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Flash fictions by Tasha Coryell, Knox '10

Up There, We Wouldn’t Be Like This

He says, I want to go live on top of a mountain. She says, Why and can I come with? He says, No, because then it wouldn’t really be a mountain. She says, Define the word mountain. He says, mountain has the same definition of everything else: continuous and cyclical. There will be a mountain and then there won’t. There will be a hill and then a valley. There will be a river and that’s the important part. She says, when my mother was having surgery on her cancer, I met a boy who got drunk going down a river and driving home ran into a semi and became a paraplegic. He says, what does that have to do with anything? She says, in the winter it was snowing and our legs formed tunnels in the white drifts. Once you step in, it’s hard to ever climb out again. There is something desperate about bodies being close to one another in the cold. People start to think they are saving one another with warmth. Our skin starts to become a matter of survival, unlike the summer, when we pull apart, sticky, peeling parts of ourselves away. He says, on a mountain, the height affects everything, including cooking time and temperature. Up there, we wouldn’t be like this. When words come out of your mouth all I can think is how much I like your lips. She says, the thing about traveling down a shallow, narrow creek is that you hit things. Logs slide up against butt, which dangles in the water from the tube. If you’re not careful you’ll hit the trees that dangle down. In some parts the water is too shallow to drift and you have to stand and walk across the slippery rocks. I lost a shoe doing this.

 

I Saw You Up in the Air

I’m thinking about the things that leave and the time I was twelve and asked my dad about the meaning of life and he said a lot of people have killed themselves trying to answer that question. I’ve read about people who long to be amputees and spend their life begging doctors to cut off their limbs so they can be incomplete. The Polly Pocket Company stopped making their dolls so small because little children would swallow them and they would be lost.

We all know I am talking about your leaving, but we’re acting as if I’m not. I’m thinking about airplanes and how even when I was on the same plane as you, we were both going somewhere different. I saw you, up in the air, my head peering over the top of my seat. The way I was leaving you, several aisles down, as if on a completely different flight. I remember watching a movie with my mother about a plane split in two, the top missing from the back half and everyone screaming. When I asked her what happened, she told me the half exposed to open air was where the smokers went, so that no one else would have to breathe in their waste. You were chewing nicotine gum, but I couldn’t see your mouth moving. We watched movies without each other, predicting that would be how it was after you left.

In elementary school a Native American man wearing a feathered headdress came and told us that nothing is ever really lost, things just go elsewhere. At the time it made sense, but all he really talked about was things I couldn’t see anyways, like things we emit when we start fires. I should’ve asked him about bones.

 

The Things We Say To Each Other When We Can No Longer Be In Love

You and your fucking legs.

He could have said this like he was imagining then wrapped around his head, but instead he says it like he’s envious in the way women begin to hate each other in arts and crafts classes. We are stuck in rush hour traffic. My legs rest on the dashboard, my feet imprinted with white sandal lines.

We sit drinking coffee, pouring whiskey into our cups. He pleads with me not to throw up and I say, “Baby, I’ve been preparing for this all summer.”

When we’re ready to go I ask him if he’s good to drive and he says, “I’m always good to go somewhere.” The thing about whiskey is that it makes me want to kiss everyone all over and eat food. I kiss him before I get out of the car at the restaurant. “You’re the devil,” he says. “You’re awful,” and this time I know that he means it.

I wonder how much of this is my fault; if perhaps I always love the wrong sorts of people.

Tasha's definition of flash fiction:

I always find it strange how the definitions of flash fiction are often longer than flash fictions themselves. It seems to be a genre that tries to defy definition, that rests somewhere between poetry and prose and despite the word “flash” in the name, flash fictions can encompass anywhere between the momentary and the infinite. This leaves the conundrum of how to define the genre or a question of whether it can function without such definition. Personally I like to leave it open-ended with boundaries. It should not be lineated, as the line separating it from poetry must be drawn somewhere. It should be shorter than or around 1000 words, any longer and it starts to resemble a short story. Outside of that, I struggle to find identifying factors. I want to say that they are what the writer wants them to be or what the reader finds them to be, but I certainly don’t find this to be true. Flash fiction is a lot of things and there are a lot of things it is not as well, but I cannot say what most of these things are.

Tasha Coryell is from St. Paul, Minnesota. She graduated from Knox College in 2010 with a bachelor's degree in creative writing and minors in German and gender and women's studies. She has been awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to teach English for a year in Austria.