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Flash Fiction: "Something Like Love", "The Primary Reason"

Something Like Love

You kneel to take milk from my breast like your son, your searching mouth and parted lips like a slick channel between distant islands, like my sex and yours. The blue light of the television turns your skin a milky white as you pull my nipple hard. I think of my hand in your mouth feeling the cheek-membranes stretch and your eyes widen to accept me, of the way I might feel if I could reach down your throat to your greedy bloody heart and find love. Our child is evidence, something that proved once you felt something like love or the pale approximation I’ll accept for lack of anything else. I could spasm your throat like a cancer with just my tiny hand and find no warmth, though I rip through your guts like a sharp north wind. This curtain I have drawn is to protect you from the neighbors, give you privacy as I give you suck, open my blouse for your thorny hot breath. This curtain, my hand, the drawn linen, the television noise. No baby, shh baby, don’t cry, Mama’s here, poor little thing. Don’t worry, baby, no one will see.

rusty barnes

The Primary Reason

After their breakup his girlfriend moved into this pretentious part of the city. Now here she is with her new boyfriend Franz, up in the brick and timber loft. From the slushy sidewalk he sees them through the glowing windows of the kitchen, Franz pawing her backside as she clears lunch dishes off the table.

Technically, what he’s doing now isn’t spying. This is work. He’s here to hang a sign for John Hancock across the street. His crewmen start backward with the K, since the chocolatier on the other side is being fumigated. They work on scaffolds and ladders in the overcast cold. Every now and then he leans against a parking meter and stares up at the loft.

As the crewmen hang the K, he remembers the reason she gave him for the breakup, the primary reason. She told him that in his worst moments he was vulgar, immature, like a caveman.

As his crewmen hang the C, he remembers how other women told him the same.

And later, as dusk falls and his crewmen hang the O, his ex-girlfriend and Franz return from work, shedding their coats and scarves. He wonders if it would hurt less if Franz, a rangy European man with cowboy boots and a ridiculous swashbuckler mustache, were more like him instead of someone so complicatedly different.

But is it really so complicated? Look at them now, his ex-girlfriend tugging the wolfishly grinning Franz by the wrist. They slink off to another part of the loft and he can no longer see.

After his crewmen finish the C, he tells them that’s enough for the day. Laughing, they ask if he’s serious. Yes, he tells them, not laughing. They leave it up there in big black letters for the whole world to see, what he considers the real primary reason.

thomas cooper

How to get your flash fiction in Artvoice!

In the Margins occasionally features flash fiction by local writers. The flash fiction editor is Greg Gerke. Submissions running 500 words or less can be sent by e-mail to or by mail to Greg Gerke, Flash Fiction Editor, Artvoice, 810 Main St., Buffalo, NY 14202. Please include a SASE to have manuscripts returned.

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