Flash Fiction by Tom O'Connell

Art (c) 2005 Chris Lawson
River Road

Horses shook their chains last night in my dreams. I woke to the smell of sulfur, cursing the neighbor boys and their fireworks. They were just digging up worms in the yard behind their home, at the edge of the woods. Regretting my harsh judgment, I tried to make peace by offering a fishing tip. I had been told in my youth, by Mrs. O'Brien passing on her way to daily Mass, that the fish remain in the stretch of river behind the cemetery because people are too spooked to fish there.

The boys, as ambitious as they appeared, did not want to hear this. Their fear, it seemed, of being in the presence of the dead would keep them from a fish. I tried to rally their courage by assuring them that all they would find in the cemetery were plastic flowers, faded miniature flags and stones with willow trees and egg timers carved into them. Beneath the ground there is nothing but promises, hinges, and belt buckles.

Art (c) 2005 Chris Lawson

She Drives The Clown Car For The Circus

Photographs of Chinese lanterns glow from the far wall providing light, light to fill the parking lot, light to grow the morning glories emerging from paper cups on the windowsill. She was the first to lay her chain and crucifix on the new bureau. I emptied my pockets: A keychain crowded with keys to locks I cannot remember and which no longer prevent me from doing anything, a grocery list that I found lying beside a circus tent, a stone from Flannery O'Connor's driveway, a brick from the chimney attached to the house that I was born in, a lemon, a red robin's blue egg, a harmonica wrapped in Easter grass, the bicycle I thought had been stolen.

She returns to me everything that I thought I had lost or misplaced. She renews all my books at the library; all of my fines are somehow waived.

Art (c) 2005 Chris Lawson
To a Duck, God Is Strings

The museum piece, a mallard duck forever coming in to land in the pond. Held two feet above its mate by strings, they are supposed to be invisible, leading up to the diorama's ceiling. The brown speckled female is swimming in Plexiglas, within a marsh scene of moist banks and reeds painted along the walls. The birds are dead and don't know it, they believe the painted walls. The male is about to land, held aloft by strings. Strings like a father's hands holding a baby over his head and swirling him in the air so that he believes that he is flying. The painted walls fool the ducks, and I laugh at them. I laugh, but I still bump my head against the glass each and every time.

Music by Paul A. Toth
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