In the Classroom

  • Train Dreams: A Novella
    Train Dreams: A Novella
    by Denis Johnson
  • Bluets
    by Maggie Nelson
  • We the Animals: A novel
    We the Animals: A novel
    by Justin Torres

Flash fictions by Liz Ketchum, Knox '12

Laying of Hands

The boy she loves has been praying over cars since he was eight years old, palm on the dashboard, willing life into the transmission. She thinks about him after the crash, how, when they were together, he prayed over the red Volvo dead on the country road and it started. She loved the way he said Jesus, full of twang and honey. She wanted to plant him in her yard like a sugar maple, so he could give her sweetness when she needed it, but the thing about a car-praying boy is that his feet love the road.

Now, stranded on the street, she wants him to uncrumple the SUV, fill in the crater on the passenger door right behind where she was sitting when the truck plowed in. She wants him to touch her collarbones again, gently salving the bruises. This is the only way she knows how to heal. She puts one hand over her heart, the other on the hood of the Ford. Arms like jumper cables as she whispers Jesus


John Wayne

My father’s name was John Wayne. Like the Western star. Except he had no boots, no spurs. Nothing to kick up the dust. I’d like to tell you that he shot men off their horses in the backyard, that he came inside with his gun still smoking, a stoic hero. I’d like to tell you that we lived in a place where there were horses. A man could show his shine on that street, I’d say. A man could have a wilderness in his heart, and it wouldn’t destroy him.

If I were to tell you that my father, John Wayne, killed himself one night under the Midwestern stars, I could tell you it was a downright shoot 'em up. That he took guns in both his hands and pulled the triggers like life and country depended on it.

The truth is that he killed himself in a garage, the cars running like chained-up horses. And as he wandered past the rakes, drunk on carbon monoxide, he couldn’t even see the leaves caught in their teeth, or how near he was to the doors—the one leading out into the cornfields, the other into the house where pizza was still sitting on the counter but his girls were gone back to their mother. He collapsed on the welcome mat, his neck swelling against everything he’d tracked in.

Liz's definition of flash fiction:

Really, the pleasure of prose poetry and flash fiction is that they’re young and still undefined. They’re like awkward pre-teens at summer camp, still trying to figure out all the weird things their bodies can do. Some are more developed; some are still waiting for a growth spurt. Some can sing; others are the quiet nerdy types who like to sit on their bunk beds and read. Some aren’t as afraid to play with the opposite sex; some call their mothers every day. All of them are navigating this adolescent space where it’s up to them to define what they are to the world. And hell if they know. They’re just trying to play kickball and flirt with each other at the trading post. All they know is that they’re not quite like their parents, fiction and poetry sitting at home reading their anthologies. And they’re not always like their peers, but if their counselors tell them anything, it’s that it’s okay to be a little different. 

Liz Ketchum is a creative writing major from Springfield, Illinois.