Flash Fiction . . .
In the autumn, leaves not only fall to the ground — they become nature’s toilet paper. All sorts of scatological sub-stances adhere to their surfaces from bird and squirrel droppings to dog excrement. Examining them it is possible to detect remnants of tobacco from discarded cigarette butts, specks of dirt and strands of hair all contaminated by local pollutants.
Fearing this toxic mixture, Mr. Green carefully shuffled along during his morning and evening walks outside the Senior Citizens’ home. The leaves — he was certain — were aware of his suspicious attitude towards them. Indeed . . . the leaves always sensed his presence and conspired to make his constitutional an unpleasant one. They followed him mena-cingly. When he would turn around to confront a pair of leaves sneaking up on him, they would suddenly veer away as if the wind had suddenly changed direction.
He was much too old to be intimidated by anything or anyone. He proudly stood his ground and defiantly kicked away any offending leaf that tried to block his path.
The day after Halloween he took his usual stroll and discovered it was quite windy and wet. Puddles had formed overnight. While turning the corner he slipped on an oak leaf and fell off the sidewalk. He knew he had hit the ground rather hard, but there was thankfully no sign of pain. While flat out on his back an elm leaf climbed onto his forehead and two leaves entered deep into his mouth covering his windpipe.
His right hand was pinned underneath his torso while his left hand struggled to grasp his cane just out of reach. Complicating matters was the fact he had landed awkwardly with his left foot — the good one — caught in a drainage ditch. He struggled to lift himself but was distracted by another leaf that landed on his right eye — the good one. Now almost blind, he tried to call out for help and a gust of wind blew another leaf into his mouth. He was squirming on the muddy ground and turned his head sideways hoping to dislodge a leaf or two only to see a worm taunting him. Flying leaves gathered around his neck. Others began to cover his ears muffling the outside world. Tired of the battle he eventually gave in and surrendered as another downpour commenced.
The autopsy, not surprisingly, showed that he had died of natural causes.
Previously published in Mystery Tribune.
Although Alejandro and Rebecca loved all of their children equally, they were more talkative and prouder when bragging to family members, friends, and neighbors about Rosi. Although she was unwaveringly shy and quiet, Rosi was nonetheless very polite and respectful to others, and her achievements in school were extraordinary: she was an Honor Roll student every year since the fifth grade, and she was valedictorian her senior year of high school. Rosi’s siblings were either dropouts or alcoholics; and because of this, Rosi, despite being the youngest of five children, was undoubtedly the ‘golden child’ of the family.
One night, Rosi was listening to music and fell asleep with her phone in her hand. When she woke up, she felt a throbbing headache, but she also felt this odd sense of relief almost as if an enormous weight had been lifted off her chest. Her phone’s battery was low, but the screen was still bright, and she found that she had written a long draft message. She wrote how she couldn’t remember the last time she was happy and how her parents were mostly to blame for her anxiety and depression. She also wrote ‘how fucking unfair’ it was for her to have to ‘grow up so early’ and how her siblings, especially her older sisters, were ‘so damn immature’ and how they all needed ‘to grow the fuck up.’ At first, she was scared, and she couldn’t imagine that she wrote all of this. She deleted the message, and she tried not to think about it too much as she ate breakfast and got ready for her ten-a.m. class.
A few days later, the same thing happened again. This time, in her sleep, she wrote about how no one ‘truly understands’ her and how she wanted to leave ‘everything and everyone.’ Just like in her last draft message, she brought up her parents and her older siblings numerous times. She also said that she wanted to know how it felt to be physically harassed or even kidnapped: ‘I want to know what it’s like to be in a situation where I have no control and where I can actually feel something. Something real.’ At the end, in all caps, she wrote: ‘ANYWAY, LIFE WOULD BE GREAT IF ONLY I WAS DEAD.’ After this, she began turning off her phone before going to bed. Which, despite her hopes, didn’t really help or change anything.
Paul Kindlon is a professor of humanities, with a PhD in philosophy and Russian literature. He taught in Moscow, Russia, from 1994-2017. His publications include 15 short stories, 9 poems, a collection of aphorisms, and a brief memoir. He lives somewhere in New York State.
Ernesto Reyes is currently an undergraduate at CSU Fresno where he is studying English literature and creative writing. He is an avid reader, a film buff, and a chocolate cake connoisseur.
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