I mean everything in my life up till now

By Andrea Lewis

Church door and pews

That night, Darla and I skipped Kootenai High’s Halloween Harvest Hop––or that candy-ass dance as Darla called it––to sit by the lake and pass a bottle of Jim Beam between us. We didn’t have weed, but we smoked my mother’s no-filter Pall Malls, which made my head pound. I couldn’t keep up with Darla, drinking or smoking, no way, even if that made me a disgrace to the men and boys of Idaho.

We sat on the lakeshore and stared at the water. Cold pebbles stabbed my butt and the wind ripped tears from my eyes. Above us stretched a heavy slab of silver clouds that looked like snow. I was a little buzzed on Beam and a little worried about my baptism, set for the next morning, but Darla was flat-out drunk. At 11:32––I looked at the Bulova my chickenshit father gave me the day he decided to “relocate”––Darla announced that she was going swimming. She stood up, swayed a little, shrugged out of her sheepskin jacket, and started peeling clothes.

“Darla, it’s freezing.” As if to prove me right, one solitary snowflake blew past us in the wind.

“Don’t be a candy-ass, Calvin.” She toe-heeled off her chukka boots and unzipped her Wranglers. “Come on.”

“Not me,” I said. “I’m not getting dunked till tomorrow.”

“Oh, that.” She wriggled her jeans off as if I wasn’t there. “Why the fuck do you want to get baptized?” Her panties were bright red and edged with un-Darla-like white lace. Given her swagger and swearing, I expected boxer shorts.

“My mother,” I said.

Darla unbuttoned her flannel shirt. Her striptease was making me nervous, so I slugged the last of the Beam. It burned like brushfire all the way down but didn’t prevent my dick from standing up and denting itself against my zipper. I shifted things while Darla unhooked her white bra. Okay, I looked because I had never seen a real girl’s tits before in person. Her nipples were like two crinkled kidney beans.

“Caught you looking,” she called out. “Better say a goddamn prayer. Better ask for forgiveness.” She let the lace-trimmed panties drop and lofted them with her big toe so they landed on my knee. As she trotted away it was like a black-and-white movie with her pale fire-plug body bobbing toward the dark water and her long black hair wild against the silver sky.

The next morning, before the 8 a.m. service, I trudged to church for my baptism. I stood in my bare feet on the creepy concrete floor of the hallway that led to the immersion tank. I had on the mildew-smelling maroon choir robe they let losers borrow for baptisms. My eyes felt like burnt balls of sand rubbing against their sockets. I might’ve made a run for it––out the back door and all the way to Canada––if I could’ve found my shoes, and if I hadn’t been joined at that moment by Kootenai High’s gleaming vision of girl-perfection, Melinda McKenzie. No maroon mildew for Melinda. She had her own robe, angel-white with gold buttons, and she held a white leather zip-up bible. Her honey-brown hair was sculpted into loops and curlicues all over her head, like a birthday present wrapped at a store. She didn’t know who the hell I was, but she blinked her blue-shadow lids at me, patted her hair-loops and said, “This is my sacrifice.”

“What is?” I asked, worried my hangover breath might knock her down.

“I got my hair done special just to let it be wrecked in the water.”

“Looks nice,” I said. Actually, it looked stupid.

“What’s your sacrifice?” Her pink lips were so puffed with gloss it made me want to get a job so I could buy her things.

“My sacrifice?” Let’s see stop drinking? Stop smoking? Stomp on my dad’s ugly watch? “Everything,” I blurted.

Melinda tilted the entire honey-looped planet of her head in bewilderment. “What do you mean?” She stepped toward me, but only to park her bible on a shelf behind us. She smelled like baby powder, oatmeal, and hairspray. I almost touched one of the hair-coils, but Reverend Hawkes appeared in a wedge of light at the other end of the hall. He beckoned to Melinda and she floated toward him, white robe receding like a lantern down a well. I never answered her question.

We passed each other when I went in for my turn. Her hair was indeed wrecked and the dripping robe clung to her cone breasts. She sprayed me when she said, “I feel completely cleansed.”

I didn’t see how. The water in the tank was murky and smelled like a locker room. Reverend Hawkes stood there, immersed to the waist, vestments floating around him. He said something about entering the kingdom and put his hand––reeking of Hai Karate––over my mouth and nose. He was a former all-conference line-backer from the University of Montana, and he dipped me backward, fast and hard, like a bulked-up ballroom dancer. The Our Redeemer’s Covenant congregation, including my mother, looked on. I panicked and opened my eyes to see the shiny undersurface of the water slicing down on me like the silver sky over the lake. In my terror, I gulped a gulletful of thick liquid. It curdled in my stomach for hours, the whiskey of sin and the salvation of aftershave.

The night before, while I was sitting on those cold pebbles, Darla plunged into the lake and swam a few strokes. She shrieked at me to come in because the water was fine. I picked up her red panties and stuffed them in my pocket for a joke. Soon enough, she staggered back, teeth chattering, pubes dripping, feet slapping the pebbles, and her long black hair already freezing so it clicked together in little icicle clumps. She pulled on all her clothes without the panties and never said a word about them, not that night, or the next time we got drunk, or ever.


Andrea Lewis writes short stories, prose poems, and essays from her home on Vashon Island, Washington. Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Cutthroat, Catamaran Literary Reader, and elsewhere. Two of her stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. More of her work is available at www.andrealewis.org.

Freedom in Small Spaces


A paradox:

confining a story

within the concrete walls of a hard word count

can emancipate it.


Flash fiction seems

to me

a form wholly distinct from the short story,

more receptive to experiment.

More liberated.

It’s easier to risk

a miniature canvas

than a mural.




I imagine that most readers find flash fiction manageable, inviting. Almost anyone can take in three hundred, five hundred, one thousand words—a screen or two of text—in a single sitting, even granted the distraction that is our modern condition. Limiting length makes the task of writing a flash piece more approachable, too. Flash, however, demands more of the reader (and the writer) than at first appears. When every word counts, just as valuable as what’s written is what’s left unwritten. Flashes neither show nor tell as much as they hint. They flash: to arouse, yes, but also to coax
the reader into participating. You, the piece urges, pulling the reader on stage. Help me with this.




They’re strangers to one another, sharing a bus stop shelter. Beaming from the wall beside him, a bright advertisement for the Gap. Check out our new arrivals! Knits and khakis: your favorites with a twist!

Quietly, she sheds her coat and bares herself.

Even before he turns, he senses her misfit appearance. He’s a conventional man, accustomed to conventional beauty, wholesomeness and suburban chic, discomfited by the flamboyant, the awkward, the strange.

But he glances over, anyway.

He stares.

He studies her.

He cannot look away.

Long after she’s covered up, boarded her bus, and ridden off, he’ll remain intrigued, smitten. He’ll trace and retrace what was revealed to him, the marks branded on her torso, the patches of translucent skin, the beating organ on the right side of her chest, and begin to sketch for himself the rough lines of her story.




Or maybe the writer sets out to establish a more traditional courtship, a tale in which a stalwart knight seeks the hand and heart of a lovely maiden. Her father sends him on a perilous quest that will prove the knight’s worth. Traveling far and wide, Knight survives grave dangers, overcomes intimidating obstacles, experiences poignant moments of growth. Ultimately, he returns in triumph. Maiden, however, appears unmoved. She cannot admit how she admires his courage and fortitude, appreciates his chivalric manner, thinks tenderly on the compassion he shows the peasants and the care he gives his hounds and steed. She dismisses Knight’s considerable achievements and declares his devotion false. For how can she otherwise avoid his bitter disgust and certain anger when the hues of her colorful past emerge? Perplexed and more than a bit miffed, Knight begins to doubt himself. He questions the suitability of the match, the very nature of love. An old scullery maid looks on as Knight shuffles away and Maiden begins to weep.

Is there time and space in a flash for happily ever after?




The gospel according to Luke: “To whom much is given, much will be required.”

The gospel according to the logician: Those who are given less enjoy greater license.

Can you compose a story

  • entirely in bullet points?
  • as a series of Facebook posts and comments?
  • or as marginal n
    otes on a student’s essay?
  • store signs, catalog descriptions, or While You Were Out notes?
  • bathroom graffiti?




In flash fiction, the preposterous seems plausible. In fewer words, but with wider range. While the elephant thunders, the sparrow takes wing.


Bryan Shawn BryanWangWang is grateful for his freedom. His flash fiction has appeared in places such as decomP, LITnIMAGE, Flash Fiction OnlinePrime Number, Vestal Review and the anthology Sudden Flash Youth (Persea Books). He lives in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania with his wife and children. www.bryanshawnwang.com

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