I, I and They, trays fall to lino, two linebackers down and I triumph. Repeat.

At dawn, my wounds evident, my eye socket swollen, my lip cut and my gums soft. Sound, distinct, gearing of yellow Blue-Bird approaching my block.

Pray for invisibility; pray for invincibility.

—Edward Evans

“Clearly Heads Prevail”

The director’s mustachioed face grew red with frustration. He bellowed for his team of writers, who stood cowardly before him. After spending years building up the most creative and ethnically diverse pornographic production company, he was having issues with the final scene of his trilogy: Sex Trials 3.

A young woman, Miss Fallacious, was supposed to have handed down her punishment in a courtroom of twelve well-built jurors.

“I want something good!” he screamed, glaring at head writers Morales, Nakamoto and Charles.

Silence followed until one of the strapping young jurors with the moniker of the Japanese Stallion spoke up.

“Sir. How about it turns out to be a ‘hung jury’?”

The set became deathly quiet. The director stroked his mustache thoughtfully and grinned.

“Excellent. Roll the cameras. Mr. Stallion, offer the verdict! Miss Fallacious, ya know what to do with a hung jury?”

She smiled.

—Tristan Leonard Jackson Hills


“How to Buy Vodka in a Recession”

“I don’t have a lot of money,” I told the liquor-store clerk. He knows me; we go way back. “But that doesn’t mean I’m willing to sacrifice on quality.”

“How much do you have?”

I held up a handful of coins. “$2.34.”

He reached for a miniature bottle of Smirnoff. “This is the best I can do.”

“No.” I shook my head. “It’s really too small. What else do you have?”

“Nothing, nothing at all, except … no.”


He sighed and pulled a liter bottle from under the counter. The label was Russian. “I don’t know if you’re ready. It’s made from turnips.”

“What’s it like?”

“It’s a low-born vodka, sullen with a harrowing finish. It’s the kind of tipple you’d want along on a cold November morning if you were stripping wallpaper in Minsk.”

“How much?”


I did the math. “I’ll take two.”

—William Doonan

“What If”

Before Bob met his wife, there was this girl named Charity. He still thinks about her sometimes. The weird thing is, she wasn’t really his type. While Bob was paddling freshman over at the Sigma Chi house, she was hot-boxing in a VW bus with her vegan friend Ramona. Bob despised all that drug stuff, but he enjoyed Charity’s liberated approach in the bedroom, or actually, in the back of the VW. She dragged Bob to a few Dead shows, but Bob thought the Dead had nothing on Carlos Santana. To survive a Dead concert, Bob relied on swigs of tequila in the parking lot beforehand.

Last night, Bob watched his wife, all PJs and furry flip-flops, settle into the La-Z-Boy and turn on Desperate Housewives. Quietly, he closed the study door and logged on to Facebook.

He wondered if she still went by Charity Clarkson.

—Catherine Fraga

“Harry and Me in a Bar in Seattle”

He says, “I dunno, Mike. There’s a bond between us that just won’t die.”

“Well, it must’ve come close when she ran off to Miami with that chiropractor.”

“That only lasted a month.”

“Until she married that Atlanta lawyer.”


“So she could woo that rich widower in Tulsa.”

“They never actually married.”

“Because she ditched him for a Wichita hairdresser. Then there was the rancher in Denver. And the Idaho–”

“But that just proves my point!”

“How does ‘Lisabeth’s Traveling Infidelity Show’ prove there’s an undying bond between you two?”

“Don’t you see? She’s working her way back home to me, north by northwest. Like the Hitchcock movie.”

“Jesus, Harry! It sounds more like she’s fucking her way back home, one state at a time.”

“So you agree with me!”

When I left, around midnight, he was still there, muttering something to the bartender about Mt. Rushmore.

—Kevin Mims


The night was perfect for a little mayhem. The sliver of moon rose high, illuminating the neighboring houses just enough for Max to see, yet not be seen. He crept from his bed and headed for the back door, a sly smile upon his face.

Past the rear gate, Max was now walking along the gravel driveway towards the neighbor’s house. He worked his way to the side garden and ripped out two small tomato plants. He then began tearing at all of the plants with great zeal, laughing to himself quietly.

His work complete, he trotted back to his house, head held high. He crashed upon his bed, and when he awoke in the morning, there was Rick looking down at him.

“Max!” he said. “What the hell have you been doing? Your paws are covered in mud!”

Max just gave a perplexed look and began to groom himself.

“See, Rick,” he seemed to be saying with his feline eyes, “I took care of him for you.”

—Justin Lehr

“Post Mortem”

The son closed his cell phone. He slumped into the sofa. The ceiling had bumps. Sometimes, the bumps changed into pictures, but not today.

“Do you have a cigarette?”



Wisps of gray smoke escaped the balcony. The plants on the ledge slanted toward the sun, but could not reach it.

The son walked to the mailbox. An old frog rested in the busy street. There was no mail.

He tried to breathe. He tried not to breathe. He fell onto the couch. His heart pounded. The TV was turned off.

The son looked at his cell phone, but no one had called.

—Drew Rhodes

“Defensible Space”

As forest fire season loomed, he hacked back the scotch broom and the manzanita in pursuit of defensible space. He dragged the brush to the center of the back clearing, and there it sat.

“I thought I saw a bevy of quail in the brush pile today,” he said.

“I think you mean a covey,” smiled his wife.

“Coven—whatever. We have to burn the pile this time.”

He was referring to the New Year’s Eve debacle when the traditional great blaze had been scaled back because she had heard frogs croaking in the bottom of the pile and demanded it be disassembled. He thought the smaller piles lacked the dramatic effect of a real rip-roarer.

“It’s full of birds, you know,” she said, as he regarded her with the sorrowful eyes of a man who has dragged a great deal of brush uphill.

—Elizabeth Ketelle
Garden Valley


“After Life”

A somber procession filed through rows of tombstones. Wet faces and heavy hearts lay Grandfather to rest. Sad cries could be heard over touching eulogies.

Hovering overhead, his soul grieved for them.

Then loud voices called out beside him, “Welcome! This is Old Stone neighborhood.” Two spirits floated above their nearby graves.

“I am Dan,” one waved enthusiastically.

“Call me Martha,” curtsied the other.

“Henry,” he spoke, drifting closer. “It has been many years since we got fresh meat. Let’s party!”

Disembodied dead rose from below, cheering or laughing. Late past midnight they caroused, long after all mourners had departed.

—Sarah Reed
Rancho Cordova


He called me “responsible.”

It was an insult. I took it as a dare. I’d show him. I set out to do just that. I’ll prove to this blue-eyed bearded man I absolutely was not.

As I stepped out of the liquor store the next morning, brown bag in hand, I noticed a sign across the street, “Vietnamese Acupuncturist.” I looked down at my bottle in a bag and crossed the street. Weathered wooden steps led me to the front door, which was wide open. I stopped at the door and contemplated if I was actually ready for this. I wasn’t, so I went in.

I passed a child pissing in the corner of the waiting room. An older gray-haired Vietnamese woman stepped from behind a gently used bed sheet and stared me in the eye.

I followed her to what would be the last place I’d ever be.

—Amanda Potts

“Two Forty Five A.M.”

A gurgled burp blasts the angry spew of a long forgotten shot of 100 percent blue agave tequila over the shelf of my throat and catches the mantle of my tongue. I swallow it back as to coat my words of encouragement … something to the sound of “fuck, yeah.” The pounding increases while my one good eye ceases to gaze in an attempt to locate sobriety somewhere in between the back of my eyelids.

She taps the brakes on her six-Sapphire-tonic motion and now it feels like love. I search for a spot on her back until I land on a blotchy dolphin-humping-the-air-in-front-of-a-half-moon tattoo above her ass. I hear the dolphin squealing from a tuna net. Tuna. Mustard. Relish. Clam fucking chowder … puke spilling out from the front of my toes to the back of my clenched teeth and then all over her hack job of a tattoo.

—Gregory Westcott

“Night Flight”

Deep in the night, I awoke; high above the Earth, under a sky full of stars. The lights of sleeping towns winked yellow and white, sprinkled across the vast, dark land. Great cities glowed at the edges of the world. I perceived a distant line of snow-clad mountains; I felt the wind on my face as, joyfully, I flung myself toward them.

Swiftly, silently, I soared above the glistening peaks, raced up and down long, frozen valleys; darted, danced and dived among mighty tree trunks and slalomed breathlessly over drifted snow.

I came suddenly upon Lake Tahoe. A tumescent moon arose as I sped over flashing waves to my lover’s house. I found her, asleep before a fireplace of red, glowing coals.

Her naked body gleamed in the moonlight. I drifted toward her, when suddenly I was snared, tangled, snarled; thrashing and gnashing, in one of those stupid dreamcatchers!

—Daniel Dunivant
Citrus Heights


The early morning sun stabbed the fetid air. The pounding awoke me. I bolted up. My head was pounding like a Taiko concert. My mouth tasted like the Indonesian Army marched through. It was the clove cigarette. The evening slowly reveals itself.

I was at the bar when a bachelorette party entered. I kissed a bridesmaid and traded shots with the bride-to-be. It was wild for a moment. That’s when I saw her sitting at the bar.

She was ultra chic, with a blond hairdo and those trademark retro glasses. She was my type of woman, except she smoked cloves, wore too much makeup and was as large as me. Now I lay in her bed.

The pounding continued. I stepped to the floor. She lay in a pool of coagulated blood. Her blond wig was askew.

She was a he.

The pounding came from the door.

—Patrick Powers

“Sneeze Flash”

“Bless you.”

“Ah, there’s another one—acchooo!—coming.”

“Again, bless you. Hey, how come you never say it?”

“I’m agnostic and I don’t believe in blessing people for … sneezing.”

“Okay, atheist. It’s just a courtesy.”

“A religious one.”

“I don’t see it as religious.”

“You’re blessing me.”

“It’s just a damned saying; it’s not like I’m qualified to actually bless you.”

“I agree.”

“Then why don’t you say it?!”

“Like you said, it is a ‘damned saying’: Bless you. Funny, huh? A courtesy gesture turns out to be damning?”

“You are ridiculous.”

“I’m observant.”

“Look, next time I sneeze, at least say something.”


“Cover your mouth.”

“What the F! I fake-sneezed!”

“And I said something. Sneezes contain thousands of droplets of germs at high projectile rates. You should cover your mouth; it’s courteous.”

“Damn you.”

“You already did, twice. When I sneezed with courtesy.”

—Kelly Rivas


Henry tossed the empty bottle into the river. “She’s still got a thing for me, Joe. Shoulda heard her today.”

Joe pulled a full bottle from his sleeping bag. He twisted it open, took a slug and handed it to Henry. “So you can go back.”

“When she recognized me, she made this little startled noise—like she used to … in bed.”

“The good life again, man.”

“That same little noise.”

“Four walls, a roof.”

“I can’t go back, Joe.”

“You said she wants you.”

“Wants me.” Henry held up the bottle. “Not this.”

Joe nodded. He watched Henry drink, then took the bottle, finished it and tossed it into the riffled moon. “I understand.”

But later, while Joe slept, Henry had to explain further.

“It was like a catch in the breath, y’know? When we were in bed. A whisper. Right there in my ear.”

—Larry E. Graham