Micro Fiction: The Other Side of the Coin by Justin Ballard

“This doctor is never on time” I muttered while fiddling with my coin.

Though I am grateful despite having to sit here for 66 minutes. He’s one of the good ones. He helped me for 39 glorious minutes that proved more valuable than the 12 years before. I was on 8 more medications than 4 years prior. Facing 3 more to balance the side effects of the others. (HA!) It shouldn’t be a joke. Just seems laughable how I didn’t notice extra bottles in my cabinet till now.

I gave my coin to a woman on the way out.

© Copyright 2016 Justin Ballard. All rights reserved.
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Justin Ballard is a Renaissance man. This is his second micro fiction story.

#82 Passing Castle Green by Jackie Pugh Kogan

I was nearly to Castle Green when the wind found its way beneath my collar. Off guard because there is never much winter here even in winter, I’d left the apartment without a scarf. No, not off guard. Daydreaming. Be honest. I flipped up the hood on my thin coat.

When I’d first spotted her that hot, bright day last summer, the light intense, rendering shadows sharp, I’d been heading for the bus, as I am now, on my way to the library to shelve books for another eight hours, to waste another day. I could have been painting in good light. No! Honesty, remember? I haven’t had the oils out in more than three years. And today is winter, it’s overcast—light is needed to paint. Head cleared now?

Rushing past Castle Green that day, I’d happened to glance up at an uncurtained window on the fourth floor of the old apartment building and was stopped cold. Castle Green must have been a hotel then, I remember thinking, because the woman standing behind the glass, a woman much younger than myself, had the look of one out of time, the edges of her smoky and vague. I knew at once that something had bent in the stark contrast of light and shade on that summer afternoon, and I was looking at a girl in a hotel room where time had been dust for more than ninety years. She wore a gold, fringed flapper dress, and the slender cerise silk scarf around her neck draped light as web down her narrow back. I knew at once who she was, though. No question of that. No, I was not daydreaming.

The same jaw line; the same dark cap of hair, not long and straggly and graying like that beneath my coat, but deep chestnut and cut with precision, shingled in the latest fashion; the same slender arms bent at the elbows; the familiar hands tilted slightly as if to ward off what might come too close. She was looking intensely just beyond the frame, her eyes wide, and I knew a man was there. But I didn’t know if she welcomed his approach or not.

It was me, I have no doubt: up in that room, dressed in satin lame and cherry silk, a Gatsby ready to step into my arms. I stopped and stared at my young self, desperate to know the right thing to do. To repel or embrace? To turn or surrender? If I had been daydreaming, I would have dreamed myself around that man, flooded myself into him. It would have been impossible to tell if I consumed him, or him me.

But I wrenched away and ran to the bus, left myself and ran to work and books and plans for my next painting. I promised I wouldn’t think of what I’d seen, that I would forget I might have lived another life, might have bourne it out with a lover, perhaps even children, drawn on through the years and lain down one night an old, old woman with no regrets.

But I couldn’t forget her. My better self. My luckier self. And I resisted every day, and instead gripped veracity by its ragged throat, and swore to keep my face pointed toward reality. The woman I’d seen was surely one of my daydreams, though even as I repeated my mantra day after day—truth, truth—even as I walked to the bus for weeks and months in a plodding, tunneled line, I glimpsed my sly and lying face grinning with a long-nosed nasty snicker, happy I was so deluded.

I could only hold out so long, though. Truth is how you see, I know that now. I have claimed my fox-face; it has traded places with restraint, and I don’t care. I want to see her again, in a life where possibility waits.

But will I? Will I see her? Has she ( I ) been there ever since that summer day? If I had walked by Castle Green any time since, would time have parted at its cleft, and would I have been there, framed in that window and in time?
Because it was the light, wasn’t it? The bright summer light and its sharp partner shadow that brought me to myself, brought the vision forward to the level of my eyes? But today is winter, overcast, drab, everything the same. There are no shadows. Do I exist without light?

I turn the corner and train my gaze up to the fourth floor window, dark and barren. She is not there. I am struck, hollowed, by how predictable this moment was; the other side has won again. How palpably I feel disappointment, burnt and grainy, like soot carried in the wind. It goes down my neck despite my hood and buffets me as I turn away.

But the corner of my eye catches something up there, deep in the glass, and I turn back. She moves forward, and there I am. For a moment we switch places, and I am looking down from the window into my own webbed and watery eyes.

From the sidewalk I see I am not smiling up there in that window frame. My uncertain hands are deep in the pockets of a plush dark coat, and a tall black collar arches about my head, a corona of fur. I am cold. I do not smile. I am not angry, not sad. It is clear, even to me, that I understand reality, that’s all, that I see truth after all, and we both know that nothing would change.

I long for my easel. A monochrome portrait, winter bereft of color. Perfect. I can feel the dusty box open beneath my fingers as they wrap around the slim handles of sable brushes. I dip in black and trace the window frame, the high fur collar, and sweep a lash above her dark and fluid and despairing eye.

Then I turn and run. I will miss the bus, and I can’t be late for work.

I am not daydreaming. I am sure of it. Honest.

© Copyright 2016 Jackie Pugh Kogan. All rights reserved.


jackie-koganJackie Pugh Kogan holds and MFA from Chico State University and is a Los Angeles based writer working primarily in fiction of the American West.

Publications include short stories in ROAR, Dream International Quarterly, The Northridge Review, and poetry in Crazy Woman Creek: Women Rewrite the American West (Houghton Mifflin, 2004).

Micro fiction: Détente by Miko Johnston

We cling together while the earth shakes, trees topple, our hearts pound.

We’re unhurt, but forward path’s obliterated, return trail’s impassable, and we’ve no supplies.

Bushes rustle; a young backpacking couple emerge, sharing a canteen.

“Got any extra?” I ask.

The couple exchange glances. Guy shakes his head. “Shouldn’t be out here without water, grandpa,” then asks lady, “Where to now?”

Lady taps her cellphone. “No signal. Try GPS.”

Guy switches it on. “Nothing.”

“Damn. What’r we gonna do?”

Chuckling, I hold up a trail map. Guy slumps. Lady reaches into his pack and tosses me a bottle of water.

© Copyright 2016 Miko Johnston. All rights reserved.
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Miko Johnston is the author of the A Petal In The Wind series of historical novels. She’s a founding member of Writers in Residence. A former Glendale resident, she now lives in Washington (the big one).

Micro fiction: Chester Wintersnap Knew the Odds & He Was No Gambler by Geanora D. Bonner

But he loved his Mrs. so didn’t counter delusion with sensible logic.

At a bodega on the border of despair, he chose the wiser “pay over time” option. Leaving, he chuckled. A grubby hand stretched his way. A
woman? Feeling magnanimous, he said, “Share the dream,” and let the hand select one of the fluttering tickets. He ignored the inquiry of
how he could be reached when “they” won.

Mrs. was envious of the polished woman who held the large pasteboard check days later. Chester could not see her hands and so never knew how the odds had worked.

© Copyright 2016 Geanora D. Bonner. All rights reserved.
• • • • •
Not exactly straight but out of Compton and almost to Portland (OR), Geanora D. Bonner has always written. For more than 40 years she approached writing like a timid woman in a demure one-piece preparing to swim at a public beach in July. Now she is trying to be more like the 300-pound man in a Speedo plunging into the pond on New Year’s Day.

#81 The Move by W.L. Wren

You are in a box. You’ve only a handful of inches to any side—left and right, before and behind.

The world trembles and rumbles. Every so often, it tilts inexplicably.

Faces appear in front of you. Squinting. They are four to five times the size of your own. They coo and murmur. They insert large appendages through slats in the box. Pink appendages. Brown appendages. Appendages knuckled and supple like tree branches, each trying to poke and scratch you.

Voices ask if you’re okay and you want to say, “I’m in a box! How okay can I be?” Instead, you ignore them and hope they go away.

Vague memories from childhood surface. Images of people in white coats who jab and prod and stick you with things that make you sleep. You remember waking. You remember several mutilations. “My God!” you think. “What will they do to me now? What’s left of me to cut and remove?”

Uneasy, you curl your tail beneath your hind end. Fur falls from you like faded blossoms.

Then, all movement stops. After some moments, the box rises and sways. “What now?” you think. “What now?”

The assuring voice that never assures is closer. As the box travels with jerks, the voice mutters without cessation.

Finally, the box sits on what appears to be solid ground. One of its sides falls away and you look out on a dubious freedom.

You recognize nothing. There are no familiar sights. The scents are all wrong. Nothing sounds as it should except for the murmuring voice that will sometimes offer comfort but this time simply annoys.

With wary steps, you leave the box.

Head lifted, nose furiously trying to identify, you turn left and right. Suddenly, a sharp noise sounds behind you and you’re off. You run. You had already spotted the place—the sofa by the wall near the window.

Before anyone or anything can stop you, you’re behind the sofa. It’s cramped but this is good. Experience tells you they cannot get at you here. You are dug in; you will not leave. You can outwait the voice. You can outwait them all.

Soon, the darkness will come and with it all voices, appendages, and boxes will leave, banished from the feline night.

Then, with guerilla stealth, you will lay claim to this new country. With quiet sedition, you will come to own it, as you own all places in which you reside, for domestic worlds are easily ruled by civilized savages.

© Copyright 2016 W.L. Wren. All rights reserved.


w-l-wrenW.L. Wren (better known as Bill) is a writer in New Brunswick, Canada. He has had several stories published previously by the Rose City Sisters. He has one ebook collection of stories on Amazon, Disrupted Lives and Other Commotions. His next ebook will be available soon.

 

Micro fiction: Glass Ceiling by MaryJane (MJ) Thornburg

Arctic vortex, pineapple express…whatever it is, another snowstorm was in full force. Appearing out of nowhere, snow blowing in all directions, felt similar to her life, whirling out of control. The storms were happening more often. And would stop just as fast.

Unpredictable turbulence seemed to mirror her life.  Work was never-ending, and she felt closed in, the glass ceiling was very much keeping her stuck.  She focused on the road, trying to make her path clear.  She felt trapped and enclosed.

Meanwhile in another world: “Mia, come to dinner and PLEASE stop shaking that snow globe…”

© Copyright 2016 MaryJane (MJ) Thornburg. All rights reserved.
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MaryJane (MJ) Thornburg is a Rose City Sisters reader who decided to try writing fiction. This is her second story.

Micro fiction: The Wedding Gown by Jackie Pugh Kogan

I return the gown to Panache, and, empty bag in hand, reach the door, brush off a tear. The windows frame a rain-slick street, gutters flooding.

Were his words slick as assaulted streets? Or do I need to turn the glass to my own expectation. I long for a window through which to see truth framed. The Iraqui desert is made of glass, they say; flooding the mouth, sand tears all the way down.

And the empty bag? A strip of torn underskirt is imprisoned in a grommet. My eyes flood. I should tell them perhaps the gown is flawed.

© Copyright 2016 Jackie Pugh Kogan. All rights reserved.
• • • • •
Jackie Pugh Kogan is a Los Angeles based writer working primarily in gothic fiction of the American West. Publications include short stories in ROAR, Dream International Quarterly, The Northridge Review, and poetry in Crazy Woman Creek: Women Rewrite the American West (Houghton Mifflin, 2004).