T.J. Rivard has published his fiction in Fiction Southeast, Fewer than 500, Bread and Beauty, SmokeLong Quarterly, Gulf Stream Magazine, Right Hand Pointing, The Café Irreal, flashquake, Eureka Literary Magazine, Kentucky Poetry Review, and others.  He teaches literature and creative writing at Indiana University East and lives in Richmond, Indiana with his wife, Beth, and their two dogs, Maurice and Pierre.

A Flash Fiction

By T.J. Rivard

This part’s a dream:

A marching band.  Trumpets bounce from side to side.

Coming at me.  Closer. Fear pulses in my chest, pounds through my neck and into my temples.  My arms cover my face.  My hands hold my head.

The band slides past.  I am safe for a moment, but they come again.

I crouch, my head in my hands.  Someone, a sousaphone player, yells, “Out of the way!  Out of the way!”

He crushes me to the ground.  They are gone.  They wander into the distance, swallowed by a grove of trees – cottonwoods, pines, oaks, beeches.  An old forest.  An ancient forest.  I want to follow.  I want to follow the far-off rhythm.

My wife appears.  She holds an empty cup, a piece of china given to us on our wedding day, painted rose petals drifting down one side.  “Make me some tea,” she says.  “Write me a song,” she says.

“I don’t know how,” I say.

She taps her nail against the cup.  The sound deafens me.

I retreat to the edge of a canyon. The ground gives way.  The only thing I can say is, “I can’t make music! I don’t make tea!”

This part isn’t:

My wife moans.  The room is quiet.  The books on the shelves are closed.  The plants on the windowsill are gray in the pale moonlight.  The leaves on the trees in the woods outside are still.

I get up and head to the dining room, my bare feet chilled on the slate floor.  Eight tea cups with rose petals drifting along the outside of the white porcelain hang from hooks embedded in the shelf of the china cabinet.  They dangle above neatly stacked white bowls with rose petals painted on the inside.

I take the cups from the hooks one at a time and drop them at my feet, shards of porcelain covering my toes like snow over tree roots.  Roses splinter into thin red lines.  My wife moves like a ghost; I don’t hear her until she leans against the door frame of the dining room, cups shattered around my feet.  She smiles.  “At last,” she says, blowing me a kiss before heading back to bed.  A warm wind whistles through the trees outside.