Flash Fiction

*Pushcart 2015 Nominated

*My Father is Trying to Set the World Record for Days Spent Petting a Shark

by Nancy Stohlman

The trick, he says, is to just lightly move the fingers. The shark has the frozen, unimpressed expression of all sharks.

Are you coming home for dinner?

I can’t stop now, he said. It’s only been 9 hours.

It’s about goals, he added. Your mother never taught you the importance of having a real goals.

The Fox

 By Nancy Stohlman

(From The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories)

I first saw him on the dirt bike path behind the Lightrail. He was 50 yards away, scratching in the sun, reddish brown coat, black paws, white belly. I stayed very still, and when he didn’t run I took a soft step, wondering how close I could get. He preened until I was quite close; his nose was long and sweet. And then, when I was just 10 feet away, he excused himself into the bushes with calculated nonchalance, a final flick of his white-tipped tail.

I walked the rest of the way home feeling exquisite.

Later on my porch, in the temptations of dusk, I sensed him before I saw him, emerging from the overgrowth and into the din of the streetlights. He had the curious look of a boy, new and fresh and wild and sensuous, with vulnerable brown eyes.

I thought about leaving food but I was afraid the squirrels would get it. So instead I left my pillow—covered in the smells of me at my most peaceful and innocent. An invitation. That night he entered my dreams and I embraced a coarse lean body, strong, wiry legs wrapped around my waist in an almost human way.

In the morning the pillow had been nested in, a few scattered white hairs left in the circular impression of his body. I held it to my nose and inhaled the musky, wild smell.

Each night I left the pillow on my porch and each night he returned, inching it closer to the front door until the night I left the door open. The moon cast a square beam onto the living room floor, and there I lay, almost sick with nervousness, when I felt bristles of fur tickle the edge of the sheet. His nose brushed my toe, touched my hair. I held my breath. He circled a few times, gently trampling down the bedding, then settled behind me, his face tucked into the crook of my neck.

The wind blew through the open door and smoothed our entwined faces. I surrendered to sleep in the hazy, bird-chirpy morning, and when I woke he was gone.

But I found his gift left lovingly for me on the pillow: my black cat, lifeless. I felt strangely unmoved as I sniffed it, nudged it with my nose.

Originally published in Santa Fe Literary Review. Read original

I’m Being Stalked By The Avon Lady

by Nancy Stohlman

(From The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories)

At first it wasn’t so bad. She’d show up in her pencil skirts and French manicures and support hose and I just thought it was good customer service. But soon I started noticing little extras inside the plastic bags, weird hearts drawn next to her phone number, and then one morning I caught her peeking in my front windows when I didn’t have to be at work early. When I said “What are you doing?” she blushed and tried to hand me this month’s Birthstone Bracelet. It was green—August. I’m sure I’d never told her my birthday.

The next week she was back, delivering wrinkle creams in white paper bags. She rang my doorbell even though I hadn’t ordered anything. I stood on the other side of the screen suspiciously. I wanted to give you some samples of our new bath elixir bulbs, she said. Please. I cracked the door enough to grab one. You just put them in the bath and they are so fantastic. But her voice was shaky on the word fantastic and inside the bag was a note: Help me.
I thought about calling Avon Customer Service but I decided to follow her instead. She unlocked a normal looking two story home and I saw a tiny basement window turn on. I got close enough to see the floor piled up with undelivered books and empty plastic baggies. I could hear muffled screaming and then a glass tube splattered against the wall, its contents oozing to the floor.

I returned after dark and positioned myself again by the tiny window; I tapped softly on the glass and she came, wearing the latest shade of Sassy Tangerine lipstick. Take this she said, passing me a pair of 14 k Metallic Sweetheart earrings on sale this month only. Hurry, they’ll be back soon she said, pushing the earrings through the bars.

The next day I saw her in the neighborhood delivering Avon books out of a little red wagon in her faux leopard print pumps. She was wearing sunglasses, a dark spot on her chin that had been shabbily concealed with new Daywear Delight All Day Foundation. I found myself hating her, hating all her stupid lipstick samples and her childish gullibility.

The next week there was a new lady, a bright smiled woman wearing a fuchsia two-piece suit and last season’s Whimsical Woods body fragrance. What happened to the other one? I asked. She didn’t work out, the new Avon lady answered.

Originally published May 28, 2013 by Cease, Cows. Read original here

Included as one of Huffington Post’s “favorite recent pieces of flash fiction”: read here


(…you know you want to!)


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