Flash Fiction Online this December. First, it’s the end of the year, and the stories deal with feelings of winters, of heavy atmospheres, bleak realities, and for all that a warmth as people find people through their sorrows and stresses and move toward more hopeful futures. The second ending is that longtime editor Suzanne Vincent is stepping down. And while I have full faith in incoming editor Wendy Nikel, it’s still a moment to thank Suzanne Vincent for the years of amazing stories and wish her all the best in the future! Last, it’s another publication that I have reached the end of my full reviews for. I’ve quite enjoyed FFO and will definitely continue to read, even if I am no longer doing these complete review posts. So long, and thanks for all the flash! Cheers!
“Time Travel” by Melanie Lau (818 words)
No Spoilers: The narrator of this story is the father of a young child, nearly-four-years-old Vincent. They live in an apartment and one of their favorite games seems to be traveling through time. Where Vincent will suit up in cardboard and a bicycle helmet and get into the mostly-also-cardboard time machine and...well, the rest is parenting magic. But beneath this heartwarming scene is the reality that the make believe is layered over financial strain, stress, relationship anxieties, and all manner of real-world issues that, for the moment at least, the narrator and his wife are trying to keep away from their child. And somehow that makes it even more heartwarming even as it adds a wrenching element, the love of the family squeezed by the mandates of society and the corruptions of capitalism. Woo.
Keywords: Time Travel, Family, Parenting, Employment, Imagination
Review: I love how the story finds the narrator doing this thing, this play with his son, while the rest of the world press in around him. The need for money, the fact that his wife works two rather brutal jobs, the way that he can’t get another job until Vincent is in school, the way that it all sort of might get better. And let me tell you I feel that feel, that sense of making plans, working toward them, and them being neither guaranteed or very pleasant. But feeling that strain from not being secure, not having what you want, having to work to the bone to provide and knowing that it still might not be enough. Hoping for this time when things might be easier, even a bit, and knowing even then it’s a process, a long one, one might just end up lasting forever without really getting easy. For me, so much of the story is the magical release the imagination of Vincent really is saving the narrator as well. That it gives them both this escape. For Vincent, just an escape from the mundane into this fantasy, this wonderful game that can feel real and fun. For the narrator, though, an escape from the worry, from the weight of having to always be on, always be thinking three steps ahead to what can be afforded, what can’t, what can be put off, what can’t. People call the hope that something will get better because of a new year or a new kind of situation magical thinking, and maybe that’s true, but sometimes magical thinking is what can help people through situations where they don’t have much power, where they are already doing everything they can for themselves and their lives. And wow, yeah, it’s a great read!
“Grand Old Boar” by G. T. Knight (1000 words)
No Spoilers: Jae is a mechanical engineer living in Russia, working on something for months, for nearly a year. Doing their best to tr and complete a project that has something of a dire deadline--they need to finish before their father’s hospital successfully manages to get his life support taken away. And the piece looks into the complex soup of emotions Jae is going through, their resistance to making decisions about their father’s end of life care in the face of their mother’s religious single-mindedness and their own stubborn resolve to do something about the situation. Something that...might no tbe how to best use their time.
Keywords: Family, CW- Brain Death/Medical End of Life Care, Machines, Boars, Bodies
Review: I love how the story sort of dives into the avoidance tendencies of the narrator, casting Jae as someone who is very good at building things. Not so great when it comes to dealing with these big things, with fighting with their mother, with dealing with their father. They get letters from their mother, meanwhile, telling them they should return. That they should share the same religious faith. But Jae’s faith is in machines, in their own ability to engineer a fix. And they find one! Yay! Only...well, it’s kind of really fucked up, but in a way that they don’t really see that for a while. For them, the problem is mechanical. If their father is “alive” inside his body, but the hospital doesn’t want to keep him, then they’re just design a kind of exo-suit that will allow him to have life support on the go. If able to appreciate it, he’d like the ability to have his body moved around. It not able to appreciate it, no foul, and then they don’t have to make any sort of decision about interfering with the hospital, or their mother. It’s kind of a win-win, except it’s also kind of grotesque, the suit giving the appearance of life to, in the case of her experiment/proof of concept, a large dead boar. And the story gets into that, unsettles in the way it grapples with death and dying, avoidance and family. Joe doesn’t want to have to face what’s happening, to confront anyone, so they don’t. But that doesn’t mean that things don’t happen. That their last chance to maybe say goodbye doesn’t come...and go. And the ending is a gut-punch, where Jae has to face finally the weight of everything, and it’s a heavy burden to bear. A wonderful read!
“Felt Along the Seam” by Kelly Sandoval (1000 words)
No Spoilers: Brooke knows how to make ghosts, to separate memories from herself, creating spectral doubles that allow her to handle her pain. Learned when she was younger and her father was dying, she’s used the skill to deal with a lot, to remain calm. And when she meets Ash, she finds someone who can see her ghosts, and who might have cause to want the same thing that Brooke has. But it’s not all great times, however Brooke can get distance from her negative emotions and experiences. They don’t fade. They linger, and at night they press close, and Brooke begins to suspect that maybe that’s not the best way to handle...life.
Keywords: Pain, Grief, Ghosts, Friends, Coping, School, CW- Death of a Parent
Review: I like how this story takes on trauma especially in young people, how coping mechanisms can help people survive but not necessarily live well. Becasue Brooke’s coping has been so much because she’s alone, because it seems her mother is lost in her own trauma, her own coping, which is fairly understandable because of the loss they’ve both suffered but it still doesn’t leave Brooke in a great place to weigh what she’s doing and why. It works, and so it’s what she always does, but detaching herself form her pain, literally dissociating by creating these ghost versions of herself, doesn’t really...work in the long term? Short term yeah but the ghosts they linger. They are things that never heal so long as Brooke doesn’t face them, doesn’t off them some solace or comfort. But because she’s alone she can’t really see it. Strangely (or not, really), it’s only when she meets Ash, who wants to know this technique, who is desperate to escape the immediacy of her own pain, that Brooke begins to really see what she’s been doing and recognizing it as something not really good for her. he has to contend with the harm she might be doing to herself and the harm she might be passing along to Ash. And I love how that unfolds, how it pushes Brooke into confronting the pains she’s been running from. Not that she necessarily in the greatest of places to do that but that, with a friend, with someone to maybe help her and whom she can help, it’s possible. And it might free her in ways that will allow her to access her emotions, to face her demons, and to soothe her ghosts. And she might be able to help Ash avoid walking that same road, finding it full of haunting memories and wounds that can’t fully close. That look at their friendship and their traumas is complex, careful, and for me well done. It’s a beautiful and hopeful read!