Welcome to the inaugural installment of Editor’s Eye, a new blog series that aims to highlight noteworthy work that might have slipped through the cracks of Fictionaut’s automated list of recommendations. Every two weeks, a distinguished visiting editor scours the site for lost treasures and picks a handful of outstanding stories. Now, our first guest editor’s identity can be revealed: it is none less than our very own Meg Pokrass, author of Damn Sure Right, host of the Fictionaut Five interview series, and editor for Blip Magazine.
Here are the stories that caught Meg’s Editor’s Eye over the last two weeks.
A quiet intensity surrounds the underwater feeling of this piece. Tiny observations which illuminate oceans of meaning… a piece which tackles the story of family duty crashing up against call of life, and with odds being so slim.. There is a mountain of tragic urgency here.
No words on the train, no words between mother and daughter. The girl will spend her life behind the candy stand, just as she’s expected to set garbage out on its sunrise schedule, separating burnable and non-burnable. She imagines stuffing the family candy stand into the bag of burnable refuse.
Erickson writes this flash fiction New Year’s Day story about loss, and the details make her recipe. With melancholy humor, Terri Kirby Erickson shows us how life rolls on, meal by meal, swishy step by swishy step. A survivor lives here.
I use my mother’s recipe for cornbread because I have no recipes of my own, unless it’s the one called, “Disaster.” We should never have gotten married, but you know that. We have nothing in common other than the grim determination not to fail at anything.
I won’t say a word here except READ IT. What a wonderful dedication to the late Carol Novak, as Novak was one of the early online publishers of Tania Hershman’s work in her legendary “Mad Hatter’s Review”. This story by Hershman is superb… as all of Tania’s stories I have had the pleasure to encounter are. Read!
Life was small. It was tiny even, so tiny it was hard to see it sometimes. Life curled up to make itself even smaller, to fit into the kinds of holes that insects crawl into to get away from bigger insects. Life was sad. Life didn’t want to be an insect. Life was getting backache from the curling up. It wanted to straighten out, stand up tall, shout out to the world. But it had been so long, Life wasn’t sure how to.
In 121 words, Carol Reid gives us pure poetry in the language here, every word hanging ripe before the next, where it needs to be. Not one word too many. From her first sentence, we watch a love which is hiding and glowing all at once. Reading this, we are happy voyeurs watching an opal shine.
He knows the woman contemplating groceries. She has kept her hair the same shade of beachfront gold. She hides her body as always under loose drapes of grey and blue. A flicker slips across his heart– that night when she mentioned the convent in the same breath as a three a.m. invitation…
Roberto Garcia serves up taut animal-like tension in this poem, felt to the reader like a blow. The ending groans and shines, Garcia shows us how fight-or-flight fear intensifies when tables turn:
…..& I cup his face with
my fingertips like its some thing I’ve created
& the spit is gone from my mouth
I am afraid, God help me, I am afraid.
Christian Bell’s trademark is painful humor, and in this piece, his rare mess of strangely jaded vulnerability won me. In this micro salad of intrigue. Bell’s beautiful, vulnerable ending implies a forever dark, fragile, and messy life.
This is not unlike the razor to your wrist, the car running in the garage port, the one foot hanging off the ten-story ledge. Your ice cold eyes used to entrance me, the lure of northerly volcanic landscapes, but now, they’re dull rocks found in a quarry. There are silver bullets in that gun, I say, lethal to the undead but I’m sure not you.
Chris Okum’s one-sentence story creates an ingenious mix of Theater of the Absurd with true horror… reading this, our brains weigh a world of brief sanity against fate — smooth as a bullet writing, shot from Okum’s window, striking our brains right in the center. Something like magic.
Professor Layne Cundy, of Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, was in his kitchen, pacing the linoleum, snacking on strawberry trail mix, thinking about his next book, The Opera: Pol Pot’s Peformance of a Lifetime, remembering something his mentor, Dean Van Dunson, once said about Pol Pot, that as a college student, Pol Pot, while studying in France, was a member of an avant-garde experimental theater troupe, and that Pol Pot was often cast as a dog…
Michael Gillian Maxwell’s story offer a straightforward narrative voice, employing smart visual details. Here we are catching a bittersweet glimpse of compensatory, brotherly work relationships, and how sexual fantasy takes over when conditions are this lousy, when the stakes are absurdly high. He shows us a war of dangerous work and the Carpenter Ant-like lives of humans so replaceable.
The noonday air is pungent with the odor of yeast from the brewery and smells of effluent waft from the nearby river. The permanent, full time workers carry metal lunch buckets and steel thermoses. Liver sausage, baloney, and PP&J sandwiches on white bread are packed in amongst pickles, hard-boiled eggs, potato chips, and Oreo cookies.
“Saying It With Flowers” by Barry Basden
(first published in Used Furniture Review)
Basden paints a story of guilt and the human need to feel closer to what we are supposed to feel in this life. A married commuter buys an inadequate bouquet for his dutiful, suburban & clearly traditional wife from a crippled man after a tryst-like “huddling” in the city with another woman. This flower transaction becomes complicated, bad instincts take over, and I won’t ruin it by telling you the rest.
Your wife is cooking dinner out there right now. So you give the crippled man his ten dollars and he hands you a small bouquet. You shuffle toward the bus stop, but standing in line, you think the flowers seem puny, not nearly enough. Still, there’s time and you walk back for more.
Meg Pokrass is the author of Damn Sure Right, a collection of flash fiction from Press 53. She interviews authors here at “The Fictionaut Five”, and serves as associate editor for BLIPMAGAZINE (formerly MIssisspippi Review). Her flash fiction and story animations have recently appeared or will be appearing soon in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Gargoyle, Gigantic, The Rumpus, Big Muddy, CUTTHROAT, Mid American Review, Yalobusha Review and Superstition Review and lots of other literary journals with strange names. Meg lives near the ocean in San Francisco with seven animals.