As part of this year’s One Read program, we invited you to take inspiration from Margaret Verble’s “When Two Feathers Fell From the Sky,” by telling a tale in 250 words or less, and we asked that you write about someone facing accountability or consequences in some way.
Thank you to everyone who entered and shared your works of flash fiction.
Our two winners are Aubrey Bjork and Regan Puckett. Honorable mentions go to Xander Kennedy and Jessica Piccone.
We are excited to share these stories with you!
Missed, Aubrey Bjork
Casper yawned a pointy grin and meowed for food.
Not now, Casper, she said. He’s coming.
There wasn’t much left to do. The house was clean. She’d taken it all in a load to the local thrift store.
Are you moving, asked the man at the door. She nodded. Moving on.
She ran her hand over the counter. Bills paid, will made, laundry done. Casper creaked past her, headed toward his pillow.
She sat down in the last chair left in the room and waited. More so than she had been, that is. Verl had been sitting in his armchair when his time came. Maybe it would be good luck.
Casper grumbled in his sleep and rolled over.
It came like mist, in the corner closest to the kitchen, hollow-eyed and heavy-handed, the eternal shadow. Casper’s ears pricked forward.
It’s about time, she said. I’ve been waiting.
The shadow thickened like a broth.
Casper gasped, heaved one last breath, forever, and lay still. She sighed.
Now, really, she said, a little irritated. You missed.
Flightless Bird, Regan Puckett
You’re going somewhere, since that’s the way of things. You’re lined up on a train platform like a school child, shoulder to shoulder with all the other going people, some chattering about their dreams and destinations. One bright-faced bird is on her way to sing show tunes in Hollywood, another couple is taking the train to a new build in the suburbs. They will raise two-and-a-half kids who will take their own trains, somewhere, someday, since that’s the way of things.
You don’t know where you’re going yet, but you’re going alone. You were supposed to leave already, as your mother is keen to remind you. Once with a college romance who turned into a post-grad ghost, then later, on your lonesome, with a suitcase and a plan, one you’d thought out until you couldn’t stand the thought of it.
Your friends have left you behind. Some lingered for a bit, struck by their own indecision, but then they found their ways. Some send postcards, baby photos. Some stopped calling. Each of them swore you’d land somewhere good if you just let yourself go.
When the train arrives, everyone else shuffles in, but you linger. Close your eyes and picture all the lives you could live, then all the lives you couldn’t. Everyone’s shoving forward, but you hang back like a loose button, something soon to be lost in the cracks. The train bursts forth like a boomerang, beyond your reach again. You perch on a familiar bench alone.
Justice Served, Xander Kennedy
Tyler wondered if the kids sitting near him on the bus could hear his stomach rumbling. It had been a while since Mom had gotten paid and so his lunches recently had consisted of, well, a paper bag so he could at least keep up the appearance of having food. Today, even that brown paper had looked edible.
The hardest part of his trip home from JMS was walking past Mrs. Lupe’s yard, and specifically her apple tree. He was proud that he’d thus far resisted the urge to snatch one as he passed, but today the red deliciousness was extra torturous. There’s no way one elderly lady could eat all those apples, he reasoned and so, though he knew it was wrong, he dashed the few steps, plucked not just one, but two and quickly returned to his route. He waited until he’d rounded the corner before allowing himself the pleasure of a bite. His guilt tried to ruin the flavor for him, but that was no match for the juices that danced on his tongue and the wonderful calories that slid into his belly.
He’d allowed himself to believe he’d gotten away with it… until the knock at the apartment door. Peering through the peephole, his pulse spiked as he spied Mrs. Lupe in the hall. He pulled out the apple he’d been saving, ready to return it along with his apologies, but when he finally opened the door, all that he found was a basket, overflowing with food.
Cackling Gulls, Jessica Piccone
Albert walked barefoot along the beach, exhaling smoke in perfect rhythm with the tide.
He carried a box of his ex-girlfriend’s belongings: a scrunchie with strands of her hair tangled in the elastic, a bottle of perfume, a photo they’d taken before she’d labeled him heartless and incapable of empathy. The smug smiles on their naive faces made him sick.
“Idiots,” he muttered.
Seagulls swarmed above him. Albert took a drag from his cigarette and flicked it, aiming at the squawking skyrats. The cigarette hit a bird which sent it spiraling in a frenzy. He snickered.
He flung the perfume into the ocean, smirking with satisfaction when it splashed. He did the same with the other items, carelessly letting the waves lap them up.
He reached for the final possession: her father’s urn. She’d meant to sprinkle his ashes along the shoreline but hadn’t been able to bring herself to do it.
Albert would do it for her. He’d show her how empathetic he was. He walked along the beach, throwing fistfuls of ashes into the wind.
The wind changed direction and Albert shivered at the chill. With an aggressive gust, it blew his ex-girlfriend’s father’s remains into his face. Grainy ash landed in his mouth, coating his tongue with its coarseness. He coughed and sputtered, spitting ash onto the sand.
A swarm of seagulls swooped down in front of him and locked his gaze with their beady eyes. The birds opened their mouths, threw their heads back, and cackled.