Quick Fiction 17 Review [sparklehorsemotherfuck!!!]

The cover is a tightrope walker by Laura Niemi Young. The man appears to be holding an open bottle of wine. The clouds are indicative of a breezy day. The man is focused, but a tad bit worried. As far as metaphors for flash fiction, I will give this a Splinter Trumpet and  a Hell Yes! Also an Eat Broken Necklace Award. It is possible the man is about to fall. Or is he wanting his audience to believe so? Maybe he wants the audience to feel something they will never see–like all his internal bruising along the toes. His wife back home and their silent dinners. The sound of a life falling onto the roof. Possibly he owns a stupid, stupid dog. I will let you extend out the remainder of the metaphor on your own.

1. There are four types of stories. Man leaves town. Man comes to town. Man freaks out, steals beer, deploys emergency chute, and leaps out of an airplane. (I vote this one of the most badass job rages ever–I simply love this flight attendant.) Or, in the words of Susan Denning, Man maybe comes to town, forgets own quintessence, lies down in a river. This flash reminds me of when I think it’s Tuesday but it’s really Australia, circa 1999, and I sit up in bed and dress for my job as a spoon salesman and The Smiths on the radio and all my regret not making out more in graduate school and learning to SCUBA around whale sharks. Denning is a runner, and understands that movement is within/without us all, so we love her.

Slept by the river and the rocks sang hopeful

2. Anthony Luebbert writes about Bobby Kennedy. Do I glow persona fiction? You know I do. This reminded me a bit of the classic Robert Kennedy Saved from Drowning. Both are smart, spot-on, a bit of Golden Head Cage. And Luebbert can drop a wonderful, flowing sentence:

Robert Kennedy returned from work, entered the front door of his large white house, Hickory Hill, kicked off his shoes, removed his suit coat, loosened his tie, walked over the black and white tiles of the hallway floor, past the enormous black Newfoundland named Brumus, five children, the governess, a nurse, three maids, past the open doors leading to the rooms all painted in bright reds and greens, unbuttoned his shirt, tousled his hair, walked out the back door past the iguana and the sea turtle, removed his shirt, his belt, his pants, headed toward the swimming pool where a young sea lion sat poolside, and he (in just shorts and socks) and the sea lion dove into the cool water.

Amen. All you kinds might want to learn from Luebbert: the sentence is a wonderful tool. This one escalators us as it informs, as it characterizes, as in engages in serious play. Complete text here.

3. Alexandra Salerno with an “Autobiography.” This felt like a Cheever flash, the hidden worlds, the whispers in the hedges, the hollow cigarettes–all of it drenched in alcohol. It captured the beetles beneath the lawn. Bruise behind the too-red lipstick. Ants in the kitchen of your brain. The swirl/gray pearl of adulthood.

4. Round Midnight is right here. Read it. The language just drifts you away, smoky, hot, beautiful. I liked every single word but sepia. Sepia sounds like someone is writing a goddamn poem.

[A bird has built a house in the bottom of a potted flower I have outside. To save the flower, I have to uproot the bird. To let the bird and its family live, I need to let the flower die. Advice?]


“It’s the end of the world,” my father proclaimed at the breakfast table, rising in his bear-checked pajamas. “Not again,” my mother replied, emptying the scraps on the plates into the garbage and putting the dishes into the dishwasher.

I wish I had written that opening. I did not. Jeff Friedman did. There is a domestic paranoia he catches in his words immediately, a tight, sweating fist. I feel the linoleum sagging into a giant black hole.

6. Nicola Dixon knows that every object has an echo, a connotation. Cool name too, BTW. Glass menagerie, indeed, only this time it is soap. Seahorse soap. Cow soap. Soap cleans you but what cleans the soap? Etc. Quirky material, quirky language, undercurrent of anger, or frustration, the type that wonders why can’t humans ever tolerate one another, I mean for very long?

[Every rectangle I have been trapped in, I had the butter knife right there in my hand]

7. Amy Holwerda snags the clarity an illness will force upon us. Everything is brighter now. More violent in its immediacy:

juicy meat from the bones…


8. I get a Peter Markus feel from “Clean Dead Leaves,” the form/function, the layering of words/leaves, the need to clean and the moment you are not cleaning–more dead leaves arrive!! Also, uh, we are walking dead leaves. As you know. Munch. Mulch. Bye.

9. Flash fiction is a biology to capture the blur. Kirsten Rue cocoons illness. Illness is lonely and fantastic and real and odd and very similar to becoming air. Language is amazing in certain hands. Rue bends the words to form caterpillars. See the poison?

Her arm hurt and she could see why: a ribbon of pale green tubing connected to a bottle, dripping jewel by jewel.

10. Anna Anderson has a lyrical name. I just said her name aloud into my orange walls and up sprang an image of hot cocoa. Now sure why. Also lyrical are her sentences.

…tiptoed to the bathroom like a husband

…the bed I lowered to be closer to the ground

This work is tight, it shards off each sentence, each paragraph. It catches the oddness of things. Of objects. I think maybe every image has a bulb inside that glows and whenever we see or think of the object–violin, coat, mail, shoe–the bulb glows brighter.

11. Gary Young is not the founder of Young Living Essential Oils. He did found a press. I’d rather found a press than oils. I suppose you have to press something to get the oils, no? But it isn’t pages. If you drank the oil from pressed pages? I don’t know.

[A lot of weight loss herbal stuff is just straight-up speed]

This flash does what flash is allowed to do–poetry. It is an argument for art. It is an image, a narrative imagining, and I will say no more. I think spoilers are for milk left in cribs overnight.

12. Go ahead, read The Middle Distance.

13. Flare starts like this. It is an atmospheric piece of writing. I find it wonderful when writers can clutch how you feel when staring into flames and then unfold that idea into walls and bicycles. I suppose I mean to say this flash fiction is something that turns night into day into night into that moment before we fall into sleep and we thank your daily genius, Kathryn Scanlan.

[I have actually seen adult men bring acoustic guitars to bonfires. Even the sea groaned that day]

14. Thisbe Nissen uses the sentence, the connectors, the starts and halts of words and punctuation, to form a stuttering, shall we say muttering–death, death, death–sales pitch. Plots for Sale.


Ash settled on leaves. Do crematoriums have chimneys?

[There is no fucking way anyone of putting me in a box, period. FUCK BOXES.]

15. Andrew Michael Roberts was or is a Juniper Fellow? What does that mean? I don’t know, but it makes me think he knows Robin Hood and can cast spells by mixing bark, newt tears, chewing gum, and the tail feathers of a dead crow.

sparklehorsemotherfuck is the best word I have read in two weeks of intense reading. It is the best word in Quick Fiction 17, so far. I would like to name my car, my kid, my house, my life, sparklehorsemotherfuck.

16. J.A. Tyler has this head and out this head flows words, daily. It’s like a Pumpkin Walk or a geyser. There must be a lot of pressure inside him, words and sentences and wondrous ideas screaming at his ears, eyes, mouth, ass, penis, fingertips–trying to explode!!

[I have yet to see my use of exclamation marks as anything but shabby]

Dude can write, I’m saying.

“The Mountain Lion” is a metaphor here, and this work gets me thinking: Why does every community claim to have spotted a mountain lion? Even the local liquor store, right up the road from my house, the guy will pull out this crumpled, folded photo of a blurry thing in a vast field of soybeans– “See, a mountain lion!”

[Same guy once said to me, “You look like one of Obama’s boys.” What does that mean?]

Tyler knows we have this deep need to believe in all that might be–like the mythology of family.

17. Anthony Varallo riffs on the word, collect. This is the type of thing you think you could do, and you could, but it’s tough to do well.

Done very well here, and I now have a new assignment for this semester. Give each student one word and let them write a flash riff on that one word. Show them Varallo’s work as an example. Thank you, Anthony. I think I met you once at a museum, but maybe I was drunk and am wrong.

[Sometimes I go to museums expecting to see a Warhol and they won’t have the Warhol and I’ll think Where is the Warhol and then think, Why do you need to see something so ordinary as a Warhol, what is wrong with the gold coins and the bird and the painting with the bathtub and the toaster and the one where they guy painted his wife to look like a wall?]

18.Thomas Cooper shows us that flash is organic. The entire world is a flash.

Interview answer:

I was drawn to flash fiction, honestly, out of frustration and impatience. At the time, most of my longer stories had turned out crappy, and just about everyone rejected the few I considered decent. They wrote notes like, “Why is this so long? What’s your problem?” So I figured I’d spend more time concentrating on smaller things, if only to reign in some of my prolix tendencies.

What in the fuck is a “prolix tendency”? That sounds so badass. I mean that’s damn near close to sparklehorsemotherfuck.


How often do you get to eat a heart?

Add a knife.

I think you want to read the flash by now. So go buy the fucking magazine.

20. Who is Gabe Durham?

I guess a violently erotic reaction would be my top choice.

Gabe Durham, I owe you a beer. I consider “Intake Until You” one of the most glow flashes in this issue. Tight, tight. A camera flash caught in the chest of a live sparrow, I feel.

21. What in the hell is “Landwehrkanal”?

It is important to not Google just because you feel like Googling. It’s like cooking by open flame or opiates or holding a Sartre play in stereo. You should do it occasionally.


A fly and I got on an elevator

This is the type of opening sentence that will lead to hair-snakes or roulette tables or at least a woman leaping from a gondola while aflame. Another lesson for my students? You could begin a universe with that prompt. A fly and I got on an elevator.

23. “The Feather” is one of those flashes that use an object as its core. And Loory does a sweet job with the tone, how a single feather can be meaningless, or the center of the world.

I got a real Danill Kharms from this piece. And that is glow.

24. We end with the essence of flash fiction? What is it?

It was the way the sun hit the stones sprawled across your lawn.

Is that enough for you? It isn’t?

Then you, sir or madam, are a “new Star Trek poster” or “a stray hair on the passenger seat.”

I mean lost.






One response to “Quick Fiction 17 Review [sparklehorsemotherfuck!!!]

  1. beer me! Thanks, Sean. Just got my QF in the mail, excited to read now.

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