Tara Deal

Flash Contest, NonFiction



On the subway, a warning: “In NYC, it is illegal to paint a real gun to look like a toy, and it is illegal to buy a toy gun that looks real.”

On the sidewalk, springlike, chartreuse, my new beginning, then three teenagers. One pulls out a gun that looks like a toy. He tells me to hand over everything. (No.) I don’t even stop walking. I look like I know where I’m going.

I stop to watch a man try to move his gigantic sofa into an apartment elevator, and it can’t be done. The mover says you’ll have to leave it at home. He means wherever it came from. The man says he loves this sofa. The mover says, move on.


A letter lost on the street. The envelope is sealed. A man bends down to read the address. Because it might be for him.


My niece wrote: I am polishing my snow globes, waiting for something to happen.

I had moved out of New York, temporarily, and so I read it across the ocean, in a flurry of paint chips like Spun Twilight and considered the Borrowed Light of a Silver Cufflink kind of city turning satin, glassy, glossing over the lack of sequins with flurries of glamour, desire, adventure: no, really, what I meant to write back was: be careful, don’t crack. But I didn’t say that either. Then reached out for my sparkle pen and distilled, that is, dispensed some glitter.


Outside, a discarded cardboard box says: Become Your Dream. The message is written in thick black marker. But the box is ripped, a little soggy. It will not even be a box for much longer.

A man walks into the hardware store and tells the clerk: I need something for cutting a skull in half, you know. The clerk asks: how old?


The painter who lives next door to me put three of his large canvases in the trash room. Each one was an abstract composition with splashes of pink and black and gold and white. What was he thinking? All three paintings looked the same to me. Later, however, I saw that two of them had been taken.


My black-and-white 1948 postcard of the midtown nighttime New York skyline has splashes of gold and pink. Someone colored it in.

When I bought it, I thought I’d frame it and hang it up, but I didn’t. I already lived within that world (down near the ground) and didn’t need a reminder of it. So I put it in a box and moved around and then, one day, took out the postcard (which I had forgotten about) and propped it up on my desk in London. Where I had moved all of a sudden.

Where every evening, I could look at my tiny vision/version of New York City and imagine how fantastic it would be to live there. I remembered the shimmer across cross streets. Was it possible to return and get back in? Where was the entrance and then? What would you say to people?


A man on the street says the end is near. A man on the subway says Abandon Ship! A vendor on the sidewalk says fresh coconuts. A man on the steps says America, the beautiful. A man selling jewelry gives me a poem to read. It is written on joss paper from Chinatown, a rough square of brown paper with a gilded center. The paper is more beautiful than the poem, and I keep it.

I keep at it, that is.


Tara Deal is the author of Wander Luster  (poetry chapbook, Finishing Line Press) and Palms Are Not Trees After All, winner of the 2007 Clay Reynolds Novella Prize from Texas Review Press. Her work has also appeared in Alimentum, Blip, Conium Review, failbetter, Sugar House Review, Tampa Review Online,  and West Branch, among others. And her shortest story can be found in Hint Fiction (Norton). She lives in New York City.

Michael Torres

Flash Contest, NonFiction


Remek means a JanSport backpack stocked with Krylons. Remek is memory. It means a bedroom window splintered open for fingertips to find the way back in. It means friends in black hoodies and jeans hopping into someone’s mother’s Astro van. New York fat caps and German thin tips like dice in your hand. Remek means of paint fumes. It’s flat black and polished moonlight stolen from the top shelf of the 99cent store. The Remek of adolescence, being sixteen and nodding to Tupac playing through ripped speakers. It’s someone turning it down to whisper-shout, Stop here. Go, Go. It means feet grinding gravel, feet pressed into fences. Fingers surrounding metal, it means leaping six feet in one bound. Or getting stuck. Adidas in the air. Prints pressed into dirt. The infamy of Remek and wanting to see your name on every cinder block city wall. It’s mapping Pomona, California. The rattle and hiss of Remek. It means sighting police by their headlights and knowing which direction to run. Every road leads home. Morning dew on the front lawn and a bent window screen. It means going to bed with a Rorschach test of spray paint on your hands and three hours of sleep. It’s looking for cotton balls and your sister’s nail polish remover before school. The Remek of carved classroom desks, the Remek of dust wiped clean. The drill bit in your pocket you think means forever.

Remek of remembrance of the many other Mexicans who belong to names their fathers did not give them either. Names created, or taken from textbooks or the end of a song, names from the wandering imagination, plucked like an orange –something glowing– among the branches of the mind. Names like Dier, Mase and Rage. Names like Teal, Kaon and Siris. Names that resonate in the calloused palms of handshakes. This means the only loyalty you know. Remek of words learned but concealed; tucked into the grooves of your knuckles where all men keep secrets. It means knowing fear and pretending you don’t know what that means. Contents under pressure. Remek is memory and how the past can call back. It’s being unable to forget the names of conflict, names like Dusk, because when you are told to fight, Remek means staring at him as if you will shout in the swinging speech of young men. Remek is adolescence and adolescence is knuckleheadedom. And when a circle is created around the two of you, Remek means trying to find something to hate him for –his worn shoes, the tattered cuff of his jeans –but realizing he is more like you than he is not, and that years from now you will remember the dark face of Dusk for this reason, for having to grow up in a town lost to potholes and dropouts, where boys take on new names because what their fathers gave did not suffice or could not be pronounced. Or both. The ruin of Remek. And your friends will say –“You gonna fuck that foo up, Remek?”– in a way that was never meant for afterthought. But you won’t. They will turn their heads at you like dogs being whistled for. And you will lie and say: “Why? I don’t even know him.”


Born and raised in Pomona, California, Michael Torres spent his childhood summers reading and writing book reports for his sister, and his adolescence as a graffiti artist. His work has appeared in Okey-Panky, Solo Press, Miramar, and other journals. He is an MFA candidate at Minnesota State University, Mankato, where he teaches writing and serves as poetry editor of Blue Earth Review.


Kayleb Rae Candrilli

Flash Contest, NonFiction


The blonde boy in my composition class is a snarky one. He, unlike the others, understands the semi colon and the tonal aside. I am attracted to him for this. He condemns the prison industrial complex, the decline of credible news resources, and writes satirical analyses of country songs. I feel under qualified to teach him.

His mother went missing four months ago. Went to a 24-hour Wal-Mart and never came back. I think about this when the sun goes down and I’m still too many blocks from home, how gravel under my feet feels like the scuffle she might have had.

When I get coffee with the blond boy, before I leave to teach at another university, I ask him how he is doing. He knows what I am really wondering and shrugs it away. I tell him, “Write about it” and feel overbearing; I am not his teacher anymore. I tell him to “keep in touch.” We will not.

The night before I move to the deep south, I buy two packs of L&M Reds and while leaving the gas station, I check my height on the measuring tape that lines the exit—still 5’4. There are two fliers on the door: a Methodist Church advertising summer art classes, and a missing persons. “Have you seen this woman?” No. My stomach turns for my blonde student, who is no longer my student, the one that won’t keep in touch.

Months later, I dream that my new porch has been white washed, all that’s left: two rocking chairs. I sit like I do most mornings, light my cigarette with a white lighter. Everything is colorless in this dream. When I exhale my drag, I rock backward. The porch’s railing has disappeared and my front yard is a sand dune, a dune that leads to another and another, forever—a bright desert. I take my few stairs down to the sand and it burns my feet; the heat wakes me, and my sheets roll like dunes. Still groggy, I think to something my blonde boy said over coffee: “There’s really nothing. So many things could have happened, that nothing happened. She’s just gone. Poof.”

I imagine his mother out in a desert; I want to fall back to sleep; I want to bring her water; I want to pitch an umbrella; I want her quenched and shaded when I ask her how she could leave her son.


Kayleb Rae Candrilli received a Bachelors and Masters in Creative Writing from Penn State University and is a current MFA candidate at the University of Alabama. Candrilli was awarded first place in Vela Magazine’s non-fiction contest for women, and is published or forthcoming in the Chattahoochee Review, Gravel, Wilde Magazine, and Driftwood Press. Find more of their work here

Samantha Deal

Flash Contest, NonFiction


Watch television in the morning and wait until the afternoon to use crayons; watch cartoons first, then devote everything you have to THE SANDLOT. Be careful with sunlight. You should never imagine the weight of a broken-in baseball, should never think of tree houses or flashlights. Twice a week you will dream of running—learn to expect this, the unavoidables: bedpans and glossy cardstock—

                   The fourth grade class of Hardin Park Elementary is Thinking-of-You!
                   That uncle who took you dove-hunting wants you to Get-Well-Soon!

On the second day of the third week, use the beige phone with the bright numbers to call your best friend. Talk to him for 12 minutes. Do not be surprised when nothing changes.

In your grief, don’t dwell on the privacy of bathrooms. Don’t stare out the window; devote everything you have to every wild card in every hand you are dealt—there will be many games of UNO in this place. Don’t forget to thank the nurse with the gentle hands and the white hair when she brings you a spoonful of water. Someone with cold hands and a bowl of water will wallpaper your right leg in cotton and plaster, layer after layer until the shell hardens—don’t worry about feeling this.

When the pediatric orthopedist sweeps in to check on your bones, he will not look at your face; be sure you don’t hit him with your plaster-heavy leg. That way you won’t disturb the UNO cards stacked at the foot of the bed; pay attention to the insightful minister—later, your mother will tell you that he drove two hours to see you, and you refused to say a word. You should feel guilty. You should thank the spoonful of water for being so wet and cold; you should thank your mother for eating her solid food in the bathroom with the door closed so you don’t have to smell what your body can’t absorb. Don’t close your eyes too often, or for too long; try to listen to the pediatric orthopedist when he swings by your room to poke at your ribs—don’t kick him in his handsome soap opera face.

Don’t expect anyone to look you square in the eye; there will be times when you consider jumping out the window, but you should never hurt in front of your mother—the hurting here is very contagious.

This is how to breathe while the nurse with the not-so-gentle hands scrubs the gasoline out of your scalp; this is how to pretend you’re asleep when the night nurse comes in to check your vitals; this is how to pretend you feel it when the intern touches the big toe of your right foot; this is how to pretend you don’t feel it when the not-so-gentle nurse changes your broken I.V.

Later, you’ll need to know how to explain it to your friends so that it seems funny—This is the right time for gag-reflexes and vomit stories. You’ll need to laugh when they laugh; you’ll need to keep yourself from staring out the window—Remember that cancer girl from across the hall? She knew how to stare out the window without arousing suspicion. This is how to cultivate avoidance behaviors—how to circumvent the kicking of that pediatric orthopedist who you want to kick so badly. This is how to tell the truth, how to unlearn, omit, ignore, overlook—Never forget: this isn’t where you live. Don’t sleep with both eyes closed; don’t let yourself die—your mother will never forgive you for it


Originally from Western North Carolina, Samantha Deal received her B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Comparative Literature & Creative Writing. She received her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and is currently working towards her doctorate at Western Michigan University. Her poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming, in the following journals: Cold Mountain Review, Inkwell, Ninth Letter, The Journal, Dogwood, The North Carolina Literary Review, Elsewhere, and Rattle—where she was a finalist for the 2014 Rattle Poetry Prize. Her unpublished manuscript, “[Taxonomies / Something Opened],” has been named a finalist for several recent contests, including the Anhinga Press Robert Dana Poetry Prize, the Zone 3 First Book Award, and the Omnidawn First/Second Book Award.

Patrick Swaney

Flash Contest, NonFiction


This is a story near the end. This is you and me and a pitcher of Miller Lite and a pitcher of Miller Lite and a pitcher of Miller Lite. This is the girl on the barstool with a birdcage tattoo on her back flirting with the boys shooting pool. This is the boys shooting pool and flirting with the girl with a birdcage tattoo on her back and swaggering outside to smoke a cigarette and a cigarette and a cigarette and coming back to the pool game and ordering more drinks and drinking. This is early summer when the heat is still a novelty. This is money in the digital jukebox. This is your long fingers distractedly drumming the bar. This is the woman who orders a mixed drink because it’s her drink and she tells the young bartender how to make it and drinks it and tells him it’s good and orders another and drinks it and pays and tips and leaves. This is the young bartender with the tourist t-shirt from Florida that talks Cincinnati baseball or keeps quiet or turns his head up toward the TV with baseball or up toward the TV with basketball or restlessly inventories and rearranges and cleans because he’s new and stays busy. This is the waitress whose man shows up with her baby boy who makes her smile for the first time tonight. This is you silent. This is “Wagon Wheel” on the digital jukebox again and then again. This is the boys shooting pool singing along. This is the woman in the red shirt and the man with the sad eyes, in from out of town with their motorcycles parked out front, dancing near the bar, a little stagger, a little empty, a little elegant. This is Red Shirt coming up to you and saying I’ll let you dance with mine if you want. He’s a good dancer, isn’t he? This is Red Shirt saying nothing and pulling me away from the bar, mostly steady. This is Red Shirt’s body, thick and strange, swaying, pressed close to mine and her dark hair and makeup and teeth. This is Sad Eyes with his belt buckle and his boots, stiff but practiced, dipping and shuffling, his hand in yours, his hand on your back. This is a new song and you dancing with me and me dancing with you like we’ve done and we’ve done. This is us laughing and sweating. This is you moving away. This is me letting you go and letting you go. This is one more pitcher of Miller Lite, just one more, because this is near the end or this is very near the end or this is the end or this is.


Patrick Swaney lives in Athens, Ohio, where he is pursuing a PhD in poetry. His writing has appeared in Conduit, Inch, Indiana Review, NANO Fiction, Redivider and elsewhere.