Category Archives: Flash fiction

#86 The Black Baby by Kelly I. Hitchcock

“Mommy, look! A Black baby!” bellowed my four-year-old son, Silas, in a volume characteristic of all children his age. “He’s so cuuuute!”

I felt my insides immediately freeze, unsure whether to be mortified or not. Outwardly, I kept idling my shopping cart along the grocery store aisle, being careful not to quicken or slow my pace, eyes pretending to look around for the brand of ground thyme I like but can never remember before stealing a glance at the woman wearing the tiny baby in a carrier. We couldn’t have looked more different. She was tall; I am short, not even able to reach the lone packet of Red Star yeast she effortlessly extracted from the top shelf and dropped into her cart. She had shimmering dark caramel skin; I have pasty, dull skin with freckles. She had thick African braids bundled up like a crown on her head, making her look even taller; I have thin brown hair that clings to my head like it’s afraid to go out into the world.

Her eyes didn’t meet mine, not even for a split second, and because she was wearing an N95 face mask I couldn’t tell from her facial expression whether she’d heard my son’s outburst or seen the instinctive recoil in my eyes. I guess I could thank my own brightly patterned face mask for hiding the flush in my cheeks. I could see my glasses fogging from the heat in my face and the mouth-breathing in my mask. What was I thinking bringing him with me? The entire trip to the store had thus far been a nonstop panic attack as I tried to keep Silas from touching any and all surfaces and I struggled to find half the shit on my shopping list. My husband had told me I should just get the groceries delivered while he worked his eighth straight day of twelve-hour shifts at the hospital, but we were critically low on everything in our house, particularly the gummy bunnies that ensured I could get ten minutes of uninterrupted work done before getting a repeat inquiry about my favorite dinosaur. Even the songs buzzing overhead at the grocery store were preferable to hearing the songs from Frozen on repeat.

Had I been the four-year-old child in Silas’s shopping cart, I know my own mother would have silenced me immediately and then punished me for embarrassing her later (and I certainly wouldn’t have dared ask for gummy bunnies, let alone gotten them). But even at four years old, I wouldn’t have dared make an observation like that because I already knew that we didn’t talk about people like that. Silas would never know the kind of casual and overt racism on display daily in the house I grew up in. His father would never tell “spook jokes.” Even if he someday tried to discover if the rumors about his great-grandfather’s involvement with the KKK were true, no one who knew the truth would say a word, even if they lived long enough to tell about it. Things like that, people like that, were not spoken of.

I wondered if, when he or she is old enough, this tall, caramel-skinned woman’s baby will point at strangers in the store and proclaim “Look, Mom! A white baby!” Probably not. And even if that happens one day, this mom would probably just grumble “Yep” and move on. It’s not like Silas has never seen Black babies or Black adults before. He’s been in the same daycare center since he was 12 weeks old and has been classmates with Black kids, Hispanic kids, Asian kids, Indian kids. He’s had Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Indian teachers. His classroom alone could be the BIPOC diversity photo on the daycare home page, and yet here he was, writhing about in a shopping cart the way the diagram on the seat flap warns against, loudly identifying passing infants by race.

It must be because he’s been cooped up in our house for the past 10 weeks, I thought to myself. Or was it even longer? The construct of time during the pandemic had long since ceased to follow any logical pattern. I was the only other person Silas saw or talked to most of the day, which bled into the next without structure, unless you counted the rare occasions his Dad got to spend a few minutes before bedtime with him. And we looked just like him. That had to be it; he hadn’t seen his preschool friends in so long he’d forgotten people like that existed. For my part, I couldn’t wait until daycare reopened so he could see his friends, I could work an actual normal workday, and maybe I could, for once, not feel like I was failing in every aspect of daily life. I wondered if the mother of the cute Black baby felt the same struggles I was feeling – constant anxiety about my family contracting COVID, failure to get an hour of work done in a twenty-four hour day, simultaneous excitement about getting my kid in daycare and paralyzing fear about the implications of being exposed to two germ factories – because I already knew she felt struggles that I’d never begin to understand.

I smiled at my grimy, stir-crazy son. “Yes, Silas. It’s a very cute baby.”

© Copyright 2020 Kelly I. Hitchcock. All rights reserved.


Kelly I. Hitchcock is a literary fiction author in the Austin, Texas area. She has published several poems, short stories, and creative non-fiction works in literary journals, and is the author of the coming-of-age novel The Redheaded Stepchild and Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook. Her newest novel, Community Klepto, is currently in the works. She’s a graduate of Missouri State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing.

#85 Now I’ve Heard Everything by Bonnie Schroeder

“What kind of dog is that?”

“German shepherd.”

“Naah—they don’t come in black.”

“Well, that’s what she is. Recessive gene.”

“Huh? No, she’s a mutt, Lady. You got gypped.”

“Oh, all right—I’ll tell you the truth. She’s an Arcanian Bat Hound.”

“Wow! Really? I’ve never seen one before. Uh—where’d you get her?”

“I had to import her, got special permits and all. Arcania doesn’t export them normally.”

“I bet. Uh—where’s Arcania?”

“Eastern Europe. Tiny country. You’ve never heard of it, right?

“Right.”

“That’s because it’s a shadow state—keeps its existence a secret.”

Continue Reading

#84 The Strange Life He Recalls by William Wren

A man with strange memories lived a few years ago. He may still be alive; I couldn’t say. We haven’t spoken in years and I’ve heard he doesn’t live in Belize anymore. I don’t have a current address.

He was a man who always dressed well. Always wore smart clothes. Fashionable, but not in the day’s fashion. A step to the side of whatever the current trend was.

A fastidious man, his hair was always groomed; face studiously clean-shaven when he didn’t have a beard or mustache. When he had either, it was always crisply trimmed.

Fingers manicured. Toes pedicured. Definitely fastidious.

His eyes held had a look of quiet concern. It seemed something permanent. He wore sunglasses all the time, day and night; cloud or sun. Continue Reading

#83 The Pallet Thief by Pat Becker

He was of questionable character. That was a widely acknowledged fact. Yet, many would never have suspected that he would pilfer pallets in the darkest hours of the night, from the backs of drugstores, grocery stores, liquor stores being by far his favorite. It was a crime and he was a criminal. But in the dark, he felt free. He was invisible and that gave him a power he never before considered. Continue Reading

#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? Continue Reading

#81 The Move by William 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. Continue Reading

#80 Serious Jewelry by Susan Carrier

When it came to men and dating, Heather had a few mantras. One was, “Every woman should receive at least one piece of serious jewelry from an unserious relationship.”

Her friends knew that her proclamations were 50 percent tongue in cheek and 50 percent bravado. After all, the most serious piece of bling that Heather had ever received was a sequined tree ornament, no doubt procured at an after-Christmas sale.

But that didn’t stop her from hoping, especially after she eyed the impressive diamond collection of Candace, a co-worker with the placid beauty of Gwyneth Paltrow. Candace collected diamonds with the same casual abandon that school boys gather Pokemon cards. When Heather complemented her on a glimmering diamond tennis bracelet, she shrugged, “Oh. This thing? It’s from that stock broker I dated last year.”

When Heather remarked on a diamond necklace, she was equally blasé. “I took the diamonds in a ring from the car dealer I dated and had my jeweler remake it into this.” Continue Reading

#79 Afterthought by Stephen R. Wolcott

When they saw the young, dark-haired man frantically waving his hands from what looked like a small makeshift raft, Mr. and Mrs. Beaumont showed amusement rather than alarm. “Oh, it’s one of those boat people, I think,” said Georgina Beaumont. “How exciting!” Douglas Beaumont concurred, peering intently from the aft deck of the Grand Excelsior ocean liner. Only a handful of passengers occupied this deck, and most of them were busy huddled around the bar. No one else had been staring out to sea. “Ah, yes, I presume the brave soul hopes to paddle to our shores,” he said. “Guess he didn’t get the memo. Poor guy needn’t go to so much trouble.”

In celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary, the Beaumonts had been one of the first to sign up for an exclusive, luxury cruise to Cuba. This, following the U.S. government’s renewed diplomatic ties with the country. What a thrill to embark on such a momentous voyage, they thought. A somewhat safe gamble for the Beaumonts, who came from an affluent Pasadena lineage, shielded from much of society’s ills, and generally accustomed to the finer things in life. Their knowledge of the island’s history was hazy at best. “I can’t wait to light up one those great cigars,” said Douglas. “I believe Gloria Estefan has roots there,” added Georgina. And they were familiar with those ‘boat people’, who risked their lives to escape Castro’s oppressive dictatorship and seek freedom in America.

The figure in the raft drifted off, and so did the Beaumont’s attention, due to raucous shouts at the bar. “A toast! A toast! To ending the embargo!” someone shouted. The tipsy travelers hoisted drinks in the air and roared with approval.

Strolling casually towards the front of the huge liner, they basked in the comfortable ease that a ship like this has offered wealthy passengers for decades. They enjoyed the thrill that comes from a majestic, commanding rush as steel hulls churn through ocean torrents. The misty sweep of salty raw sea air tickled their noses and tingled their flesh. All within safe perimeters. It seemed to match their stature somehow, as if the Beaumonts represented an elite sector of society who samples the real world at a comfortable distance, protected by unseen forces. They drew close to each other, momentarily vulnerable to unbridled and unaccustomed sensuality.

When they reached the large pool area, with his its towering slide, a commotion interrupted the Beaumont’s alluring trance.

“The last time I saw him? I’m not sure,” said a panic-stricken woman to a deck hand. A crowd hovered around her. “All he said was ‘I’m going to grab an inner tube and go wild,” she said. “He’s bit of a daredevil, you see.” The deck hand nodded nervously.

“But he’s not here and I’ve looked everywhere. I mean everywhere!”

“Can you describe him for us,” said the deck hand. “Uh, well, he’s about 5 foot 8 inches, 160 pounds, black hair.”

Georgina faltered a bit, forcing Douglas to grab her elbow. Images of a clock, with hands moving fast, like in an old black and white movie, raced through both their heads.

© Copyright 2015 Stephen R. Wolcott. All rights reserved.

wocottStephen R. Wolcott is an award-winning writer/producer with over 100 television, behind-the-scenes “making of’ and documentary projects to his credit. In addition, he’s interviewed a wide range of celebrities and notable figures, including William Shatner, Richard Gere, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Gary Sinise, Robert Wagner, JPL/NASA scientists, Whoopi Goldberg, and almost every cast member from the Star Trek films and television series. In print, his work as appeared in Emmy Magazine, Now Playing and The Pasadena Weekly. He also enjoys traveling cerebrally to his former Craftsman home in Pasadena’s Bungalow Heaven.

#78 Magpie Girl by Paula Johnson

Her birth certificate read Margaret, her friends called her Maggie, but her mother always called her Magpie Girl.

From earliest childhood, Margaret rescued odd items from secondhand stores, estate sales and even trash bins. As an adult, she had many, many collections of one item each. She was no packrat; her treasures were meticulously clean and artfully displayed. Some might call it clutter, but it was curated clutter, to be sure. Her trove included the following: Continue Reading

#77 A Boy Named Lady by Nils Grevillius

“I don’t typically investigate cases of missing dogs.” Being polite, pleasant even, as I took information from the young woman, an art student.

“My puppy’s name was Lady,” she said through her hand, elbow on a hip. She invited me into her apartment, minimally furnished with Swedish mail-order. A somewhat older male was busy being minimal on the sofa, eyes at half-mast.

“Was Lady spayed?” I scratched at paper.

“Lady was a boy…” Interjected he from the couch. I looked at him. He was reading a newspaper upside down, eyes still to half-mast, and fixed on a location over my shoulder.

Pointing to the faker on the couch, I asked “What is your friend’s name?”

“That’s Lanny! He’s no’ my friend…he’s my lover…” The woman said, accent on ‘love,’ as she hugged herself and bit her lip. “Anyways…” she continued as I observed, “…Lady was gone, gone when I got home from work las’ night.” I decided her inability to completely pronounce words was an affectation, rather than an impediment of speech. Later I would add to this that it was a means of not discussing that which was uncomfortable, or should be hidden from conversation, rather like a writer who over-uses the ellipsis as means of concealing a hidden thesis. Continue Reading