The Golden Key Flash Fiction Open 2017 Honorable Mention, judged by Carmen Maria Machado
Marié, her back against the Honda’s passenger door. Marie, her front against Marié’s front. Marie pushes and Marié lets herself be pushed, the pleasing scorch of the car’s hot metal firing across her lower back, then fading. Marié feels older, letting her body withstand this heat.
Marcus crouches in front of the Civic, where a slight shadow extends from the hood, covering him from the relentless summer.
“Let’s go,” Marcus says.
“You have to solve the mystery,” Marié says.
“It’s too hot,” Marcus says.
“I like it,” Marie says.
“Did you really bring this back from your home country?” Marcus asks.
“No,” Marié says, “but that’s where they come from.”
“This is her home too,” Marie says.
“This is my home too,” Marié echoes.
The girls sip pearls through thick straws in the parking lot. The strip mall signage towers into the sky just a few feet away, logos strung together like necklace beads. DISCOUNT MATTRESS KINGDOM. KARATE LESSONS. BOBA TEA.
Marcus holds the glass Ramune bottle up so light passes through the clear marble in its Codd-neck.
“How do you get the marble out?” Marcus says.
“You don’t get the marble out,” Marié says.
“How do you open it?” Marcus asks.
“That’s the mystery,” Marié responds.
The two girls sip from the plastic Lollicup cups in their hands, link their arms like water moccasins, sip from each other’s straws.
“It’s too hot for milk,” Marcus says. He’s tapping the top of the bottle against the concrete parking block.
“Lavender tea is good year-round,” Marie says.
“You’re going to break it open,” Marié says.
“That’s fine,” Marcus says.
“You’ll cut your lip on the glass,” Marié says.
“What does it taste like,” Marcus whines.
“That’s the mystery,” Marie says, smiling.
A sandhill crane lands on the roof of the Civic: its feathers a blur of grey and brown. On its crown the feathers whelk into a helmet of blood.
“What is that?” Marcus asks accusingly.
“Sandhill crane,” Marie says, unpeeling her front from Marié. Her curves and shadows are soaked in sweat. “They’re rare,” Marie adds.
“There’s a lot of things you need to learn before you start high school,” Marie says.
“You both just think you’re cool because you have learner’s permits,” Marcus says, fingering a top-hat-shaped bit of plastic from the bottle.
“Better be nice or we’ll leave you here,” Marie says.
The crane hops from the roof to the hood, appraising the youths.
“If you drink from a broken bottle, your lips will turn red as its head,” Marié says, pointing.
The crane hops onto the pavement, cautious, approaching Marcus. It leans its long neck down, millimeters from the boy’s ear. “That’s the opener,” it whispers. Marcus nods, pushing the top-hat bit into the lips of the bottle. The marble bursts down in a glassy pop, resting in the bottle’s long neck. Everything fizzes as Marcus sips.
“There’s a lot of things you need to learn before you start high school,” the sandhill crane whispers.
JD Scott is a writer, editor, and educator. Recent and forthcoming publications include Best American Experimental Writing, Best New Poets, Prairie Schooner, Denver Quarterly, Salt Hill, Sonora Review, The Pinch, Ninth Letter, Tampa Review, and elsewhere. More of JD can be found at jdscott.com.
Which historical rebel does JD wish had been a literary writer, and why? “Triệu Thị Trinh. There’s a quote attributed to her that goes, ‘I’d like to ride storms, kill the sharks in the open sea, drive out the aggressors, reconquer the country, undo the ties of serfdom, and never bend my back to be the concubine of whatever man.'”
Art — Aleksandra Apocalisse was born in the USSR, from which her family fled when she was only 6 years old. She spent most of my childhood and young adulthood in Brooklyn, New York until she moved to Portland, Oregon in 2015. There, she is living the dream; spending the days outside with my dog, playing in the dirt, hanging out with plants, and expressing her dreams and innermost musings through art. She also loves animals, reading, learning about nature, getting lost in music, and traveling to tropical jungles.