Category: Flash Fiction 2022

The Birth

by Viviana Peña

It was time for Francesca to push, she felt exhausted from being poked and prodded. The repeated questions from the nurse about how she was feeling made her anxious. She wished she could just stand, but she felt the pressure on her back and her belly tighten. Her husband asked, “Who do you want in the room? Your mom or my mom?” Francesca responded as quickly as possible through increasing discomfort, “My mom!” It had been a heated discussion the entire pregnancy. She had expressed how delicate a moment it was, and how a woman in labor had the undoubtable right to choose who witnessed the birth of her child. The mother-in-law came short of creating a powerpoint presentation on why she should be the one to witness the birth. “He’s my first grandchild,” she insisted, reminding all of them that Francesca’s first child, a daughter, could never be her first grandchild. Deep down Francesca knew her mother-in-law would push her way in like she had pushed her way into all their summer vacations: Virginia Beach, Jamaica, Bahamas, their week in Maine.

Francesca closed her eyes as Owen exited the room, she focused on her hardening belly. When it subsided she opened her eyes to find the mother-in-law standing before her— beaming in her Bob Marley shirt. She smiled victoriously as if to say “I told you I’d win.” For a second, Francesca lost her ability to hear. Suddenly she was back in their apartment arguing with Owen about whether his mother would take her daughter to Florida for the summer even though the little girl didn’t want to go. Owen’s mother was selective on when the girl was and wasn’t her grandchild. “She’s going and that’s final,” he’d said.

Francesca heard the nurse say, “Ok, mom, give it all you got.” She was hit with a fervent wave of rage that traveled from her feet to the top of her head. She couldn’t focus, but her son was eager to make his exit. The contraction intensified as if someone were putting her in a really small corset. “On three give us a good one,” said the nurse. The mother-in-law’s close proximity sent chills down Francesca’s back. Francesca noticed her beautiful dark skin against her unsightly blonde wig. Her hand rested on Francesca’s knee, her acrylic nails a vibrant pink. On each index finger a carefully placed acrylic bow. Even without uttering a word, she was the loudest person in the room. Francesca didn’t understand the mother-in-law’s style and knew she never would. Francesca pictured everyone else in the room joking about the wig and the nails afterward.

Hours later the baby was born. He was small and pale compared to her daughter. She was reminded of the conversation she’d had with her cousin Marisol about how to know if the child would darken with time. Marisol said, “If the tops of his ears and his testes are dark, he’ll be brown.” She glanced over at his ears and genitals, he’d soon show signs of his African American roots. Francesca didn’t care what the baby’s complexion would be. She came from a family of both light and dark shades. It felt strange to discuss how dark his skin would become. However, it was extremely important to Owen’s family that he not be as light as her daughter, and they made that very clear during the pregnancy.

She heard the mother-in-law say, “The prince is here!”

Francesca thought how ignorant she sounded, and instantly felt a flush of embarrassment on her face. In that instance, she missed her daughter. She thought of her little hand and her dimples. Francesca felt a lump in her throat and the sting of impending tears forming, it made her wish for her own mother. The mother-in-law took pictures of the baby from afar as the nurses took his weight and prepared him for the hospital nursery. She and Owen hugged and congratulated each other on the newborn’s arrival. Francesca watched from the bed as they joyfully walked out of the room, each of them eager to be the first to relay news about the baby to the rest of the family waiting.

Hours later Francesca’s mother was finally let in to see her. She immediately recognized Francesca’s despondency from looking at her watery eyes. “No te ponga triste mi hija, que dios no desampara,” she said. “Owen wouldn’t allow me in for the birth, but we were all praying.” Francesca asked about her daughter, she was anxious to see her. Her mother assured she’d bring her the following day.

The next morning after the nurse brought the newborn in, she held him up to her breast for the second time and adjusted his small head to feed. He had dark hair that covered a portion of his forehead. She leaned in to kiss his small checks. He squirmed, still trying to find her nipple. The scent of baby powder lingered on his tiny white hospital shirt. She had forgotten how relaxing that smell was. She removed his socks to examine his small feet, lightly passing her index finger on the bottom. He crunched his legs as she did. She chuckled and thought “He’s ticklish!”

Viviana Peña served as co-editor in chief for The Lit in 2022. She is a single mother of two born and raised in New York City. She’s a full-time Creative Writing major at LaGuardia Community College.  She’s a lover of languages and words.  She aspires to continue her education after La Guardia and major in Romance Languages, and eventually travel writing. Her hobbies include hiking and biking, and spending time with her children.

Image credit: “Mother and Child,” Randy Caldwell. Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

El Loco

by Ethan Velez 

No one could tell you where El Loco came from. El Loco didn’t know himself and he never spoke a word. Some said he was not human, that his voice was stolen. Some said he never had one.

He never carried more than he needed. No more, no less. Finding something he didn’t need was incredibly new. In Riverside Park, an impoverished dog rustled from under a collapsed hedge. El Loco sat on his bench and watched it approach him. He could see its cream coat underneath all the dirt and neglect.

“El Niño,” El Loco named him.

El Loco was easy to ignore. A dog didn’t change that, but curiosity stirred. Residents started offering empathy, filling El Loco’s cup. He used that money to buy for El Niño, and, when he felt he had too much of anything, left it for the others in the park — unseen and unheard.

El Loco was not kind, he told himself. He simply moved through life as he saw fit.

He heard a voice: “Curious, then, why are you kind?”

El Loco was in a children’s tent he bought from the El Mundo on Broadway. Outside, it rained steadily.

“Who speaks to me?” he asked.

“Me, stupid,” the voice thought back.

El Niño pawed at El Loco’s legs. Its small, brown eyes were suddenly big, knowing, bright.

“You?” El Loco thought.

“Me, stupid,” the dog repeated. “Look at that face. You get that from your grandmother.”

El Loco left the dog and sped off. He decided to return just after three avenues.

“Did you have a name?” El Loco thought.

“Yes,” El Niño answered.

“Will you tell me?”


El Loco could imagine hearing, even saying the name. A liberation stirred in his belly. Hunger he never knew before. He cried some evenings, then most evenings, then not at all.

“You’re being a brat,” El Niño thought.

There was a miserable silence where El Loco’s response should have been.

“They called me Lucky,” El Niño offered.

“No, they didn’t.”

“Fine. They called me Tómas.”

El Loco grabbed a package sticker from the post office on St. Nicholas. He wrote TÓMAS and slapped it on his chest. It was an honor, he thought, of El Niño’s past life.

“I was Tómas. Not you.” El Niño thought, and to admit he was right, El Loco added JUNIOR to the sticker.

“It’s good,” El Loco, now Junior, thought, “a family name.”

The solemn dog sighed.

Junior waited for the local food bank, a service he previously decided wasn’t for him. He defended himself when he was disrespected, and he learned he was not the burden he thought. He could feel it: a new life blooming.

Junior soon lost El Niño. He woke up without him, their children’s tent newly empty and threatening. After a futile search, reality struck him, and he fell to the ground on 162nd and Broadway. It wasn’t words that found him, but a cry. Not a feeling, but a sound. It spilled from him: the sound of men who want and never stop wanting.

El Niño only returned in dreams, smiling and beautiful.

Summer was enveloping the city when Junior responded to El Loco again. He sat up on a bench in Riverside Park. The shoes he wore before falling asleep were stolen in the night, and he could feel his skin tingling. He slapped himself. When it brought tears to his eyes, he did it again.

El Loco went on hurting himself when he felt four little legs climbing on him. His heart raced, but it was not El Niño. It was a smaller dog with white and tan fur eagerly trying to get onto El Loco’s lap.

Behind the dog was Shirley Rodriquez: a woman El Loco did not know. Shirley was on her routine six am walk when she heard the blows. Accompanying her was always her dog, Sophie.

This was the mute man, Shirley realized, the one everyone knew, the one who cried out in the streets at night. Shirley towered over him.

“Mira,” Shirley told El Loco. “you can’t hurt yourself like this.”

Despite never meeting, Shirley swore she’d seen El Loco’s eyes before. When she focused on them, planted her shoes in the dirt and breathed, Shirley saw flashing images of El Niño, Tómas, whole lives. She saw a hospital room, a man with brown eyes, El Loco’s eyes. People who El Loco once loved and who once loved him.

Shirley led El Loco home. She allowed him a warm shower and explained why he should consider cooler ones in the future. She gave him her grandson’s clothes. “He hasn’t lived here in seven years,” she said, dropping a stack of white t-shirts in his arms. “that’s a lifetime. You have them.”

She fed him. “Like this,” she said, assembling a spoonful of white rice and beef. She chewed for a long time.

El Loco followed. He ate like she ate, sat like she sat, and when he was softly crying over his meal, Shirley reached across the table and held his hand.

She told him all about her Nigerian-Colombian parents who had one child, all about the three sons she had, all about the man she once loved and then hated and then loved and then hated again.

“It went on for a long time,” she said. “then he passed.”

El Loco winced at her last words. He sat with perfect posture and watched her speak.

“No talking at all, huh?” she asked.

Shirley was asleep early. She gave El Loco her grandson’s bedroom and explained that in the morning she’d take him to see her doctor. “In the beginning, it is scary. But then it isn’t,” she reassured him.

El Loco would not go that next morning. Sophie watched him leave. When he returned to Riverside, El Loco could see beyond the Hudson, New Jersey, the world.

El Loco abandoned his bench. When he walked, he did not stop.

Ethan Velez is a fiction writer from Washington Heights. When he’s not working at an art store, he is the editor-in-chief for 7: the Zine. You can find him on Instagram @s0lit0.

Image credit: “New Jersey Blues,” m_laRs_k. Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Love in Quarantine

by Alicia Evans

Charles is already on the front lawn when Michelle arrives. He hands her the noise maker that they use during their New Year’s celebration. At exactly seven o’clock they join their neighbors in screaming, clapping, and blowing those noise makers. It had become their way of saying “Thank You” to all the first responders that have been on the front line of this pandemic. When it is over, Charles reaches for her hand, slowly Michelle takes his hand and looks up into his eyes, and it is that moment her heart warms for the love they share. As they walk back into their home she is grateful their love survived quarantine. 

She scrolls over the “End Meeting” icon. Clicks and clicks again, drops her head, relaxes her shoulders, and breathes a sigh of relief. It has been a long five months of zoom meetings and virtual meetups. In the beginning, it was confusing but now she is a pro, navigating through the virtual world. Monday thru Friday, nine in the morning she is in her home office. Most evenings she emerges after six, but on Fridays the work week ends at five. 

Michelle Anderson, wife of Charles Anderson, stepmother to Mikela, and a sister-friend to many, is the owner and chief operator of MA Skin Care Line. “You are worthy. You are worthy. Y-O-U A-R-E W-O-R-T-H-Y.” She laughs as she repeats her own personal mantra. Her ten seconds is up. She pushes the chair back and stands up. 

Crash, a shattering sound can be heard throughout the house. 

“What the hell?” With a tight fist and her eyes shut she counts to ten. A trick she learned during her “How to Cope in Quarantine” virtual meetings. She fixes a grin on her face and heads straight to the kitchen.

Charles turns when he hears her enter, “Sorry babe, it’s like she knows exactly when your meetings are over.” He says as he kneels to scoop up what looks like the remainder of Mikela’s dinner. “No problem love,” Michelle says as she grabs a towel to clean Mikela. “Does she behave the same when I’m in my office?” Michelle looks up at his pleading eyes. I know what he wants me to say, but should I tell him the truth? Which would be “No!” Michelle turns her head away from him and tells him what he wants to hear. “Of course, she does.” 

Their Friday evenings have become a sweet routine now. Charles orders take-out from a local Italian Restaurant. He has the wine chilling and Netflix set, for them to continue watching “Virgin River” a romance drama series. Michelle is surprised Charles enjoys watching this love story with her. She is a little skeptical but at least he is trying. It shows her that he is consciously making an effort to please her. Even now when Michelle seems happy, she cannot help but remember many Friday nights that were not so pleasant before COVID. After working a full day and picking up Mikela from the sitter, she would then prepare dinner that would go untouched. The red wine bottle was left on the table unopened. An empty bottle of Moscato in the recycling bin outside. When he finally crawled into bed before the sun comes up, all she would get is, “Sorry babe, meeting ran late.” 

While Michelle struggled with the transition of working from home, she notices Charles was able to adapt easily to the change. It was then Charles informs her that in January of 2019 his company implemented work from home Fridays for upper management. Michelle could not believe her ears. She wondered where he went on Fridays but then realized she didn’t care. 

“Everything smells delicious,” Michelle says as she returns to the kitchen, grabs the glass of Moscato, Charles has already poured. Charles continues to unpack the food and when he opens the box with the fried calamari, she grabs one and stuffs it in her mouth. “Hot! Hot!” she says while fanning her mouth. Laughing, Charles shakes his head, “That’s what you get for being sneaky.” For a moment they are laughing and having fun. It feels like they are transported back in time. Back to a time before all the lying. Before all the unanswered phone calls, the ignored text messages, and before the many lonely nights. 

With their stomachs full and wine bottles half empty, Charles puts away the leftovers and cleans the dishes. Michelle moves into the living room to get comfortable and ready to watch season 2 of “Virgin River.”  

“Hey, don’t you get too comfortable, we have five minutes to get outside,” he screams from the kitchen. Hearing his excitement, she is reminded of their early days. 

In the beginning Charles was the one who initiated all of their date nights. Each date would begin with a delivery of an exquisite bouquet of flowers. Followed by his bubbly voice leaving her a message with specific pre-date instructions. He picked her up and his excitement was  evident when she looked in his beaming face. He was encouraging and supportive of her entrepreneurial drive. And she did whatever it took to push and help him advance in his career. Their relationship was what fairytales were made of. When things changed Michelle was ready to walk away and close the book on what was once their fairytale.

Then the Corona Virus pandemic happened. New York went into full lockdown quarantine. Neither one of them were essential workers so they were mandated to work from home. At first navigating around the house with Charles in it was strange. Days were spent with them barely talking. The tension you could cut with a knife. They were not sleeping together. Him falling asleep on the sofa in his man cave, while she would fall asleep in Mikela’s room. This is what their love had become while in quarantine. Then one day while cooking dinner, Michelle overheard him on his phone saying, “Are you crazy? We are in a pandemic! I cannot get away. I have my wife and daughter to think about.” Michelle had no idea who he was talking to but soon after he changed. First with us eating dinner together. Second, watching the news and having normal conversations. Charles pitched in with Mikela more. He began paying attention to Michelle’s feelings. Even suggesting a happy hour Saturday zoom with her girlfriends. Her loving, caring husband was back. 

Alicia Evans is the Co-Founder and President of Sugar & Spice Book Club. Founder of Wind Beneath My Wings Empowerment. Alicia is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English Literature at Queens College. Alicia is a graduate of The New York Restaurant School and LaGuardia Community College. Her short story “Whatever Will Be Will Be” is published in LaGuardia’s The Lit 2021 edition. She is an award-winning author for her short story “The Bay Window”. Alicia finds joy in writing, cooking and entertaining for her family & friends. She lives in Hollis, N.Y with her soulmate and best friend.

Image credit: “Merrill Weber, Showstopper,” PA Trails of History. Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.