52|250's Third Quarter Review

Newcomers flash their flash

Newcomers write about writing flash

We asked some of our newest contributors in the third quarter to tell us about their flashing experience. They chose a story each and elaborated on the process, how they set about writing that particular piece. Here you’ll find Catherine Davis, Melissa McEwen and John Riley sharing their views on diving deep, capturing a mood, and haphazard links that turn into a story.

On The Brothers Verne

week #38 – long distance

by Catherine Davis

Think about other kinds of distances: for instance, sub-marine distance is an entirely different plane – as anyone who swims or dives well knows.  Consider this world from the position of a sort of expert, who might, at the same time, experience the enthrallment of a child. Around this time, someone happens to make the comment that so-and-so once was a champion underwater swimmer. No he wasn’t, he was not the one, not him! is my silent response – the vehemence of which leads me musing along the path of family rivalries and jealousies. This frame offers a conduit for a conflict to enter what is still very much an amorphous construct. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea then pops into my head from some nether region – although I have never read this amazing work. But, I decide, these particular fictional brothers certainly have read it – especially the enthralled swimmer. Meanwhile, I research underwater distance swimming competitions (an Olympic event in Paris, 1900, and while swimmers’ distances increase as the sport progresses, as an Olympic sport the event is never rebilled, whether from disinterest or danger is unclear). And I read from Verne’s novel, and write. Rapture of the deep.


The Brothers Verne

Underneath, distance is the thing, not time. Time, only insofar as how long it sustains. On one breath.Kid can swim. Two minutes seventeen, second turn. Length of limbs: mechanical advantage. Slenderness of frame: reduced drag. Accidents of birth, not strength of mind. “Citius, altius, fortius!” The bottom is tinted with fine shades of ultramarine. Surely the way we were meant to move in the world. If not gills? Adaptation. A single breath – extend until it capitulates and – I’m in. Blast the barrier.Two and forty-eight. Carbon dioxide dribbling up to the surface. Soon will be nothing left, then fire, cells screaming, and he’ll give it up.

Burbles, gurgles, whooshing of displaced water. Sunlight refracting in shards. The solar rays easily crossed this aqueous mass and dispersed its dark colors,

Hypoxia. It happens.

His shadow cuts the light as he stands by, clocking me. He will be so proud: a younger brother worth having! One league only is fifty-five laps plus one length of this pool. Imagine. It can be done, in time.

Teach the brat a lesson. He challenges my three minutes, seven?

Every cell of my skin feeling the flow – a billion individual sensations. This is… alive.

Can’t be doing three, twenty-two and still… no, not moving. It’s inaccurate data. Reset, I’m done.

I call your name, but you don’t hear. I’ll sleep now, while I wait.

So? Hypoxia, he gets a snootful, he’ll snap out of it.

Brother, how will we reach the bottom of the sea?

On Florida Ain’t  Nothing

week #38 – long distance

by Melissa McEwen

Lawd, it’s a challenge tryna create a world and tryna create characters in 250 words or less. Child, I tell ya— whoops, I was writing as one of my characters. Where was I? Oh, I love when my flash fiction pieces read like longer pieces and make me forget that it’s only 250 words or less and good enough to stand on its own. That is how Florida Ain’t Nothing felt when I wrote it. I always wanted to write about my cousins visiting from Florida and how the people in the neighborhood would be smitten with them (I don’t know if it was because they were pretty or because they were from Florida or both). I could never write a poem about it and whenever I tried to write a short story about it, I could never finish, so flash fiction seemed to be the right medium to tell the story. I didn’t get to mention my pretty cousins in the story, but I think the “mood” I was trying to capture was captured in those 248 words.


Florida Ain’t Nothing

When Uncle Pete drove up from Florida for Aunt Barb’s wedding in April, he stayed with Ma and me in our small gray house. His long car and Florida tag seemed so big in our small-town driveway. In this town, out-of-staters are like celebrities and the neighborhood kids stared at the tag, asked if they could get in, as if getting in the car would make them Floridians. “You from Miami? Orlando?” they asked from the backseat, leaning out the window. Uncle Pete, leaning against the car, said, “Naw, Pensacola,” and the kids frowned.They all wanted to know if it was hotter there than up here and Uncle Pete said, “Much!” then he told them what he used to tell me, “Gets so hot I can fry fish on the sidewalk,” and they believed him – even Tony and he never believes anything anybody tells him.

It was the same way when I was younger and Miss Dixon’s son came to visit her from California. I was one of the kids asking if he was from L.A. or Hollywood. He was a movie star to us. He told us about beaches and good weather. That night, my dreams were Californiaful and in the morning I asked Ma if we could move, but she said “California ain’t nothing but gangs and earthquakes.”

And, that April, as I watched Ma (arms folded) watching Uncle Pete, I knew what she was thinking: “Florida ain’t nothing but hurricanes and rat sized roaches.”

On Misdemeanor Offense

week #32 – silence

by John Riley

My process when responding to the “silence” prompt was so haphazard it’s a stretch to call it a process. It consisted of jotting down notes and waiting for something to happen. Here’s a sample of the notes:Silence is a thing, not merely a lack of sound. Sometimes it has to be inserted where it’s needed.Silence is a commodity. An over abundance of words raises its value.Miles DavisI talk, therefore I am.

Prison/fear/talking as a response to fear.

The power of place names. The phrase “We crossed the Madres at Durango” creates a memory even if you’ve never been to Mexico. We’ve all crossed the Madres at Durango.

A piece about a boy in prison will cause readers to wonder how much is autobiographical.

It’s good when readers wonder.

I typed up a few more notes but they weren’t helpful. I was putting off writing.

I wrote a draft and the boy became a book worm. That wasn’t a surprise. The other prisoners schooling away and the bit about endlessness ending was.

I wished it had more vivid imagery. Still do.

I let it sit for a day and tidied it up. Very little changed.

I screwed up my courage and sent it to 52/250.

I was thrilled to see it on the website.


Misdemeanor Offense

It was a surprise they put me in a dormitory, not a cell, with fourteen sets of bunk beds along two walls, windows with no bars, and that for two days no one threatened me, the kid with Penguin classics under his mattress. It was not a surprise when, on the third day, the man sat on my bunk without invitation and told me without being asked he’d beaten his friend to death with a pool cue and still didn’t know why and asked without caring which book was my favorite. I showed him my used copy of Lady With a Little Dog except in that translation it was called Lady With a Lapdog. He said no man should be a lapdog. I agreed and told him the story. “Fuckin’ cheaters,” he said which made me think of my father and I told him about our drunken trip to Mexico, my dad and I, and how at fourteen I’d driven us over the Madres and through a town called Durango. It was a surprise that after I said Durango he stared a long time at the wall of men wearing green shirts and green pants waiting to see what was supposed to happen and whispered twice “Madres at Durango” and then said I should shut-up he’d make sure I was okay but I should shut-up and the prisoners, so unlike me I was certain, schooled away, leaving behind an endlessness that didn’t last.


2 responses

  1. “Madres at Durango”
    this piece left me thinking of the father drunk & the kid driving cross the border, of the man on the bunk repeating “Madres at Durango.”
    a haunting early morning read. i want to change the title though:
    “Madres at Durango.” thanks for writing this piece, chella

    May 11, 2011 at 12:02 pm

  2. Catherine,
    When I read the explanation of your flash, I thought the explanation sounded like ‘Verne’ also. It was interesting to trace your train of thought to the finished product. Thanks for sharing.

    I think you did capture the mood very well, the beautiful myths of childhood shattered by a casual remark from a grownup. This was a wonderful story, and it makes me feel nostalgic even though I grew up in South Florida and can’t stand it there. The way you introduced your introduction in character cracked me up too. Great writing all around.

    I’m thrilled it was on the site too, as I enjoyed the story very much. My process for some of the themes was very similar – make notes, write a story, dislike it or find it inadequate and then write another. Some of the themes I wrote three or four stories for before I submitted. It’s cool to see how your notes and thoughts developed into the flash. Nice.

    May 12, 2011 at 6:44 pm

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