Tag Archives: flash-fiction

Bath Salts

Lately, I’ve been submitting flash fiction and short stories to small press literary magazines, “lit mags,” for those in the biz. I’ve dusted off and re-edited some old stuff and I’ve written some new stuff. While I think most of it is pretty good, there are a few pieces that are too short for longer flash-fiction journals and too long for short flash-fiction journals. pexels-photo-113776-medium-jpegThey’re over 150 words but shorter than 300. I’m sure that sounds confusing but the point is this: I have a bunch of little pieces for putting out here on the blog.

I wrote the following short story as a writing exercise during my summer residency in Lisbon, Portugal. Enjoy!


Bath Salts


“Cocaine?” he asks.



“Get outa here,” I say waving my hand brushing past the street dealer, pick pocket, young man in a white t-shirt with a sleeve rolled up and his hair pasted to his head. Not from hair gel. From a week in the street without a shower in the hot Portuguese sun.

He follows me.

“Cocaine?” he asks again and I turn around.

“No,” I say. “Bath salts.”

“Wha? Yeah. It’s good. You want cocaine?”

“No. Bath salts. I have bath salts. You want bath salts. I’ll sell them to you.”

“No, hashish?”

“Or crystal meth. I got meth. You want meth?”

He stares at me, his eyebrows knitted and a half smile. Standing beside him, another dealer stops another man. food-kitchen-cooking-spices-mediumOn both sides of the street, young people stand in front of bars, pubs, convenience stores with plastic cups in hand, talking loudly or standing in circles, sitting at little café tables or walking back in for another drink.

There’s someone else to stop, hundreds and thousands of someone else’s to stop and they, not all of them but some of them, are passing by as I ask him again.

“Come on man, I got bath salts, crystal meth. You want? It’s good.” I pat him on the shoulder. I’m lying, of course. It’s true that I’m from West Virginia, but I don’t have crystal meth, and I certainly don’t have bath salts.

He isn’t smiling anymore as he walks past me and I hear him say, “hashish, cocaine,” but he’s saying it to someone else.


Thanks for reading. And if you haven’t checked out the EJO series, click this here link


Flash Fiction Contests

Recently I was invited to submit something for a flash fiction contest. No, it wasn’t a personal invitation, I doubt that I’m that important. It was one of those spam type invitations that get sent out to thousands. Normally I wouldn’t submit anything, but with little to do this morning as my daughter played a game on her mother’s ipad, I decided to write something.

The genre is fantasy. So I decided to parody it all subtle-like, incorporating the lyrics of a Grateful Dead song. The prompt starts it off and I put the prompt in italics. The rest of the words are my own. Enjoy.


Deer People

She noticed a hint of movement beneath the starlit trees. But, that was nothing compared to the trail of blood that led out of them. And there were seven bodies left behind. He was afraid to move. The knife might come out of his stomach. Fortunately, the song he was humming provided the power to keep him alive. Then moonlight glinted on antlers in the trees.

Henry staggered, knife in hand, blood dripping through cracks between fingers.

“…Look out of any window,

Any morning, any evening, any day…”

Still singing. “Stop singing that damn song!” She screamed. “Stop it! I said stop it!”

“…You’ll find the sun is shining,

Birds are winging,

No rain is falling through a heavy sky…”

She took another step back. “You made me do it! You did! You made me do it!”

Henry fell, his face smashing into a sapling, bending the tree, denting his cheek. From the ground he sang:

“…What do you want me to do.

To do for you. To see you through?…”

And behind him she saw Elroy, of the deer people. And the antlers danced in the moonlight, the bodies obscured in shadow. Bloodthirsty eyes burned red.

Henry stood up, still holding his stomach in. “I’m fuckin…,” he said. That wasn’t part of the song. He staggered. “You…” He couldn’t say “killed us.” He spat blood.

But behind him the deer people danced on—she saw them dance on. She could see them. They were real. She knew they were real. “They’re real,” she repeated. She had been saying it but didn’t hear herself. “They’re real. They’re real.”

Henry fell again. On the ground he sang:

“…For this is all a dream we dreamed

one afternoon, long ago…”

“It’s not a dream! Not a dream. Don’t say that. Don’t say that!” But Henry wasn’t saying anything. He was only singing the song to stay alive, to keep thinking, to keep moving.

The deer people, they stopped dancing—she saw that they stopped dancing. And the red fires of eyes turned inward, towards the clearing, menacing, hungry.

“Why didn’t you drink the punch!” she screeched. “It happens quietly when you drink the punch! Like the others. You made me do it! You made it hurt!”

Henry didn’t get up. He stayed on his back and tilted his head towards the woods behind him, the last thing he would ever see. But there was only darkness behind him. Shadows of trees and nothing else.

She took a step towards him and could see the deer people closing in—she could see them, Elroy in front with his Great Claw Hammer.

“No, I’ll do it!” But she wasn’t screaming at Henry anymore. “I’ll do it. I’ll finish it.”

Henry didn’t hear her anymore. He heard the singing of his voice.

“…Just a box of rain, Wind and water, Believe it if you need it, If you don’t just pass it on Sun and shower, Wind and rain, In and out the window Like a moth before a flame…”

Henry felt something. Her. The knife slid out. He groaned.

“A sacrifice to Elroy and the deer people.”

When she looked up, knife in hand, raised above Henry’s throat, she saw them, and knew they were there, eyes blazing, antlers nodding up and down, white teeth shining in the moonlight.

Henry saw nothing behind him. Deer people aren’t real.


It would be hilarious if I actually won. The story makes no sense at all. It’s also funny that I’ll probably get an unusual amount of hits for this post because I titled it “Flash Fiction Contests”. Sorry, I’m not offering a flash fiction contest. I have nothing to offer. But I doubt very many people looking for a flash fiction contest actually read this far anyway. Thanks for reading!

Now What?

I wrote “Now What?” earlier this week. I’m working on a voice for the narrator of my next novel and these short flashes of fiction are a way for me to experiment with narration. I’d recommend this strategy to anyone thinking about writing a novel with a first-person narrator. It’s nice to have the voice down from the start. Check it out and let me know what you think:


Now What?

We were packing up the old town house. We’d lived there for a year but what’s a year. I don’t mean that as a question. It isn’t one.

Like I said, we were packing up but I was already done. I packed the night before, so my Civic wasn’t out back behind the house. It was parked down the road next to a pick-up truck or a van.

But this isn’t about my car. It wasn’t even a Civic. It was something like that though.

Anyway, one my housemates, the big one, had his whole family there and he had too much to take back.

“Does anyone want this shit?” he asked. It was stuff from the kitchen.

I took another sip of something. I don’t know. Mimosa maybe. Or Bloody Mary. I think I liked those then. Or maybe I looked out towards the river. But I don’t remember thinking much about the river. It was part of me then, always there past the field and the road from town.

“I got room for it,” I said. Well, that’s not exactly what I said. I said something like it.

And I did have room for it. My parents weren’t there yet, but they were bringing a van to carry my big stuff. My brother wasn’t there yet, either.

“Alright, dude.” That’s exactly what he said. I remember it.

Minutes passed and I hadn’t moved from my lawn chair out in front of the townhouse. I felt the grass between my toes, well, most likely. I was barefoot then—usually at least.

Someone’s parents broke into laughter. It was a woman, but I don’t remember which one. Probably the big one’s mom. Everyone else drank quietly and focused on the packing.

And then one of the other guys was sitting beside me. He might’ve been there for a while, but that’s when I noticed him.

He shook his head at the big one and the big one’s family. But he was drunk too, and I was drunk. The whole damn campus felt drunk. It always did. Well, it felt that way at least.

And then I saw my parents walking across the lawn. And then I don’t remember much. The rest of the afternoon blurred into one or nothing depending on how you look at it, and then I was in the car and my brother was driving. He was probably driving fast, but I don’t remember. I was singing. Loudly.

And then I was home or the place I called home. Summer. But not summer break. And I wouldn’t be going back. I wouldn’t ever be going back. And I was on my parents’ back deck, the same place I spent every summer, a place where I surrounded myself with friends or buddies or alcohol or all or both depending on how you look at it. I looked up and saw blue and green and the leaves on the trees were full for the first time since fall. The first week of May, and for the first time, the leaves were fully there.

“Now what?” I asked it out loud. “Now what?”

And today, years later, I ask the same question. I’m married and have a career. I’ve made something of myself, I guess. But when the leaves come out, fully out, I ask out loud sitting on my own deck, the back deck of my own house, looking up at the swaying trees with the blue sky behind, “Now what?”


Hope you liked it. Thanks for reading!


Leaves in Spring Time

Hey folks,

I decided to post some of my short fiction here on my blog. And now that my short writing break is over, I’ll be posting regularly again. The story below is called “Leaves in Spring Time.” Enjoy, and feel free to share, comment, and so on.


I stretched the tarp back out along the ditch beside the road in front of my house. It was the inside so it wasn’t blue. It was silver, the tarp that is.

But colors don’t matter. I picked the rake back up and dragged the leaves up and out of the ditch. The gray dust underneath puffed or swirled depending on how you look at it. I dropped the head of the rake back in the ditch and pulled back up. I dropped it and pulled back up.

The section was done but the tarp wasn’t covered yet, so I put the rake down and slid the tarp over to the next section. Then I did the same thing pulling the leaves up and out of the ditch.

The section was half-done, but the tarp was filled-up, so I folded each of the corners in and each of the corners that form from folding in corners until the leaves were trapped inside. And then I walked down past the driveway and walked into the woods and walked down the hill a bit past the point where the leaves might blow back into the yard and found the pile I started earlier or the year before depending on how you look at it and held onto the back of the tarp and let all the corners loose and looked away as leaves fell out onto the pile.

Dust floated from the tarp when I shook it. But I wasn’t looking. I looked earlier, the first time but I wasn’t looking anymore. e6b9fd047d000f182bccda92e03d048a

As I walked back up and saw the house, I looked for that spot by the white oak, the one in the middle of the yard, where my wife was sitting earlier. She wasn’t there, but as I continued up the hill, I saw her. She was next to the driveway and my little girl was there with a little kid-sized rake.

“She wants to help.”

I must’ve smiled. I don’t talk much.

I wiped sweat from my eyes and put my hand on my little girl’s head. She followed me over to that spot I left off at and started raking the leaves with her little rake. She did it indiscriminately, moving them here and there if you understand what I mean.

So then I put the tarp down and started pulling the leaves up and out of the ditch and my wife didn’t ask but I started explaining anyway, “Not sure why I do it,” I said as I pulled up leaves onto the tarp. “It’s a bigger pain—” I looked down at my little girl. She was still raking. “It’s a bigger pain gettin’ out the blower for it since it’s just the leaves here in the ditch. Never takes more than an hour but I—I never like doing it—somethin’ about dealing with leaves in spring time that just doesn’t—I don’t know—It doesn’t seem like somethin’ I wanna be doin’.”

I wanted her ask something like, “why don’t you leave ‘em there?” But she doesn’t think to ask that sorta question. So I answered like she asked it.

“I guess I worry about getting that thing—” I pointed to the gutter running underneath the driveway, “that thing—whatever you call it, jammed up with leaves so the water can’t run through.”

She nodded her head.

“I don’t know if it matters—just seems like I shouldn’t let the leaves wash down in there…”

The tarp was half-full when I said that. I stopped talking for a minute and my little girl stepped back as I slid the tarp over to the last section.thY54M3G5J

“I don’t know if it matters,” I said picking up on a train of thought that has existed since the beginning of man, “I don’t know but I’ll do it anyway just in case.”

And in that moment I looked down. My little girl wasn’t just raking the leaves randomly anymore. She was picking them up, only a few at time because she’s only two and not very coordinated, and she was putting those leaves on the tarp.

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