Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online May 2018

The three original stories of Flash Fiction Online’s May issue deal with art and with encounters, with culture and family and compassion. For the narrators of these stories (which all are told in first person), there are Things Happening that are rather uncomfortable to deal with. Things that push them outside of their comfort zones. And they each have to decide how to deal with that—by hiding away or stepping back or by embracing the unknown, the uncertainty, and the nebulous. And the characters all end up being drawn toward compassion and acceptance first of themselves, leaving their futures open for possible presence of others. It’s a quiet but powerful bunch of stories, and it’s time to review them!

Art by Dario Bijelac

“Artist in Wine, with Galoshes” by Kelli Fitzpatrick (1002 words)

No Spoilers: DeShondra is an artist taking a break from her own exhibition because of an attendee spilling wine on her slippers and clothes. Visiting the restroom to clean up and change into some heavier duty footwear, she meets Kat, who is “fixing” the bathroom sign. The start to talk, and the conversation covers a lot of ground. The piece is cute and contemplative, almost flity (or definitely flirty, depending how you read it), and has this great energy to it. The story recognizes that having two people meet in a bathroom isn’t exactly standard procedure, and both characters are guarded, unsure of their own interest in the other person. Ultimately, though, the story seems to be about unlikely encounters, and the joy and art that can be made in small actions and moments.
Keywords: Art, Spills, Bathrooms, Artists, Shoes
Review: Slice of life stories are great to read, especially when they capture these moments that are simple in some ways but contain a depth that can be explored. This interaction in one light might be these women meeting and perhaps flirting and maybe even agreeing to see each other again. Or it could be two people, very different and working in two very different mediums, who find that they have a lot in common with regards to art. That what DeShondra gains from remaining grounded and not looking down on Kat just because her art isn’t the same form people typically see as Art, is the chance to connect with people as unexpected peers, which has a magic to it. For me, the story seems to be about keeping an open mind about art so that you can see it everywhere, from installations and exhibitions to bathroom signs and even how people present themselves. And that sometimes these temporary works of art can be just as beautiful as those that are supposed to last forever. Certainly they can inspire and entertain and complicate the world just as profoundly. As I read it, it’s a way of seeing the world that allows DeShondra and Kat to share this moment and find it ripe with joy and happiness. And it makes for a great read!

“Reliving My Grandmother’s Youth” by Charlotte Huggins (997 words)

No Spoilers: Witches are part of a shared culture and heritage in this story, which finds a young witch about to partake in the Witches’ Sabbat, an occasion to mark their coming of age as a witch. Pushing for the ceremony, and for the narrator to take pride in the traditions of witches, is the narrator’s grandmother, who does nothing to hide who she is even in a world where the role of witches has largely shifted to being villains in cartoons and stories. The narrator, meanwhile, is timid and embarrassed of the way that being a witch separates her from other young people. For them, the Sabbat is a growing anxiety, one they’re certain won’t go well. What happens, though, both confirms their suspicions and surprises them, in some interesting ways.
Keywords: Witches, Heritage, Songs, Familiars, Family, Grandmothers
Review: For me, this story does a good job of showing how a societal intolerance can often be internalized by younger members of a marginalized group, pushing them to forego pride in their heritage in order to fit in better. I think this is especially true for introverted children, who are not inclined to stand out or be loud, who don’t really like being the center of attention. When people should be accommodating and kind regardless, too many have the mentality that it should be on marginalized people to excuse themselves and always ask if they need something, putting up with the constant stream of aggressions micro and macro when it is often easier to just sort of suffer in silence, as society prefers. For the narrator here, the pressure comes from both sides, because their grandmother especially wants them to step into this heritage, to embrace it, to be outwardly proud of it. And while it’s not something that really fits them, the story does find the narrator stepping more into themself and their culture. Not necessarily to become suddenly bold and extroverted, but rather so that they can feel internally the connection and the tradition that can help them feel more comfortable in their own skin. It’s a fun little story and definitely worth checking out!

“‘A World Without’ or ‘From a Brief History of the Sjöberg Portal’” by Tomiko Breland (1007 words)

No Spoilers: A man raises his son without the help of his wife, who the son believes died when he was young. The truth of the matter is caught up with the fact that in this world a portal appeared in Sweden that allowed people to go...somewhere. It’s not certain where and all the people who go don’t return. When the boy turns 21, though, he’s told the truth of what happened and is given a choice, one that he has to live with for the rest of his life. Touching and slow, the piece looks at the power of stories and hope, at the hurt that comes from being left behind and the feeling that time might find ways to heal those hurts. And while the speculative element of the story is the portal, is this fantastical idea, there’s a lot grounded in the more mundane world that the father and son live in. And it makes for a story heavy with uncertainty and hope.
Keywords: Portals, Family, Abandonment, Uncertainty, Stories
Review: Stories about portals often focus on how young people yearn to escape from oppressive situations. This story is interesting in that it features a young person left behind by a parent who goes into a portal and does not return. That twisting of expectation comes with this idea that for young people in a world where portals _exist_, the draw might be different than for those who grew up hoping and then discovered when they were adults that a portal had been discovered. And I love how the story follows the narrator through his rather complex feelings about the portal and about being left behind, how he can’t really pull apart the feelings of betrayal and hurt about it. And how, in turn, he sort of prevents his father from going through to be reunited with his wife. It makes for a complex read in part because there’s always the pressure in these situations for reconciliation, and I like that the story doesn’t exactly give it. That what’s happening is the narrator letting go of his father rather than forgiving his mother. And I like how the ending sets up this idea, this hope of the narrator that time will give him an option to maybe try out his own portal when he’s ready, when his wounds have healed and he might be ready to forgive as well. But I like that it’s not rushed, and in some ways it might never happen—the portal might be gone forever. In any event it’s a rather lovely story and a great way to close out the original fiction of the issue!


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