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Episode 36–The Final Episode

Hello all you wonderful lovers of flash fiction.  In Between Altered States is airing its final episode.  It has been a wonderful run with so many great writers on the digital pages.  It has been my great pleasure to provide a forum for flash fiction that is sometimes beyond the edge of what others might publish.  As with all good things, they do come to an end eventually.

This website will stay live to provide continued viewing pleasure for those who want it and writers can continue to link their stories to their pages.

This episode is a little different than the usual format.  The first episode was a wing-ding of a publication and the last will also be parting from the norm.  Episode 36 will have four stories of Contrition and four stories of Fugacious…think of it as two mini-series made for tv movies.  I hope you enjoy.

Coming back for one last run are my good old friends: Robert Vaughan, Ed Go, Timothy Gager, Josh Olsen, and Len Kuntz.

Newbies getting in on the last run are: Carly Berg, John Vicary, and Jesse Myner.

It has been wonderful.  Best of luck to you all.  If you miss me you can find me at http://www.regardlessofauthority.wordpress.com.  I’m slinging art over there these days.

Aleathia Drehmer

Editor

Myth One

Against the fog he was a big man. Against the fire tower he stood out like Paul Bunyon. And there were a great many folks who respected him: firefighter, crusader, bowler of the year. Award-winning spelunker. But we’re his other family. Who would have even known? Not me, not my sister. I try not to remember. I try to tamper down the stink.

 

Myth Two

Somebody said she did it for kicks. Another said it was all for attention. I thought it was pretty stupid. Christmas day. Hovering over a fence along a country road? Wearing just a gauzy slip? A surefire way to end up in the loony- bin where Aunt Tina is a lifelong resident. My sister has done some fairly idiotic things, and this was just another in the line of icy dumbass dumb-ness.

 

Myth Three

Let’s play marco polo she said. I’m unsure you can do that in the ocean. The roar of the waves, the salt in your ears. The leadbelly bottom and sandy rewards. I said let’s disappear into the surf, dissolve into foamy crests, creammate our desires into damp, fertile depths. {hold our breaths forever, in unison}.

 

Myth Four

Another small town filled with cheer. You couldn’t miss the liquor sign. Tallest sign in the county, higher than any billboard, larger than every building. Lit up at night, like my daddy was, mostly.  Sometimes, the ‘q’ and the ‘u’ would flicker off, and the rest of the word, ‘lior’ reminded me of what I did after he touched me.

Because where doesn’t matter. Because it is what it is. Because fortitude and solitude are the same. Because all is at the crossbeams of a newest high. Because abstinence revolves itself. Because revolution turns itself again to the frontfold. Because a dream in the daytime; amidst air in the night. Because I am you are and we, as one. Because of stranglers. Because the nearness of the vision is the furthest from the truth. Vision of the dead. Because we aren’t in the business of. Because we have none, the haves to the hads, haven’ts to ain’ts. Because noon on the thirteenth day is still noon. Because thunder. Because because is a relative relation. And lies sting, the only if it isn’t known and then the trade between the traitors who tried, who take and who get, who is and who not, the god and a mite. Because rebels rebel and angels angle and the forces of polity resist on its axis. And if the rebels, begin. So it is of the martyr. Almost only, but strayed. And in peripherals all tangled. And then the returners return, zones and zoos and undead reams—before the light lies, life lingers, love leans. . .
            Apples fall.
My husband, J.C., came back from the restroom at Fridays. He said, “Where’s my bread? Where’s my wine?”

“The waitress took it.”

The waitress heard me. She said, “Ma’am, I saw you eat it, and drink it.”

I said, “I’ll thank you to stay out of other people’s conversations, thank you, witch.”

J.C. said, “You said ‘thank you’ twice but what you ought to say twice is “I’m sorry.”

I said, “I’m sorry,” to the waitress. and “I’m sorry,” to J.C. I bobble-headed the busboy and other customers. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

“Keep your voice down, Mary Ellen,” he said.

“I’m sorry.”

In the car, he brought it up again. You’d think it was the last supper.

“I’m sorry, sorry!” I honked the horn in accompaniment.

He swerved like a very inexpert driver, veering into a church parking lot.

I jumped out of the car and ran into the church. Some candles were there so I went ahead and lit about thirty of them. It was dark and cool and the little flames were all mystical and spirity. “I’m sorry. So sor-ree,” I sang to each bright beaconette.

A priest appeared and said I had to pay for the candles.

 I said, “I’m sorry.”

J.C. had followed me in. He gave the priest some cash and glared at me.

“I’m sorry!” I screamed. I leaped into the fiery pit of hell. There I sizzled and popped, meat on a Friday.

“Eat this bread, it is my body. Drink this wine, it is my blood.” echoed off the walls.

J.C. and the priest wasted no time feasting on the communion wafers and wine, so J.C. wasn’t out anything at all.
I certainly hope he’s sorry.

INSTA Corp. held quarterly meetings where Alice and her cubicle neighbor, Felix sat in the back. “I’m Hubbard from Dayton, Ohio, and I’m here to talk about our at home white blood cell testing kits, one of the newest in our series of immediate result home testing.” Felix whispered, “What does he call his mom? Mother Hubbard?”

Alice tried to duck but she couldn’t avoid any of their eyes turning back, watching her unsuppressed laughter. “Bauman’s going to fire us,” she said after recovery but Felix shushed her. “This place sucks,” he said as Hubbard concluded his pitch with, “So, I’m stretching out my hand to you…”

“Who is he? Gumby?” Felix smirked causing Alice to run out of the auditorium and completely lose it.

“I used to party with him,” Alice whispered.

At the break, Felix said, “Cookies are crack,” eating one.  Alice had a mouthful of a warm oatmeal one. She washed it down with coffee, remembered when she used to use a cocaine grinder on ten cinnamon sticks when she needed to bake pie. “I remember those sprees,” she said.  “What a waste that was.”

“What’s in those cookies?” Bauman asked their backs.

Alice looked at Felix, before looking over her shoulder at Bauman. They volleyed that way for awhile. Bauman said, “Well, the way you were laughing, I thought you were high.”

“They tested me last week,” Alice said and shrugged her shoulders.

“I’m thinking you need a retest,” Bauman said. “Felix, too.”

“For laughing?” Alice said. “You’d think the company would want something as healthy as laughter.”

“Home white cell test kits are not, and never will be funny. I don’t know if cancer is a disease that runs in your family but…”

“Ok, ok, ok…fine,” Alice said.

“Fine,” Felix said.

Bauman reached into the closet closest to the break area and pulled out two boxes of INSTA AT-HOME DRUG TEST. Alice and Felix walked side by side like little soldiers and disappeared into their perspective bathrooms before giving their samples to Bauman. The meeting was still on break.

When Bauman reemerged from his office he had the results. “The computer indicates traces of amphetamines which I hope might be from the coffee,” Bauman told them. “Still, that being the case, I’m sorry but we must insist on either rehab or termination.”

“Rehab? For coffee?” Alice said.

“Really. Fuck it, termination,” Felix added.

“I’ve changed my mind. Termination for me too,” Alice said.

She pushed seven cookies into her Versace knock-off until they were all you could see if happened to glance in.

“Do you want to get high?” she said to Felix, palming the cookies in her pocketbook.

“Cookies,” he said. “Are crack.”

My mother was faced with a decision, either get rid of her morbidly obese, mentally retarded dog who she couldn’t stop from shitting on the neighbor’s lawn, or be evicted from her apartment.

It took my mother several tearful days to come to her senses, but she eventually chose her home over her pet.

The twist ending came when it was revealed who she was handing her dog over to.

Rather than the Humane Society or some random, anonymous, Classified Ad responder, Honey’s new daddy was Steve, my mother’s ex-husband, my brother’s dad, my step-father.

Despite the fact that I hadn’t seen or talked to the man in nearly twenty years, my mother, out of necessity, remained in somewhat frequent contact with him, and now, thanks to their newfound joint custody of a dog, they were actually getting along rather well.

Better even, perhaps, than when they were married.

“My God,” I gasped, “what if they get back together? I don’t think I could handle that.”

“Stranger things have happened,” KT replied after I finished summarizing my mother’s latest marathon telephone confessional.

When I finally got up the nerve to actually ask my mother about the possibility of her and Steve reuniting, she was quick to laugh it off.

“Gross!” she replied. “Have you seen him lately?”

And then she informed me that they were getting together for lunch the very next day, to talk about Honey, at Taco John’s.

“He offered to pay,” she added.

“So, then what?” I sheepishly asked, and she shrugged off my inquiry with a fleeting, “Who knows?”

The first scar I saw was a small, star-shaped mark on your wrist. I saw it by accident on a rainy day last May when you were reaching for the salt. You always overseasoned your food, especially the fries. I watched you shake the slim canister, your motions growing ever more frenzied as it became apparent that the salt was desiccated within. Perhaps it was the humidity of an early summer season, or maybe it was just that no one had refilled it from the previous shift. Whatever the reason, patience had never been your virtue. In your distraction you let the frayed cuff slide up your arm to reveal that sliver of skin, and I knew then that you had more secrets than even I had guessed at.

Later, you would reveal them one by one with their stories. The ridge on your hip was a sharkbite, you told me. The one on your left thigh was from when you escaped from the topmost window of the Palace of Midnight. The long jagged one behind your knee was your favorite. It was from a duel with a mermaid, and you’d won. I pretended I believed you, we all did, even though everyone knew the truth.

I still see him sometimes. In the bittermost watches of winter he will try to stand for a moment, but he never quite makes it. His eyes used to be full of pleading, but over the years I think they have faded into a sort of a dull jelly. I haven’t seen him lately but the last time I did, out on Route Ten, he didn’t even turn his head. For a fleeting moment I had some coward’s fantasy of defending you, but of course I just walked away and came home to you. Maybe you will let me hold you this time and you will tell me another tale about the sea and your body. Or maybe this is the time when you will finally be gone. I don’t know. I just don’t know.

— Argentina — 

The fields of wheat stretched to the horizon and the sky was streaked red and purple. The windmill had been spinning furiously and now hardly turned. We floated in a shallow pool made from the cement foundation of a grain silo. “The wind is no more today,” said the old doctor from Buenos Aires. His granddaughters laughed and splashed in the water. In the corral his son was getting his last work in with the polo horses. He left tomorrow for Switzerland and the start of the European season. “Vámonos,” said the old man. “The asado must nearly be ready. Everyone will be waiting for us.”

She wants to go back to before, back to the beginning, prior to this secret death, long before the twins were snuggled inside her womb, a pair of bocce balls, grapefruits sprouting limbs, becoming gangly, alien-looking in medical film, later floating inside her embryonic soup like plucked chickens, as if pretending to be astronauts tethered to nothing, gravity inconsequential, and her feeling their slide and glide all the way up to her ribs, Jim, her husband saying, “Hey, they just moved, didn’t they?”, her thinking they should never have married let alone gotten pregnant, let alone with twins, her a twin herself, always copying Claire’s style, dying her hair blood orange in high school because Claire did, piercing her navel, lip, clit, now married-Claire, perfect-Claire, already bringing over baby gifts before the twins are even hatched, scads of matching baby outfits, Seuss-striped pajamas and miniature spoons, Claire thinking of twins—the concept of twins–as rare, precious, a kind of unbreakable bond between them, no different than the covenant of marriage, Claire happy in hers, Jim now lifting a butt cheek and farting into the sofa, him pale, bloated, dull as alabaster, an unremarkable future staring back through a reflective square in the television’s right hand corner, it becoming a kaleidoscope, then a camera, clicking away at their beige walls and carpets, their beige ambitions, nothing ever ventured, nothing, really, ever gained except an ordinary existence, a death sentence she feels sluicing down her thighs as her water breaks.

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