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Flash Fiction

You’ve got to feel bad for hardware stores

You’ve got to feel bad for hardware stores. Or for a town where the mayor is a rat. I come from a town where the mayor is a whale. When we have parades, they happen in the lake. “Floats,” the mayor says. “I want to see more floats.” But of course, he’s already floating; somewhere in the lake, with streamers tied to his fins and a pointy hat that makes him look as silly as a goose. He doesn’t care. No one in my town cares about anything. No one has problems. In my entire town there is not one problem. Nowhere! I couldn’t find one if I looked with a microscope. Nor could I find a screw.

Since screws are sometimes used for fixing things, and since things need to be fixed when they’re broken, and since broken things are indeed a problem, my town has outlawed screws. “Read my calcium-based food-filtration mechanisms!” the mayor yelled. “No new screws!” Everyone cheered except for me. My roof was leaking. I needed a screw. Rain had come in and ruined my TV set. No more Captain Kangaroo for this guy. When I stepped back and looked at my house, and my TV set, and my life, I noticed there were some problems. My neighbor did, too. “Next town, hardware store,” he whispered. “Quick, before anyone notices.”

“Got any screws?” I asked the man at the hardware sore. He had plenty. “Do you mind if I buy one?” I asked him. “See, I’ve got a problem.” No sooner had I posed the question than I realized the inevitable—any screw I buy is one less for him to fix his own problems with. “Go ahead,” he said. “Take ’em all. We’ve got so many goddamn problems here. The mayor’s a rat. I can’t even remember what a good steak tastes like. Nobody’s gonna fix a thing.” He handed me a paper bag filled with screws.

On my way out of the store I noticed a T-shirt. It read: Before there was software, there was hardware. “How much?” I asked, wanting to buy the one thing in the town next to mine that reminded people things weren’t always so bad, wanting to wear it in my town, to look ironic, to stir the pot. “Make me an offer,” he said. “I’ll take anything.”

peter zinn

flash fiction in Artvoice

Literary Buffalo occasionally includes flash fiction alongside the poetry, features, interviews, and book reviews. Literary Buffalo seeks submissions of flash fiction, meaning complete stories running 500 words or less. Stories longer than 500 words will not be considered. Send submissions to flash fiction editor Greg Gerke at or mail them to Flash Fiction Editor, Artvoice, 810 Main St., Buffalo, NY 14202. Please include SASE for return of manuscript.

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