- Start with fear
Fear is a yolk sac in the gut. Focus on the screen inside it. On the screen, a baby. Turn it slightly to see the searing mark of a red-hot palm, soft skin about to bubble.
- Tell the story
She bears a vessel to fill with fear.
Tiny now, she takes him home. Changes diapers, microwaves meals. Watches the tray turn. Men wrap hands around her throat. Little one listens.
He wants to protect her, wet, wounded (Mama). The impulse skews haywire, a current rerouted. Damaged to damage (and everywhere girls). Good and bad on the same circuit.
Pull the lever / switch the track.
Look both ways before—
The drugs make it easy to want what he wants: something to damage and something to fill. His insides on fire/ skin so tight like after/ it burns. The drugs make it easy to
(get a girl)
in the back of the van
a black cloth over her eyes
He removes it.
- Describe the lenticular image
From this side, her mouth and eyes closed
From this side, his eyes closed, not dead
Turn, and her mouth opens, eyes ratchet open
His eyes open
He goes again and again.
Fear is erasure fear is / is not / is / fear is not a night sky without stars.
The years slice through the fields. Earth tilts, spade sinks, dirt turns. The corn gets high. Dead stars stay.
- Make it end (where it started)
She wants her boy back. Begs god. She’d buy him juice, the fancy brand they could never afford.
It’d be oh-so nice if he came home.
Time bounces bloody by and brings him back (on edge, but back).
She makes room—next to Mama—pats the cushion twice. The TV talks.
They drink juice. He keeps his fingernails neat.
She’s got new glasses is headache-sick from new glasses—an old person’s prescription for failed eyes—dizzy in both directions.
But his warm, mineral smell, (a hot iron) earth. Her focus on the television, soft.
She breathes, closes her eyes for the afterimage: the screen (a frame). Inside bright (burning) pixels form a face (familiar).
She removes the glasses, reaches for his hand;
the screen blurs—
Wendy Oleson is author of two award-winning chapbooks, Please Find Us (Gertrude Press) and Our Daughter and Other Stories (Map Literary). Her flash fiction appears in Copper Nickel, Lost Balloon, Moon City Review, and elsewhere. She serves as Associate Prose Editor for Fairy Tale Review and teaches for the Writers’ Program at UCLA Extension and Washington State at Tri-Cities.