Amsterdam © Norman MacDonald
We’re pleased to be back,
after a long leave of absence due to
health problems. I’m glad to report I’m recovered and that Amsterdam
and I will now do our imitation of a Phoenix.
You will find it has been worth the wait. Some new artwork and
layouts have been added and the site will be getting a real facelift
It gives me tremendous joy every time a true gem of a story or
poem comes over the transom. Sometimes I offer reprints of stories or
that have appeared elsewhere; good writing should be shared with as
audience as possible. If an exceptional novel can be compared to a
flash fiction available here is a superb assortment of small dishes.
J. Brazill: ON
WINGS OF SONG
Sati Benes: RIPTIDE
Davidson: GRANDPA’S FARM
Kim Huchinson: FLASHBACK
Dow Ford: QUILLER
Zinta Aistars: SCRABBLED
Don’t be shy: please give me and/or the writers feedback. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
the archives for more reading pleasure.
The next issue will be online in the middle of January.
On Wings of Song
by William J. Brazill
Dorota Florkowska played the violin at funerals. Not
at large churches which had their own
choirs and organs, but in small intimate ceremonies held at funeral
She specialized in playing Massenet’s Meditation from
Thais, which she thought had the lyrical transcendence to console the
grief-stricken and to hearten those who felt bereft of hope. Her income was modest from this work, but it
maintained her identity as a professional musician, which was
important to her.
Last Tuesday she was summoned for a performance at
Justify Funeral Gallery, and she arrived to discover that she was to
her mother’s funeral. She did not know that her mother was alive, so
that she had died was not a deep shock.
One result of not living at home was that she did not get news
Her brothers were surprised and irritated to see her,
doubtless feeling that her coming back would lead to complications
dividing up the mother’s estate.
Andrzej, acting as he had since a child when feeling stressed,
bark. Grzegorz slammed the lid of his
mother’s coffin shut with a bang. Piotr went into
his imitation of a catatonic state.
In the face of these early-warning signs of
trouble, Justify kept the funeral service moving on schedule. Father Chrobot rose to read a set formula of
prayers from a well-thumbed breviary, his voice nasal and pinched. Then he decided to speak spontaneously,
unintentionally revealing that he knew nothing at all about the
her family. He had her name wrong. He praised her skills as a seamstress and
embroiderer, despite the fact that she could not even sew a button on.
of spiritual virtues she did not in fact have. “Arf! Arf! Arf.”
barking grew louder and more insistent.
Grzegorz tried to push the coffin out of the room, but he chose
doorway too narrow to permit it. Piotr’s eyes rolled into the top of
Passersby heard the din and hurried inside to
investigate. Before long the rooms were
filled with crowds of curiosity seekers.
Justify pushed Dorota toward the coffin in the hope that a
interlude might lull the crowd into quiet.
Dorota placed the bow artfully over the strings of her
violin. To her surprise, the violin did not play Massenet’s Meditation
Thais. It began to play Mendelssohn’s On
Wings of Song. She was unable to
get the instrument under her control as it sped into playing the
with deep passion. Andrzej’s barking
The crowd drew suddenly quiet when the coffin lid burst
open and the mother leapt out of the coffin with astounding agility. Dorota continued playing On
Wings of Song as her mother took her by the
arm and led her out of the funeral home.
The crowd followed them.
As Dorota and her mother made their way out the front
door, they met the police summoned by neighbors who feared a public
Assured that the mother was alive, the police decided just to control
of traffic. Led by Dorota and her violin, the crowd wove through the
the city, steadily increasing in numbers along the way.
Back at the funeral home, Father Chrobot dozed on a sofa,
Andrzej barked disconsolately, Piotr floated three inches above the
Grzegorz lay in the coffin. Justify began preparing the gallery for the
The tones of On Wings of Song slowly receded into the
About the author: William Brazill had a career
researching and writing in the social sciences, including two books,
until discovering that truth lies in
fiction. He now lives on the Virginia bank
Potomac River in the US where he writes fiction and watches the water
On Wings of Song was originally published by Barfing Frog Press in
by Sati Benes
The sand is thick and glossy like
raw Hawaiian sugar. I
dig my white toes in deeper, listen to the rhythmic pounding of the
feel the sun beat a tattoo on my torso.
A girl walks by. She is as brown as a vanilla
glistens with tiny droplets of seawater which bead on her flesh as they
I’m here, in Honolulu. I’ve made it.
I chew on a fluorescent cherry and drain the rum from my
Mai Tai. I almost close my eyes when I see Noriko— the woman I’ve been
for. She struggles to cross a busy road with two small children. I
her side; help them by scooping up the boy and his inflated green
turtle. Noriko’s never seen me before but asks me to join them for an
cream. I say yes, of course, and by the time macadamia nut ice cream
down her son’s tiny chin, we’ve become friends.
It is almost too easy.
The alarm goes off the next morning at 6:00
stretch slowly and wince at the scratchy nylon bedcover under my legs.
about why I am here: Christian, the only man who ever meant anything in
If I close my eyes I can still see his cool green eyes
and gleaming smile, a small dimple in his left cheek. If we’d married
years ago, we’d be a restless couple by now, no doubt about it. Perhaps
have children with his green eyes and mischievous grin, children I’d be
struggling to ferry across busy parking lots after a day at the beach.
my alternate future, of course.
The parallel universe in which Christian does not blow
his head off at age twenty-one.
Noriko and I quickly become friends, and a few weeks
later, when her nanny calls in sick, she calls me to help take the kids
beach. I go, of course. Cotton ball clouds dot a perfect azure sky, and
and Chris squat like impassioned architects, building a sand castle not
feet away from us. I ask Noriko the question that’s been burning a hole
throat. I’m still cautious, though—I ask about the girl first.
“So, what does Mika mean? It’s Japanese, right?”
“Beautiful flower.” Noriko twirls white sand with her
fingers, head cocked, and stares dreamily at Mika in that way that only
mother does: two parts adoration and one part obsession.
“Oh, it’s always been a favorite name of mine. His full
name is Christian. I had a boyfriend in college with that name.”
“Uh, what happened to Christian?” I blush and quickly
reword my question. “I mean, between you and Christian, that is?”
Noriko slips her sunglasses up onto her head and stares
out at the dark blue sea. She is quiet for a moment before answering.
suddenly looks older, and for the first time I wonder if I am right
about her guilt.
“It was a long time ago. I wasn’t ready to settle down.
Back then, I couldn’t imagine marrying an American. He got a little too
intense, and so we just drifted apart. Then my mother died, and I moved
Japan. And that was it.”
There’s a long silence as I digest everything that Noriko
says. Is it possible that she has no idea that Christian is dead? Or is
There’s no way to know for sure. I can only guess. And so
I push it a bit further. “Sounds like you really liked Christian.
happened to him?”
And then, every bit of compassion that has begun to build
in me is destroyed when she says, “Oh, it was nothing serious. Not for
anyway. Christian had some boring girlfriend his family expected him to
and I imagine that’s how he ended up—fat and bored, but rich, thanks to
girlfriend. Anyway, like I said, it was nothing. We weren’t together
I just liked his name, that’s all.”
With that she stands up and stretches her slim frame so
that the tiny red and black hibiscus patterned bikini barely covers her.
I feel the collective interest of every person within a
half-mile radius and think “Bitch. Lucky for you all eyes are on us.”
Oblivious, she reaches in the cooler for a Diet Coke. She
glances at me, yawning. “Want one?”
If I stay here much longer, attention be damned, I’ll
smother her in the sand or beat her head in with the ice cold can of
mumble something about going for a swim and stumble down the beach,
headlong into a big wave that is too close to shore. I feel myself spin
the wave, then get dragged back out to sea, my back rubbed raw by sand
salt. Something sharp pokes at my spine, perhaps coral, but I don’t
ocean. If it’s my time to go, I’m ready.
It's only as I surface, twenty or thirty feet from where
I started, that I realize it is my time, not to die, but to act.
Noriko must pay. She ruined my life as well as
Christian’s, and she doesn’t even realize it. I take a deep breath and
shimmering sand for Noriko and the kids.
I wonder if they can swim.
About the author: Born in Kathmandu, Sati Benes taught
English in Japan before getting her MA in Japanese Literature from the
University of Hawaii. She works in the
Asian Art Department of a major Honolulu museum and is a slave to her
dachshunds, Toffee and Mocha. email@example.com
by Renee Holland Davidson
When Grandpa died, he left us what he'd called a farm,
what we called a five-acre patch of hard dirt, abundant with nothing
weeds and rocks. He'd lived on that farm for forty
years, twenty of them
alone after Grandma up and left him, took off with nothing but her
temper and her calfskin handbag. Mom and Dad tried to get Grandpa off
that land; it just wasn't healthy for a man to be alone so much of the
But he refused to budge, telling us he was staying 'til Grandma came
But Grandma never came back, and then Grandpa died, all
by himself, with nothing but the dandelions around to wave good-bye.
The five of us--Mom, Dad, Sis, Jerry and me--walked the
land with Grandpa one last time, his ashes encased in a brass urn, a
thing he would have hated. We came upon the dried-up creek, and
up the hill to an outcropping of bedrock. From there we could see the
entire farm. We placed Grandpa's urn on top of a flat rock and said our
It wasn't until Jerry knelt down to open the urn that he
noticed it. At first, he thought it was only a small stick protruding
from the soil. And then he looked closer.
It was a bone, a human finger. Eyes wide, Jerry picked up
a sharp, pointed rock and began scraping around it.
When the entire hand came into view, he jumped up,
kicking Grandpa's urn off its pedestal.
Grandpa's ashes escaped into the breeze while we all
stared, dumbfounded, at the skeletal hand in the earth--the tiny
Grandma's wedding ring like a yellowed eye squinting in the sun.
About the author: Renee Holland Davidson lives in
Southern California with her husband, Mark, and their two mischievous
Josie and Kinsey. Her fiction has
appeared in flashquake, Espresso Fiction, T-Zero and various other
publications. Renee's flash memoir Nothing At All is
published in Chicken Soup for the Shopper's Soul.
by Kim Hutchinson
beats a steady
She sits cross-legged
on the painted floor,
staring at shadows
of dead days,
from the rug,
her thoughts wandering
at the edge
of her sanity.
A lifeless sky
colors her void.
Her battered past,
finds its way
home to feed
on her shame.
She closes her eyes;
in the dark,
but not defeated.
opens them again
to the sight
of wrinkled hands,
to stand alone.
Nothing can ever be
History is hers.
She is doomed
to repeat it.
About the author: Kim Hutchinson is a writer,
journalist, and a transplanted Detroiter living in southwestern
short stories have been published in The Adirondack Review and
Literary Review. She’s currently working on a non-fiction book, due out
fall of 2007. firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Dow Ford
I had a dream last night.
It was just your standard flying porcupine dream.
You know, the one with the porcupine tethered
by a golden wire as he floats over the bald-headed men wearing shorts
cowboy boots. There was a sound track
this time: a Mex with a thin mustache
"si senioring" over and over to a quartet of belching
lumberjacks. The bald-headed men were
trying to stab the flying porcupine with sharpened sticks, and as they
at him, he shot sequined quills at them.
It was all really entertaining, of course, but what did it mean?
I got up and had my regular breakfast:
a cup of black coffee and two cigarettes.
Angeline was waltzing around in the new robe I got her for Christmas. I never told her I got it with green
stamps. I traded my air miles to old
Mrs. Pense for a suitcase full of the moldy stamps.
She needed the miles to fly up to see her boy
in the Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta.
And I wouldn't be flying again any time soon what with the
Security measures and such.
Out on the interstate things were brisk. When
I got to my exit the cars in the
cloverleaf looked like a giant fire ant bed that someone had stirred
yard rake. Finally, everything just
ground to a halt. I cut my engine, got
out of the Firebird, and walked over to a bridge railing.
Down below, the creek roiled angrily with
sick city water. Out on the hem of it,
the dark woods beckoned. As I watched, a
porcupine waddled out into the sunlight, stretched and arched his back
warmth. He turned his head toward me
and, I swear, he winked. Drivers began
blowing their horns and cursing. I
rolled my britches legs up over my boots, scrambled down the bank, and
up the first sharp stick I could find. I
knew I could suture up all wounds with a sequined quill and a length of
About the author:
Dow Ford lives in Oak Grove, Mississippi. email@example.com
by Zinta Aistars
His mind was like a Scrabble hand without vowels:
confusion like molasses, sticking together thoughts like tiles, a glop
senseless sounds. This. Never. Happens. Champ of the wordy arts, he was
Wordsmith Extraordinaire, and she, well, she wasn’t half-bad. While one
fingered and moved the tiles on their rack, arranging and rearranging,
other plucked at the tip of her long braid, snaking across her
could almost see the letters forming into words of syllabic potency in
Dare he admit his competitive nature? So much of his life
spent in a cubicle, not unlike these rows of squares, only the walls
around him and keeping in his creative whims. Monday through Friday,
the Company, the Boss with his whip: produce, Wordsmith, produce!
And he did. Relentlessly, dependably, efficiently, and
with an excellence that never went unpunished. Finished with one task,
were always three more. Wordsmith the Wordslave, daily flogged into
the senseless imbroglio.
But this board of words built upon words was his domain.
Here he ruled, and here, there was order. This board of even squares
to his mildly obsessive-compulsive nature. The beige of the tiles did
confront or offend. The pink of the scoring squares was as soothing as
color of Pepto-Bismol for the cramps of the addled brain. His words
intersected and so logically grew and multiplied one from the other.
There was even something subtly sensual about it. How the
tiles kissed. And produced their offspring. Yes. He was a Word God. Had
lost. Not once in…. years. Perhaps never, because at this molasses
could not remember such an atrocity happening. Not to him.
She placed them in orderly progression:
Triple word score.
Heartbroken, he looked at her across the table, and was
About the author: Zinta Aistars is a writer and
(LuxEsto, Zeenythe Communications, The Smoking Poet, Her Circle Ezine)
work has been published in the United States, Latvia, England, Sweden,
and Australia. Scrabbled was previously
published in Flash Me Magazine in 2005.