Flash Fiction Round 1 Runner-up: “Perseids” by Madeline Anthes


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Midwestern Gothic Summer Flash Fiction Series 2018
 

During the summer of 2018 we continued our annual Flash Fiction Contest series, inviting authors to respond to three different picture prompts. You can read more about the series here. Round 1 submissions responded to our photo prompt with the following criteria: here.

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Round 1 runner-up: “Perseids” by Madeline Anthes
Janey was easy to worship. She was spindly and freckled in a way that made her look sea-born. Ethereal. I was spindly and freckled in way that made me look malnourished and uncared for.

Mama was working late down at Diner 22, and I hadn’t seen Daddy since fall. I clung to Janey because we were 13 and it was summer and she was knobby kneed and wild. I had holes to fill and a needy heart, and she clung to me too.

Janey and I needed each other.

Every night I cut through the cornfields that connected our houses. You can never weave through them as easy as you can in the movies. The stalks are close and interweaving, and you have to be careful not to break the stems. Those ears are worth more than your own, Daddy used to say. Farming was a hard business. We all knew that.

On an August night we laid a blanket in her backyard and watched the Perseids. Her daddy kept all kinds of junk outside: rusted watering cans, bins of weed killer, a cracked bathtub, a few tireless Chevys. He swore he’d sell it all one day, but Janey always said he just liked seeing all his stuff on display as though it was jewelry. We had to move a few hub caps and clunky lawn mowers to make room for our blanket.

“Think those reach Earth?” Janey asked, pointing to the meteors streaking the sky.

“Nah,” I said. “They come and go every year so they must stay up there.” I didn’t know if it was true, but I wanted her to think I knew what I was talking about.

Later she would pull out bottle rockets and we’d listen to them scream and crack across the sky. There’d be no one to yell at us for making so much noise, and we’d tilt our heads back and howl at the moon.

But at that moment I reached over and took Janey’s hand and felt prickly spots explode across my chest, like thousands of champagne bubbles bursting under the surface of my skin.

That summer felt like a lit fuse:  we knew an explosion was coming, so we were holding our breaths and holding each other, waiting for the blast.

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Madeline Anthes is an ex-Clevelander living on the east coast. She is the acquisitions editor for Hypertrophic Literary and her writing can be found in journals like WhiskeyPaper, Lost Balloon, Cease, Cows, and Jellyfish Review. You can find her on Twitter at @maddieanthes, and find more of her work at madelineanthes.com.

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