by Tobi Alfier
When she learned to fly, she learned that more important than almost anything was to have an emergency landing site picked out at all times. The trick was to stay calm, take out as few people, houses, etc. as possible, and walk away. She never knew that also applied to relationships. Consequently, she never saw the crash and burn.
Tom was the analytical and repressed one. She was the free spirit with terrible self-esteem. Growing up, Tom’s hands were always red and raw from the nuns slapping him with anything painful. She went to her high-school graduation with a large root beer from the local drive-thru, topped off with vodka stolen from her parent’s liquor cabinet. It didn’t matter, they weren’t there anyway. Being a tiny bit promiscuous, she ended up in the back of Jason somebody’s van because she was tipsy and he told her she was beautiful.
She had her diploma somewhere, along with her birth certificate, passport and pink slip. Tom had all his papers in alphabetical order, filed in an accordion folder in their bedroom.
People used to say that Tom had one foot firmly on her kite string to keep her from flying into the sun. They were a great match and a strong team. Until they weren’t. On the day they both realized they were exhausted from trying so hard—Tom paying the bills, making lists for the handyman while she made beautiful artworks of salads, keeping up a running commentary of cute and unimportant trivia, or things heard on the news, he was gone.
Neither one of them saw it coming. It was a Tuesday. A few days into spring. Birds were starting to wake them up in the morning. They went to work. They came home. Nothing was different. She never thought to think if this engine fails, where am I going to land?
Within a fat forty minutes Tom packed his color-coded clothes, fourteen pairs of underwear and socks, the accordion file and a few miscellaneous things and he was gone. She was left to wander shell-shocked amid the rulers and whisks, notebooks, folk art, matching towels, mismatched plates and all the flotsam of two unrelated but complementary lives and think about what to do next.
And walk away.
Tobi Alfier is a multiple Pushcart nominee. Her full-length collection “Somewhere, Anywhere, Doesn’t Matter Where” is recently out from Kelsay Books. She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review (www.bluehorsepress.com).
The Dust of Moth
by Martin Porter
My father died ancient and peacefully. I inherited the strongbox hidden beneath his bed containing his miscellanea; moth eaten military maps annotated for rambling, dusty wing scales trapped between pictures sketched by him, postcards bought in antique shops, diaries scripted in jotters, envelopes, a wedding ring.
One brown envelope contained a map with marked tracks, reconnaissance photographs showing huts and compounds beside a fetid lake, family pictures in a small dog-eared album. Flicking through these, I found myself staring at my father in walking hat, my mother, their child, all against a background of smoking chimneys, ramshackle huts and high barbed wire fences. There, too, were court reports, prison records, broken corpses of moth.
My father had never spoken of this. Was he prisoner, guard, builder or liberator, even a spy. Or perhaps an innocent bystander? The diaries revealed no truth, excuse nor confession. My father lived a borrowed narrative, a collage made of wing cells and rubble, cemented in place by lime from old bones, the weight of his memories locked in a box, together with desiccated chrysalides.
I cannot remember paddling in that lake nor the picnics evidenced in the photographs. I cannot remember the disappearances, the silences between wailing carried on the wind, the smell of smoke and ash beside the lake. I heard no bombs falling and exploding. I remember no moths silhouetted against a harvest moon.
I sold the wedding ring. I burned the diaries and reports, tainted by dust and moth wings. Enthralled by the flames, I added photographs and albums to the fire. But without knowledge of that landscape, I had no true heritage, no hope for the future.
My father once told me the purpose of hope was, just like the moth, to possess hope.
I repaired and kept the maps.
An earlier version of “Dust of Moth” won first prize in the Whangarei Library Flash Fiction competition 2014 and was published on the library website.
Martin Porter lives in Whangarei, New Zealand. He is published in New Zealand, USA and UK. He currently sits on the New Zealand National Flash Fiction Competition committee.
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