Three Flash Fictions

Fiction by Laura Citino
 

Goatboy

CitinoOn Monday we started reading The Crucible and when Mrs. McGarrity asked for volunteers to take on the voices of the moralizing pilgrims, we all sat on our hands. Except for Goatboy, who wanted to read the part of John Proctor. Goatboy was someone the girls called a little guy because every day he wore gray heathered sweatpants with elastic at the ankles, which rode up to show the fine white ribs of his socks. At odds with his size, he was one of the first boys to grow facial hair, a satyr’s beard at the tip of his chin.

Last week while showing us the movie version Mrs. McGarrity tried to fast-forward through the part where a girl gyrates naked and possessed in the colonial blue woods, but fast-forwarding meant we still got to see it, just fast. We were obsessed with proportion, of appetite and response. Having no reaction to her white white body was awkward, but going too far, too obscene, would leave you like Matt Bates—the kid we called Master Bates, because, duh. Goatboy had his face buried in the textbook the whole time, poppy red oozing into his cheeks.

We read, we mumbled, we asked for help with the more archaic words. Then Goatboy inexplicably did the whole thing with a Scottish accent. IT IS A WHORE’S VENGEANCE. IT IS MY NAME. Some of us who were asleep came awake. Some of us who weren’t paying attention rolled our eyes. Mary sat in the back and watched. She was what the boys called a big girl and the play bugged her. Teenage harlots, the fall of an upstanding man, Mrs. McGarrity writing ALLERGORY on the board in big block letters at the start of class. Mary read Victorian literature for fun, was obsessed with the subtle gesture. A hand on a shoulder could feel like a kiss. A steady gaze under a wide-brimmed hat, desire.

Every few scenes Mrs. McGarrity asked for more volunteers to read. Mary watched Goatboy’s tiny ass in those tiny sweatpants lift up off his chair. IT IS MY NAME. She watched his hands curl into claws. Her own joints felt swollen, like those killer growing pains she got when what her mother called the Watkins genes started working their magic. Her legs crossed under the desk. She recrossed. She ached. WHORES. Goatboy’s mouth licked and gasped at the sagging vowels. Last winter, in the middle of “Regina Coeli” Goatboy took off his shoe and hurled it at the choir director and we didn’t see him for weeks. There’s your hero, Mary. He finished his monologue and stood up and actually fucking bowed. Mrs. McGarrity wiped her hands on her velour jumpsuit and said something small and tasteless like nice job. We slammed our books shut and started to leave and Mary tilted her head to the ceiling and laughed, she did, so delicate, so easy. It was the signal we needed. We held fast to our seats.
 
 

Montezuma Man Arrested for Throwing Television at Juvenile

The incident was initially reported as a family disturbance. Attending deputies state that the incident took place in the 1100 block of Washington Street. Neighbors say the trees on Washington Street are beginning to smell like winter, though this claim is currently unsubstantiated. According to photos taken at the scene, the alleged television was one of those big box jobs that live perpetually on neighborhood tree lawns. We at the Tribune-Star would like to note that not everyone calls the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street a tree lawn. As the local newspaper of record, the Tribune-Star is aware of the fact that our readership is tired of forced regionalism. We know that you believe that western Indiana is much like eastern Indiana, central Maine, the outer edges of Reno. We have been informed that a man could throw a television at a young person anywhere. Rumors are circulating that the accused were father and son. Bystanders report hearing fighting at the residence as early as last July. Our fact-checkers speculate that the son had dropped out of school, where he previously claimed he was majoring in HVAC but was really doing whippets in the parking lot of the Denny’s on Wabash. Our readership is fluent in the language of children who still sleep in their beds as if newborns; this story will surprise none of you. Our citizen-journalists have pointed out how hilarious it is that this incident occurred in Montezuma, Indiana. The Tribune-Star smugly presents this evidence of our individuality, along with the towns of Brazil, Peru, Lima, etc. South American motifs don’t just crop up every day in the Bible Belt. It is difficult for our neighbors to conjure up distance, sun-baked cobblestones, sugary sharp rum that goes right to your head. We have collected substantial proof that our younger Hoosiers don’t find this strange. Life for them is linear, not spreading like a pool of water; they may cook meth or take a stab at moving to Evansville to pass the time, but they would live here forever if we let them. We have every reason to believe that on the tree lawn (sidewalk buffer, devil strip, government grass, road reserve, yard sample, etc.), the father kicked his son out, believing that if this was done with proper love and force, his son would turn out to be the success story. The cut above. There has been speculation that the father was a descendant of Montezuma’s first settlers who looked upon the untouched land and through their cotton-filled mouths could still form the word: Paradise. The television is thought to be symbolic: I’ve given you all I can / I love you please leave. Our sources say the blood of manifest destiny runs in this father’s veins, though tempered with doubt, and he would have it run in his sons. Our sources are, as always, confidential. Initial reports indicated that the father’s name was Jeremy. We have no reason to doubt this claim.
 
 

Appetite

The men at the meat counter want me to buy what I don’t need. They overwhelm me with their maleness spread out in the display case, glistening under the fluorescent lights and emphatic: girthy pork tenderloins, aggressive t-bone steaks, hot sausage, stuffed chops. Smoked, cured, spiced, sliced, ground. These men have been put through the ringer.

I come prepared, grocery list in hand, my husband’s Carhartt slung around my shoulders. On him it only emphasizes how small he’s become since the hole in his stomach, since the discovery of the hole in his stomach after it was already too big, but on me it brings a sense of, I think, independence, a reluctant readiness to take on something by necessity, a jacket, a hole in the stomach, pounds of cold bloody meat, etc. The men at the meat counter respect a woman in a Carhartt, even if she wears it unwillingly. I’m only thirty-three but they make me feel like an old maid, like I’m wearing ankle-length skirts and black scrunchies in my hair. They call me Miss Ann when they know just Ann would do.

The men at the meat counter never persuade me to look at half a dozen clams on ice, whose slits seal shut until heat is applied. Never a special on smooth chicken breasts or dark meat thighs. They would never try to pick me from their teeth. Their mamas taught them better than to reference a woman’s body right to her face, to remind her of the burdens suggested by a loose canvas coat. As if I could ever forget how 32GGs swing from a collarbone, how a thick ass affect one’s rhythm and sway. How my arms were weak before, how much stronger they are now.

The men at the meat counter try to bring me a cure. This’ll perk him right up, they say, wielding some seven pounds of pork shoulder under my nose. Slippery giblets and musky organ meat, old country aphrodisiacs are slipped into my bag for free. And a little something for you, too. Sometimes they wink. Their skin is too dry and hair too short and uniforms too surgical. They can’t get my blood going any more than the dead sides of beef hanging like luminous ghosts behind them in the freezer.

Carmen, the youngest one with foggy complexion and tightly curled hair, will say, Miss Ann. I’ve got something good for you today.

Thanks, Carmen, I will say. Just some shrimp for us.

Best cut we’ve got, he says. Special delivery, Miss Ann.

I’m not sure, I say. We don’t have that much of an appetite.

I saved one just for you, he says. Miss Ann, you at least gotta take a look.

He disappears through the heavy swinging doors. I say we—we have less appetite, we have to stay home because stairs steal our breath, we cannot stomach the things we once could—so I can feel less myself, less the collection of actions I have become. Needle poking, pillow turning, bed no longer sharing. The men at the meat counter want to cure a sickness I don’t even have. A special diet meant for women on the edge, all the protein and calcium and Vitamin K going to the right place at the right time, no room for bodily error of the kind that excavated the hole in my husband’s stomach. They want me to feel fierce, to chomp and swallow and growl before them. Caged pet, dripping teeth.

The men at the meat counter know what sits well in my stomach, that I like a bargain, that I can handle some heat and spice. While Carmen is gone I imagine him saying, I want to give you the best thing I’ve got, and it’ll be what I needed all along. Knives and machetes and bone cutters and cleavers, oh, mercy. And maybe when we’re done I pluck out his spleen. I could be up to my wrist in Carmen, smear on my cheeks, Carmen under my fingernails. And I would leave him there smiling on the butcher paper and place my fistful of Carmen, all steaming and purple and thick-veined, on the steel scale. Watch the numbers flip and climb. See how much it is worth.
 
 
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About Laura Citino

Laura Citino is a fiction writer and an essayist from southeastern Michigan. In 2013, she received her MFA in fiction from Eastern Washington University. Her work has appeared in numerous journals in print and online, including Sou'wester, cream city review, Pembroke, Blue Earth Review, Smokelong Quarterly, and others. She currently teaches in a program for academically talented youth and serves as Managing Editor for Sundog Lit. She lives in Kalamazoo, MI.

Laura Citino

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