Well, in a year where I did very little publishing (and lots of creative hoarding!), this was a wonderful end to 2022! Here is my story tripdich “The Heartland: A Three Card Spread” and some of the other wonderful contenders here:
The Art of Tarot: Flash Fiction Winners and Finalists at The Ekphrastic Review
Top Three in Flash Fiction
Shadow Children, by Lisa Molina (flash fiction winner)
Circus, by Bayveen O’Connell
The Heartland: A Three-Card Spread, by Nancy Stohlman
Top Three Flash Fiction Finalist
The Heartland: A Three-Card Spread by Nancy Stohlman
The Dollar General
One of the major arcana cards, the run-down Dollar General is the quintessential symbol of The Heartland. The Dollar General is the gathering place, the hearth, the sun around which the neighbors can congregate and bargain hunt together, in community. Notice the halo of light around the yellow Dollar General lettering, the field of monocrops, how the borders of the card are decorated with cows in feedlots. The baby cows in the corners are mirrors of one another, a symbolic reminder that this scene will go on and on, into eternity.
If you have drawn the Dollar General card it means you are the kind of person who can disappear out here, who can live an entire life without making a mark anywhere. You are the sort of person who will die quietly. There will be little said at your funeral. You are just one of many cogs, many thrusts of blood pulsing through the heart of The Heartland, and like the cows, your life is not meant to be individual or unique.
If this card is reversed, you may be trying to leave but Dollar General continues to tempt you back with its low low prices.
The King of Big Gulps
The King of Big Gulps, seen here in his living room, has been your best friend for over 30 years. In this card he’s in a lot of pain. Notice the pack of cigarettes on the table, a symbol of defeat, the brimming Big Gulp at his feet. He is dressed in the traditional garb of the town but his jeans are torn, t-shirt stretched, hair going white, a nod to his maturity and wisdom. Though the King is clearly suffering, clearly at war with his own body, he is surrounded by the same halo of light seen in the Dollar General card.
If you draw the King of Big Gulps, he may have called you six weeks ago to say he was dying. To ask you, as his oldest friend, to throw him a goodbye party. You might have wept together on the phone, separated by miles and decades. You will always remember the King as he was, controlling the lightning and the winds.
Receiving the King of Big Gulps is a message about the enigma of healing—how we heal and how we don’t. Notice the ankle and wrist cuffs, the key around his neck. The King asks us to question our illusions: How do we keep ourselves in our own chains? How can we see the key around our own necks? If you draw this card you may find yourself driving 10 hours across Kansas and Missouri, a place you haven’t seen in 12 years, to find out before it’s too late.
The Three of Corn
Three ears of strong corn grow from a stalk in the centre of a field of equally strong stalks. In the foreground you can see the abandoned town, the forgotten dreams. But the field of corn remains. Long after we’re all gone, the corn remains.
Nancy Stohlman is the author of six books including After the Rapture, (March 2023), Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities, The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories, and Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction, winner of the 2021 Reader Views Gold Award. Her work has been included in the Norton anthology New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction and The Best Small Fictions 2019, as well as adapted for both stage and screen.