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Flash Fiction

Below are the winners of Just Buffalo 2nd Annual Member Writing Contest. Trudy Cusella won the Jury Prize, chosen by Professor Kim Chinquee, and Allison N. Ritchey won the Audience Prize, chosen by those that attended the annual reading at WNYBAC on February 20, 2010.


—This house is haunted.

—This house is not haunted.

—Momma, I don’t want to die.

—You’re five, you don’t have to worry about that for a long time.

—But what about when I get old? I don’t want to leave you.

—So don’t. Stay with me forever.

I kissed his forehead. I knew I was making promises I couldn’t keep but I wanted him to feel safe.

A terrifying thought suddenly occurred to him.

—But what if I get really old and I forget to stay with you?

—Don’t worry, I won’t ever let you forget. I will always be here to remind you. Now close your eyes and go to sleep.

—Hold me, Momma, hold me tight.

Content with my answer, he finally slept. I lie awake trying to wrap myself in his closeness for I knew it was a passing luxury.

It is 13 years later and I am sitting on the very same bed holding his heart in my hands. A heart in a box that two men in uniform brought to me with their condolences. I think about our last conversation.

—I have to go, Mom, I have to get away from here.

—I know.

I wanted to say: “You’re supposed to stay with me.” I wanted to remind him. But I couldn’t keep that promise. Boys grow into men and men leave their mothers. So I let him go.

This house is haunted.

—allison n. ritchey

A Test

My husband fidgets in the chair next to me. He grabs my hand. The test results are in and so is the fertility doctor. Shouldn’t he be off delivering twins or golfing? He’s always late when he comes in at all. Now that he knows my business, he arrives and on time.

I can predict the test results. My husband will have a low sperm count or halfhearted swimmers. For a long time, I’ve wanted to confess: I can get pregnant in the backseat of a Firebird convertible and while using a condom. But I don’t. I sit in this bony-backed chair and wait and squeeze his hand.

My husband is loving and generous, religious and conservative and inflexible regarding his beliefs. He gives me the stable life I’ve always longed for and I don’t tell him about the teen-age abortion or the child I gave up for adoption.

A few days ago, my legs splayed, heart throbbing, the doctor examined me. He said nothing. He gently placed my legs back on the table, wrote a note in my chart and left the room. I read the note: changes in vaginal musculature and episiotomy scar indicate childbirth experience. Will he tell my secret?

A nurse calls our name. My husband pulls his hand away. The doctor’s waiting he says. I reach for that steady hand but he’s already through the open door. I follow him.

—trudy cusella

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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