5 Flash About Life’s Beginning & 5 Flash About Life’s End
Stories about endings and stories about beginnings cannot be mutually exclusive. Every ending is a new beginning and every beginning is the end of what came before. This means that the pieces below could be placed in the opposing category with nary an argument. But each placement was chosen for a reason, and I’m interested to see if you’ll agree.
Smoothies by Venita Blackburn
Blackburn performs an autopsy on a living, breathing moment and the reader is lucky enough to have front row seats. Small touches of exacting imagery—smoothie and sneaker superiority—nestle among wisdom and perspectives that can only be afforded by the passing of time. Repetition provides the reader a tether within the tale. For without that tether a bounty of quotable morsels and poetic multitudes would surely sweep you away.
On the Edge of the New World by Paul Crenshaw
In the tradition of “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” brevity is used in this 107-word piece to focus on a pin-prick of time at the start of a father and daughter’s new normal. Descriptions that in other stories are unnecessary or cumbersome, like the colors of a little girl’s hair and dress, bring just enough light to transform a room filled with shadows into a precise and moving portrait.
Shopping with Kevin by Davon Loeb
A tale of childhood adventure in suburbia is an unexpected place for sincere dialogue on the relationship of man and nature. Loeb uses the contrasting imagery of the organized and overgrown to create a space in between. There’s danger but also safety. There are lessons not quite learned. This is an expedition into adolescence devoid of nostalgia. An exquisite reanimation of a singular exploit, never to be lived again.
Confetti and Tassels by Monet Patrice Thomas
Pivotal points in life are defined by what came after; in this story Thomas marinates the reader in what came before. All the imagery is used to conjure an afternoon that at once seems inescapable yet completely preventable. Slow, natural dialogue allows a calm submersion. Resisting this moment’s magnetic pull is futile. Let the frivolity of the title mislead you, forget about what comes after, live in the now.
Painted Saints by Steven Comstock
The broken soldier narrative is a house many have built, but when Comstock moves in, it’s rendered unrecognizable. An unusual epistolary interruption allows an exploration of hope held captive, especially as a result of starting over. The experimental format adds an element of interactivity as the reader chooses to swipe, participating in forward momentum. And in the end, hope is replaced with something much more practical—compassion.
Harlem Thunder by Janelle M. Williams
To say this piece is ambitious is an understatement. It examines (among other things) existence, innocence, finality, systemic failures, and how one woman at a crossroads fits into a larger world. Williams uses motifs as touchstones in this story which, while short, is deep and vast. Deftly inserted imagery ensures that the reader is following every step of this layered journey. Following all the way to that last powerful line.
Montauk by Maureen Langloss
Langloss utilizes three parts to slice three deep wounds. But the reader is too immersed in beauty to be mad at her for it. What a joy to experience that pain surrounded by sublime descriptions, the characters and setting so alive, so tangible. As each numbered part travels in the luxury of language, it pulls in the corners of life and shapes it into something simultaneously old and new.
Ashes by Madeline Anthes
An abundance of short paragraphs leaves no time to get comfortable, there’s no settling in. This structure is aided by the story’s young voice, which leads the reader toward a sensory tapestry that acts as climax. A detailed experience emerges. The particulars of which may not be relatable, but the sensation is familiar and entirely accessible. With feet still planted in childhood, Anthes’ characters stare down the precipice of adulthood.
Bedside by Dan Ryan
It’s amazing to realize this is Ryan’s first published story. And within it, the author weaves surprise, humor, amusement, sorrow, and tenderness. These emotions swirl together effortlessly, like they do in real life, seamlessly bumping and deflecting off one another. The voice is human and true. The dialogue is quick and witty. Here a sweet, loving touch is applied to a difficult subject matter, and makes it all alright.
I Died and Went to Hell and Am Doing Sex with Ronald Reagan by Tasha Matsumoto
Some titles hint at what’s inside, some create a mood, some seize attention and some do all three—smoothly. In this piece a disorienting epistolary style melts into dark, sometimes comedic composition that forces you to duck as you read (lest it jab you in the jaw). The author forms sentences which subvert expectation and redefine words like “wish” and “someday.” Multiple readings are encouraged to fully appreciate Matsumoto’s artistry.
Veronica Klash loves living in Las Vegas and writing in her living room. She is a Folio Award-winning essayist and a Senior Reader for Witness. Her work has appeared in such publications as Desert Companion, Cheap Pop, Ellipsis Zine, and X-Ray Lit. You can find more about Veronica at veronicaklash.com.
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