Shaken by KC Hampton

Henry tapped his greased fingers on the steering wheel as he hummed along to a rock song that shook the speakers. He glanced at his wife, Sandra, whose gaze was fixed out the window, to the ocean below.

“Why did you go this way? You know I hate bridges,” she said.

“What?” he shouted over the music.

She jammed the radio knob in command for it to go silent. “I said, I hate bridges! I don’t know why you always go this way! Or play the music so damn loud!” she shouted.

“Because it’s the quickest way, dear,” he replied in a calm tone. “Don’t get your knickers in a wad. Your fear for bridges is just an illusion, you’ll be fine.”

She crossed her arms over her chest and turned her gaze back out the window.

They sat in silence for a spare moment as traffic slowed down and they got stuck behind a charter bus moving at a snail’s pace.

Sandra let out a long breath. “See? I told you, we should have stuck to our usual route,” she said as her leg shook, with nerves. “We should have left work early. We’re not going to make it to the kids on time.”

“In time for what?”

“It’s Ann’s graduation day, one of the biggest days of her life. Of course, you don’t remember, you never remember.”

“Here we go again.”

“Yes, here we go again! It’s always the same thing with you! You’re always late, you never care about me or the kids—”

“Whoa, that’s not fair!”

“No, you’re right, it’s not fair, Henry! I work two jobs, still take care of the house and kids, and feed your fat ass!”

“And you don’t think I work? You don’t think I put a roof over your head? I think you should really take a hard look at the big picture before you open your smart-ass mouth again, dearest,” he said with a threat.

“I want a divorce. And I mean it this time,” she said, not taking her bloodshot eyes away from him.

Henry looked at his wife with shock and hurt in his eyes. He opened his mouth to argue when the car felt like it got a flat tire, and they swerved.

* * *

I was in the bathroom, caking on an extra layer of hair spray and makeup as I watched the tiny clock on my bathroom counter.

My siblings ran about the house with no sense. Amy yelled at Lynn to give her Cabbage Patch doll back, Lynn responded by ripping it in half and throwing it at her. Amy punched her with revenge, which was followed by screams from both girls, “Ann!”

My head was pounding with such force that I almost didn’t hear the door banging at the same rhythm, threatening my skull to explode.

I opened the door with annoyance and said, “What now? Don’t you two know I have a headache!”

“Lynn ripped my Cabbage Patch doll!” Amy shouted.

“Amy punched me!” Lynn retorted.

I bent down to see her shiny new black eye. “Oh my God! Amy, what did you do?”

“She started it!”

“No, I didn’t! Don’t lie!”

“I don’t care if the damn Cabbage Patch started it, I have to get ready and I don’t have ti—”

The floors began to roll, then the walls shook and knocked pictures onto the floor. I grabbed the screaming girls and ran to an arch in the foyer as my family has done in the past.

“Is it over?” Lynn asked as she took a step out of our safe zone.

I grabbed her and held tight. “No, wait for the aftershock.”

I waited a few minutes after the shaking had subsided before I let my sisters breathe. I raced to the TV and turned on the news.

“For those just tuning in: it’s October 17, 1989, the San Andreas Fault has ruptured, recording the largest earthquake in history. Breaking: the Oakland Bridge has collapsed.” The news lady reported.

My eyes extended wider than a full moon on Halloween night as I tried to comprehend what she just said.

“Isn’t that the bridge mom and dad take coming home?” Amy asked, worried.

“No, Mom hates bridges. Don’t worry. They’ll be fine,” I said, with as much reassurance I could have mustered.

The phone lines went dead and all we could do was wait.

Copyright © 2022 KC Hampton All rights reserved

KC Hampton writes poems and stories when she is not playing with her dog, Buca di Beppo. This is her first flash fiction submisson for the Rose City Sisters.

The Fork in the Road by Lynn Nicholas

The wedding couple were our colleagues. They seated you at my table. The evening was hot and humid—the wine cooling and delicious. I toasted the newlyweds, glass after glass. My professional reserve evaporated.

You waxed witty and teasing, and I leaned into you, giddy and laughing. You asked me to dance. I stood, unsteady. You proffered a supportive hand. Your arm slipped around my waist. I closed my eyes and drank in the scent of you: sun-washed cotton and spicey cologne.

I turned; our eyes locked. Wordless, our hearts signed an irrevocable, binding contract. That night, our paths converged.

Copyright © 2021 Lynn Nicholas All rights reserved

Lynn Nicholas’ first novel, Dancing Between the Beats, was published in 2019. Short fiction and poetry publication credits include Story Snacks and The Storyteller (published by Society of Southwestern Authors), Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, SandScript Arts & Literary Magazine, The Wild Word, Every Day Fiction, The Rose City Sisters, Wow! Women on Writing, Leaves of Ink, and the AARP Bulletin. Lynn is a member of Sisters in Crime and the Society of Southwestern Authors.

The New Normal by Paula Johnson

When the bot was out of beta, Lester knew he had a goldmine. By entering some keywords and a premise, he could generate a buzzword-laden business book in 24 hours. A few more clicks—and eleven bucks—bought a cover design from a digital sweatshop in a country with a name he could not pronounce.

Let the thought leaders do deep dives into topics du jour, thought Lester. He was happy in the shallow end, cranking out three books a month and knowing his innovative publishing model reflected unprecedented out-of-the-box thinking combined with agile, synergistic execution.

© Copyright 2021 Paula Johnson. All rights reserved.

Paula Johnson is the founder and editrix of The Rose City Sisters website. Join her email list  and get invited to her book launch party!

Queen of Diamonds by Lynn Nicholas

Six paintings sold! Carey pumped her arms overhead and swayed to Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler.” Apropos. Her gamble on an unknown artist had paid off. Humming, Carey locked the gallery and set the alarm. The mess and champagne bottles could wait. Besides, a seat at Soboba’s Casino’s poker table, and a couple of martinis, would top off her night perfectly.
Except for the smokers loitering outside the dance clubs, the street was empty. The theater wasn’t out as yet. If she’d locked up an hour ago, she could have begged a lift to her car. Carey’s footsteps echoed on the pavement. The long walk to the dirt parking lot was unappealing, but tonight finding parking at all was pure luck.
After six blocks, the arts district merged with a once-stylish neighborhood awaiting gentrification. Carey’s feet rebelled in her narrow, new boots. But there it was, right after the fire hydrant—a cobbled alley she knew was a shortcut.
Carey hesitated at the entrance. During daylight hours this was just your typical graffitied alley, but after dark it was, well, dark.

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Mise en place or yours? by Paula Johnson

They met at a potluck and bonded over Larry’s incredible cookies. “Scharffen Berger,” he murmured later as he kissed Justine’s neck. “Chocolate chips…for adults only.” She fell hard when he explained how he ground his own flour from organic wheat.

He planned the perfect meal for popping the question: Arugula salad with figs, prosciutto, and truffle oil. Coq au Vin with homemade egg noodles. To finish? Dark chocolate semifreddo drizzled with salted caramel syrup.

She said yes to seconds, and to forever with him. No traditional fondant-entombed wedding cake for them—each table at the reception was presented with a Croquembouche.

© Copyright 2019 Paula Johnson. All rights reserved.
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Paula Johnson is the founder and editrix of The Rose City Sisters website. Join her email list  and get invited to her book launch party!

The Conference by Margaret Welsh

The little child sat between her smiling parents whose knees almost touched their chins. The teacher in black, reclined in a chair shaped like a purple shoe, gazed down at the family eager to hear about their first-grader; they paid for this privilege. Most couldn’t ignore the Scorpion’s tail waving languidly over the teacher’s head, but these parents did. The teacher spoke to the child in her baby voice: “Who are your friends here?” She asked, cocking her head like a bird. The child kept her gaze, not to be anathematized and said back “You?”

© Copyright 2018 Margaret Welsh. All rights reserved.
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Margaret Welsh is a certified yoga therapist and actress who lives in Los Angeles.