Flash Fiction

Flash Fiction

I hear Dad’s voice through the blare of my alarm, Never snooze, just get up. I roll over, sit up, swing my legs off the mattress. Make your bed first thing, Mom says, and I can see her in my mind pulling blue sheets taut under the fluffed pillows of her and Dad’s king-sized bed, floral quilt over those.

I leave my bed with the bottom sheet half on the floor, the faded blue quilt Mom bought me years ago is jumbled in a ball. I stumble through my door, to the bathroom. Under the yellow of my piss, the white ceramic is ringed in brown-orange lines. I left a toilet brush under the sink for you, Mom whispered last time she came over, but its stiff bristles have been dry for months.

I throw water over my face. My eyes are red in the mirror. I only drink on weekends, my little sister’s voice chirps, that stuff is poison. Smear toothpaste on my brush. Three times a day, my grandma always said, unless you want to end up with teeth like mine. She’d laugh after she said it, her mouth open so I could see the gaps where her incisors should be.

I pull on a pair of basketball shorts over my boxers and slip on a tank top, baggy over my chest. You should start lifting, I hear my older brother say, taking in my frame through squinted eyes. You know building muscle helps reduce strain on your joints.

Out the back door to the stoop for a cigarette. When are you going to quit that garbage, Dad sneers, you’re wasting so much money on that shit. I inhale deeply, settle into the jolt of nicotine hitting my bloodstream.

My phone buzzes and I see a text message from Mom. If you can’t make it tonight for family dinner at least message me please, we miss you.

Staring at my screen, I see my brother across the table from me, asking, Have you gotten a job yet?

Maybe if you’d wear pants that fit, Dad mutters and without meaning to, I hike up my slipping shorts by their waistband. You have to treat your job search like a job, my sister says, and Mom smiles with, I’m sure you’ll find something soon.

I step back inside. On the kitchen table I displace bills, books, grocery ads. I find what I’m looking for, a flat, almost-rectangle no bigger than my pinky nail. Leftovers. Vanilla fudge, that’s what it always reminds me of. You want another piece of my fudge? Grandma would say and Mom would answer, He’s had enough, you give him anymore he’ll never settle down. I crush the fudge under the weight of my pocketknife.

My phone buzzes again and I picture Mom’s photo, the one with all of us in it. I can see the dinner table more clearly now, hear them all talking at once, offering their advice, each word a reminder of how I’ve fucked up and how, if I want to be better, I have to listen to them, do as they say. My thumb slips on the lighter. Dad says, Real men can start a fire without one, then the flame warms the pipe and I breathe and their voices, all of them, stop.



I started following Cindy because I wanted to see what bad things happened to her. I was worried I might miss them, so every day I walked closer behind her, until she was running away from me, screaming, “Leave me alone,” while I chased after her. She’s so slow, I could have knocked her down on the ground and spit in her mouth. I didn’t today, but maybe I will tomorrow.

Dad rolls his eyes when Mom tells him at the table that Cindy’s mom called her, complaining about me.

“So? He probably has a crush on her.” The grease from the chicken leg he’s biting into make his lips gleam and while he puts the leg down, he winks at me and says, “So Teddy, is this Cindy pretty?”

I squirm in my seat and fill my mouth with a forkful of rice.

It’s not that I like Cindy, it’s just that a few weeks before Mom told me to play outside but it was Auntie Sam’s last day and I didn’t want her to leave. Mom’s happier when Auntie Sam’s around. Dad doesn’t yell or throw things during her visits. I crept back into the house and was tiptoeing passed the cracked kitchen door when I heard Mom say,

“I don’t want Teddy growing up without a father, bad things happen to children who don’t have a father.”

That’s when I started paying extra attention to the kids in my class who didn’t have fathers.

Now, watching Dad chew the corners of his chicken bone, I remember how he smiled at divorced Mrs. Brown and said, “You know how boys are,” after Frank fell off his bike while we were playing together. Mom was right, bad things do happen to kids without fathers. I envision pushing my foot between Cindy’s short legs, I wonder if they’d jam up like when a stick’s held between bicycle spokes.


About the Author

Kristi Ferguson is a researcher and writer. Originally from Brazil, she currently lives in Arlington, Virginia with her husband. Kristi's writing has appeared or is forthcoming in (mac)ro(mic), The Daily Drunk, Litro Magazine, Fabula Argentea, and elsewhere. Connect with her on Twitter @KFergusonWrites.