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Flash fictions by Kevin Morris, Knox '10

THAT is to SAY, HE FELT LIKE BEING SELFISH

She came home and did not find her husband there, despite their prior agreement, made the night before over their final meal at Bel-Mar Country Club, that he would be there to help her carry the boxes to her car--the boxes of trinkets and frames they planned to mail to their new home in Florida--and she was worried.

He left three hours ago, and was now crossing the border into southern Minnesota. If he had left a note, which he had planned to do, but couldn't find a pen anywhere in the kitchen, and didn't feel like rifling through the box his wife had labeled "DESK MISC." the night before, he would have enumerated his reasons for leaving, twenty-nine years after marrying her. Such a list may have included any or all of the following:

1. tired of her

2. tired of never being alone

3. tired in general

4. tired of the fact she stopped caring about her appearance twenty-two twenty-five years ago

5. tired of the fact that they had been planning to retire to Florida for the last six years, despite the fact he'd rather stay put in Marengo, Illinois

6. tired of the fact that he would never be able to ice-fish down there in all that heat

7. tired of oatmeal

In actuality, he had simply read "The Compartment" by Raymond Carver and in sympathizing with the protagonist, realized that he ought to do something someone else, perhaps a second-generation immigrant named Maya, an undergrad Lit major at UC-Irvine, may deem "despicable," after having read it in a story by some other oft-cited, oft-eulogized American writer.

 

THE MAN WHO WOULD NOT ACT

The man was in a commercial, it was a testimonial for a film, the type the man would never see, freely, at least; it was the type of film he would claim to “avoid like the plague.” It wasn’t a Michael Bay film, though there were people, somewhere surely, who thought it was, based on the cinematic effects and poor storyline. The thriller type, but not the mid-1990s thrillers that the man actually liked, films he would go see in theaters in college: like “The Game” or “Primal Fear,” films that made you think – so he claimed. In the middle of winter, December, a woman accosted him on the street, jumped in front of him so quick he almost spilled his chai latte. She was enthusiastic, and attractive enough, so he listened while she explained that he could be in a commercial, a promotional clip for a film’s release, and all he had to do was stand in front of a movie poster with another woman (who would be chosen within a minute or two, and the woman implied that the man could choose his acting partner, and she “has got to be pretty hot”) and say that the film was awesome, the special effects killer, and the two (awesome, killer), in sum, made it a sick viewing experience. Now, the woman clarified, it wouldn’t be just that easy. He had to be infectious, happy(!). He was flattered, extremely flattered, that he, of the hundreds of thousands who would walk down Lake Street that day, was chosen, by this woman, to appear during a 45-second clip that would air in the three-minute breaks between syndicated airings of Gilmore Girls or, more in line with the man’s taste, Frasier.

Now he had to pick the woman, and he was excited. They told him hot, but he wasn’t up for that. He wasn’t up for the dowdy, or the homely girls either, he wanted something in between. Someone cute. Cute girls are trustworthy, he thought. I can count on them to do well here. And they won’t steal the show. He chose a woman, curly-haired, Keri Russell-esque, and felt good about his choice. And she told him it was perfect, since she’s an aspiring actress. She said she was in a few improv groups.

And it hit the man and he gulped and felt a little queasy at the thought. Who’s usually in these commercials? (The enthusiastic woman, the one who waved her arms and pulled him into this, she was reading a waiver for the man and the Keri Russell-esque woman to sign, stating that they understand they’ll appear on television and the like. The man nodded.) He was scared. Scared of what this commercial meant. Who’s usually in these? Actors. Actors. Actors. Always with the actors. The man was no actor. Never wanted to be one. The man lived in an apartment complex with all actors. In Chicago of all places. He always thought he’d have to go out to LA to be with so many hopeless dreamers. And all of them worked at Safeway, or Borders, but swore that someday they’d make it, because their improv group (in the case of his downstairs neighbor, Jay, 34, charter member of Menopausal Quarter Pounder) was really funny, and their YouTube channel had over 7,000 hits. No, the man couldn’t be an actor. He couldn’t be looked at like this. His dry cleaner would look down on him, companies wouldn’t hire him, worried that he was the type of guy who sent out mass e-mails with discount tickets to his improv troupe’s shows (10% off!). Women wouldn’t date him, worried that he would be the type of boyfriend who would refer to stray observations and conversations as “riffs.”

No, the man could not act. He would not act.

 

Kevin's definition of flash fiction:

Flash fiction is not the car crash. Flash fiction is the awkward run-in at the grocery store, the flirtatious exchange with the bartender or the commute to a friend’s house. It’s not the car crash, the custody battle, or the rape. Maybe it’s something smaller that alludes to one of those three, but no, it’s not those three. It can’t be. It’s less consequential – but for the writer, more so. More about minutiae, less dramatic. More pressure to elevate the stakes, to take the small, in a small frame, and make it larger, so large that the reader is left breathless, or teary-eyed, or smiling. 

Therein lies the greatness. 

Kevin Morris is a history major from Machesney Park, Illinois.