Earwax – Lucia Damacela
Religion – Dan Tremaglio
DNA – Margaret Moores
Snowfall – Erin Jamieson
18,000 Cherry Tomatoes – Elaine Dillon
The Waiting Room – Darrell Petska
I still find pieces of you – Clodagh O’Brien
At attention – Jenna Bao
Hatbox – Cari Scribner
On the Union Pacific Railroad – Helen Rye
Like Music – Sophie van Llewyn
Him – Lynn Mundell
Grandmother – Margaret O’Brien
Monday’s Child – Sandra Arnold
Tornado – Jenna Heller
Primrose – Sandra Adeyeye
White-veined Blue – Lee Hamblin
The Second Room – Becca Jenkins
All that’s left – Emma Shi
You Gotta Lover? – Paul Alex Gray
Glow-Bee and Me – Doug Mathewson
Time and Space Two-Step – Patrick Pink
February 2017 Feature
Conversation: Michael Harlow and Michelle Elvy on Remnants
Interview: 2017 NFFD Judge Emma Neale
Interview: 2017 NFFD Youth Judges Heather McQuillan and Fleur Beale
Interview: 2017 FF header image artist Mike Perusse
Conversation: Nancy Stohlman and Nancy Stohlman on FlashNano
State-of-the-union in Six Words
A Single Essence
Christopher M Drew
My mother disappeared piece by piece, like the moon peeled away by the curved blade of its shadow. I no longer remember her eyes, her smile, her hands. Now, I only remember the dance.
Most nights, she would push me under the bed. I would clamp my ears and clench my eyes until it was over. Sometimes, I would fall asleep and wake when the door clicked, or the mattress creaked, or her heels bounced, th-thump, th-thump, like a heartbeat on the floor.
I remember her sculpted calves shifting beneath bruised walnut skin as she stood on tiptoes to retrieve a tattered box from the wardrobe.
She would slip into the shoes and toe-tap the floor, click her heels and scuff the balls of her feet. She would leap into the air and whirl around the room like a hailstorm until the floor trembled and clouds of silver dust spiralled around me.
She would kick the furniture and the walls, and stamp her feet and scream and cry and collapse onto the bed.
I press my palms over the box like a prayer and lift its feather-light lid. My toes curl into the cradle of her shoes and I heel-step across the room, tap-tap, tap-tap, taptap, taptap, faster, faster.
I jump and twirl, and scatter her ashes in circles. I pound the floor until my feet blister; until the universe of her molecules explodes around me and galaxies of dust dance through the moonlight before shrinking again into stillness.
About Christopher M Drew…
I dash to my bathroom after reading the article. The mirror, immersed in the shower’s fog, looks like open sea mist. I introduce a Q-tip into my ears to collect my hard earned wax and get a paltry yellowish tinge.
Whales also secrete earwax, mentions the article. By adulthood, they have many inches of it. Amber droplet of the sea, wax also preserves hormones and other markers of the happiness and distress a whale has accumulated.
The article also says that in some species of whales, males leave females and youngsters behind to cruise new grounds. Just like dad. When he left to get the latest news − he said − it made perfect sense to me that he never returned: by then I knew that there is always new news in some corner of the world. So, how could it be possible for him to ever be done with his quest?
How did that day register in my ears? Up until now I thought all I could catch with them were sounds, like dad’s casual goodbye, and the blues he played the night before.
Perhaps mom was aware of this all along and she asked me to wipe my ears every morning for the same reason she dumped all remnants of dad’s life, his old guitar included.
This deeply tucked wax can’t be extracted from living creatures. Which is why the cleaning didn’t work for mom: I could hear her after dad left, wailing at night like a solitary blue whale.
About Lucia Damacela…
I’m not in a first century frame of mind this morning. I’m through with dust and breast plates, with watered wine, tired of always having to negotiate the obvious, sick of context controlling everything. I don’t care about heaven or taxes. All I want to do is stand on this wall that divides a ruined city, watching smoke uncoil from cookfires, wondering what to call that color halfway between yellow and grey.
About Dan Tremaglio…
When the photograph turned up, it was suddenly clear where we had come from. Strands of DNA had produced our dark hair, small whorled earlobes and delicate collarbones. I couldn’t see her feet to check for the strange thing with the toes, but her shoes seemed huge. And there was the way she faced the camera: the jutting jaw; the sideways, frowning glance under thick eyebrows; a glower that had settled into one of my boys.
I was recalling these resemblances as I parked beside the chapel, put on my jacket and began searching for her grave. A blustery wind brought the smell of brine from the Tasman and I could taste salt. When I paused to take stock after an hour among lichened cherubs and crosses, the wind buoyed me up as if it meant me to fly.
A van drew up beside my car and the driver let out a yellow dog that ran up the fence line, pushed through the wires and loped across the paddock disturbing gulls into petulant flight. Perhaps it was the gulls that drew me towards her. I skirted slabs that held several headstones and there she was: her headstone like a pillow on a smoothed counterpane. A windblown bouquet of plastic flowers bleached until they resembled cartilage rattled against the concrete surround and beside her name, a drift of pine needles and three white pebbles. I picked one up and put it in my mouth. It felt like a tooth.
About Margaret Moores…
Lola, I called her. Her skin milky blue, her tiny fist curled around my hands. They let me hold her for a minute, let me bury my head into her yeasty body, still warm. She had the tiniest mouth, half closed, as if in mid yawn. The blanket they’d swaddled her in was lime green, which I thought was an odd color for a girl.
The nurse asked me if I wanted my husband to come in.
No. I’m not sure if I spoke.
The room smelled heavily of antiseptic and blood. The sheets had been tossed, stripped, but I was still holding onto Lola. I held onto Lola even as the nurse started to reach for her, raking my fingernails down his freckled arms. I heard a cry and realized it was coming from my own chest.
My husband entered the room moments after Lola was gone. He was sipping coffee, black, and its aroma overwhelmed the room.
Leave, I told him.
Instead he rested his head on my shoulder and pointed out the window. Snow was falling in sheets, blanketing pothole filled roads.
If you watch, he told me, you can see each individual flake before it falls.
About Erin Jamieson…
18,000 Cherry Tomatoes
I had just decided to let you go. Months of over-analysis, of careful dressing and second-guessing has become too painful, too exhausting. I was about to re-engage in the world.
In the dream you told me that we eat 18,000 cherry tomatoes a year. 18,000. And I don’t know who ‘we’ are.
The fact rattles around, compelling calculations. 49 per day for one person means ‘we’ is not the royal we. It is 24 if we are two. But we are not two and this is too many. I balance the relative worth of logic against intuition and I wonder if you’ve given me the full truth.
Locations haze. We’re sitting on a familiar bedspread. We’re in a club, at church, on the beach. We’re there and then we’re not. We’re in a supermarket. My parents round a corner and they know your name but you’re suddenly not there and you don’t meet them. We’re a near miss.
There are moments when your head is close to mine. I never feel that you will kiss me but every time I think the conversation is done and I start to walk away, you change the topic and we start again.
On waking, the pull of you endures. I suspect I could snuggle in to the warm body next to me and emerge later to forget the whole thing. But I won’t risk it so instead I sit, cold aluminum on bare thighs, glorifying the remnants of a dream.
About Elaine Dillon…
The Waiting Room
A young couple claimed the last two chairs. The aquarium fish floated upside down. Rain streaked the sooty windows. A man with a cat beneath his coat laughed uncontrollably. Bible verses had been scrawled across the walls. An old woman began to hum ‘Amazing Grace’. They waited. Now and then a bird struck a window and dropped away.
A yellow line on the floor led north, and a green line south. Both lines exited into dim corridors. She said, “Yours is yellow.” Her chair was green. ‘God Save the Queen’ began to blare from the sound system. A bird darted into the room from the north passage and scrabbled against a window. Television monitors overhead blinked on, demonstrating what they were to do and warning that strong emotions would lead nowhere. The dispersal began. She slipped a note into his hand and quietly walked toward the south exit. He queued for the yellow line, looking over his shoulder as she passed from sight. Her note said, “Watch for my rose tattoo.”
He stepped into his corridor, which led to a room of yellow and green chairs. The cat beneath his coat purred. He settled on a chair, reread her note, and laughed aloud. A couple entered the room and seated themselves on the last two chairs. Glass shattered. A small bird lay dead among the shards. The bird trapped inside escaped through the window frame. A girl began fervently to sing ‘Hallelujah’. They waited.
About Darrell Petska…
I still find pieces of you
In the clouds, in the stars we pressed with our fingertips to drag across the sky. On pavements, when I walk past the conch sculpture we put our ears to. On our doormat, on the coat stand I assembled that has never stood up straight. In our couch, on the carpet where your slippers gape like empty mouths. In our shower, in the bathroom cabinet where your razor leans in a toothpaste smeared glass. In our bed, on the pillow you bought because its packet said orthopaedic. In my hands, in my mouth where you hummed as we kissed. In my ribcage, in the blood that runs through me, and keeps running for somewhere to go.
About Clodagh O’Brien…
She stood where their picnic table used to be. She stood because it wasn’t really theirs anymore.
She stood where their safe haven used to be. (Or – maybe just her safe haven. She didn’t know anymore.)
She stood because it used to be the sea where her stories swam free and bullies became caricatures and angst-riddled teenage clichés became saccharine realities, fodder for hindsight.
She stood because she never expected to be the only one looking back.
She stood because what good was a sanctuary when his story retreated until it wrote itself a prison with jagged black Sharpie? Discovered after the fact. (Paramedics. Bedside table.) What good was she? Discovering after the fact. (Parents. Picnic table.)
She stood because now, it looked too much like any other picnic table on every other a hill but she wasn’t ready for the jig to be up.
She stood because that’s what you do at a memorial, isn’t it?
About Jenna Bao…
The hatbox is round as a saucer, light blue, with a pattern that looks like snakeskin. If you pressed your fingers against it, the design would be embedded in your skin.
Our mother used the hatbox to hold her blonde bobbed wig.
She wore it on Halloween when she dressed as a 1920s flapper in a silver sequined dress.
Because it was our mother’s, my sisters and I fought over who could use the hatbox to carry our tap shoes to Saturday morning dance class.
This morning the hatbox is in the garden. We hadn’t seen it sent flying, but there it is nonetheless.
What was inside the hat box is spilled out among the early blooming purple tulips and yellow daffodils: our mother’s pink nightgown, a hairbrush, a pair of rolled up white socks, one lone tennis shoe near the hyacinths, also our mother’s.
My sisters and I had huddled at our bedroom window before dawn watching our mother leave with the hatbox in her small hands.
But the sound of the door closing must have woken our father.
We saw him tear out the front door after her, catching up to her in one fell swoop, hawk like.
The hatbox is lying in the garden, innards exposed, wrenched from our mother’s hands, thrown there by our father the almighty.
About Cari Scribner…
On the Union Pacific Railroad
All along the horizon the sunset douses ash clouds into flame.
He turns east, walking into his shadow where it stretches a hundred yards ahead, maybe a thousand; distance, along with time, has outlived its usefulness, and his head gets tired when he tries to gauge it. The dying heat of the day beats up from the dust against his feet. He can feel through the thin-worn leather of his soles that the laces tied around them won’t hold much longer. When his shoes are done, he will stop.
He has traveled the railroads for forty-nine years. After they prohibited his kind from buying tickets. After they started dragging undocumented men from boxcars, making savage obeisance to some effigy of Nationhood in blood and desert rocks. It was always the journeying, not the destination, shifting as it did with each season and bent of mind.
Then there were no more trains, no more nations, and the tracks were his, though warped and twisted in places from that one great sear of heat. When it was over, and the fires had died down, he’d emerged from the cellar he was sheltering in, found the eastbound line out of the debris and begun to walk.
In the twilight he steps over a rusted fragment and his foot slips on the age-burnished grain of a cross tie and the air is so silent he hears the tick of the bootstrap as it snaps, and he knows he has arrived.
About Helen Rye…
Sophie van Llewyn
There’s something in the way we swirl around each other late in the evening, whispering in one another’s ear, gathering the remnants of our feast. There’s something in the way we smile and hold our hands, turn the TV, radio, up loud, leave the water running, confounding the men who tapped into our lives, so we can speak and make plans about our brightening future. There’s something in the way hope creeps up behind our backs and presses its palms against our eyes, leaving us smiling, but blind to the future. And we are both reluctant to speak its name, for fear that it might vanish. There’s something in the way we hold each other at night, like shipwrecked, like that summer when the sea was licking at our toes, like the first time we met. There’s something in the way we say, We will, We will, We will, ringing in our ears like music.
About Sophie van Llewyn…
Red clay from out back. Water from the well. She fashioned a crude version of his face, pinching and slapping the large ears, high forehead, long nose. She baked his bust in the fire pit for hours, like a Christmas turkey.
Next, she cut up their old wedding quilt with its complex interlocking rings in calico. She used the shreds to stuff a pair of his khakis, the vest, wool socks and hiking boots. She assembled him on the sofa and left him there, precariously, while she went about her life.
That winter she began to leave a glass of Scotch at his stuffed elbow, then the want ads. She told him about the overdue rent, her new boss 30 years her junior. One morning she found fresh mud on his boots and the woodpile stacked with newly split hickory logs. She kissed his clay cheek. Changed his socks.
On a Saturday night, she drank too much and started in on him like she used to do. Get going. Make something of yourself, she said, before tipping him over on the sofa cushions and going to bed.
The next morning his head, boots, and clothes were gone, except for the vest she’d once knit for him, years ago. It was on the coffee table, folded in a triangle, like the American flag. Just like the last time he left.
About Lynn Mundell…
The curtains in my grandmother’s house were never simply red. She didn’t know red, instead she knew blood, she knew a red onion bruise, red toadstools, the red wattle of the cock in the yard. She etched out her life by, mostly, staying out of harm’s way. And I let her burn. This was when she could finally sit still and not be in danger from her mad-eyed man, red with hurt and pain and mad to inflict it on her. But the truth is that she was never safe. The flames tickled the edges of the newspaper and she wasn’t quick enough to drop it. I could never come near her afterwards without again getting the acrid smell of burnt hair from her hands. I noticed the smell especially when she was fitting me for my new cloak. The one she made from the remains of her curtains. The one with the hood.
About Margaret O’Brien…
The fortuneteller glanced up from her crystal ball. To Bonnie she said, “Monday’s child is fair of face. You were well named. I see a tall dark handsome husband for you.”
To Alvarita: “Your name means truth teller, but be careful how you tell it.”
They lay on the grass making daisy chains, spinning dreams. Bonnie would marry a rich man and have two children and live happily ever after. Alvarita would be a detective and solve mysteries and save lives.
“So much to look forward to,” the girls said and vowed they’d be friends forever.
Bonnie had twin boys soon after she married her rich tall dark handsome man, which was soon after she left school. He didn’t like her having friends, so the girls lost touch.
Alvarita was in India when Bonnie wrote and said she was leaving him. “Come to India,” Alvarita wrote back. “You’ll be safe.”
Bonnie’s next letter said he’d apologised, so she was giving him one more chance.
The third letter said he’d used up his final chance.
Alvarita flew home for the funeral. She made two interlinking daisy chains to put on Bonnie’s coffin. Bonnie’s mother whispered that the twins were with her, one in each arm. She said their father had phoned Bonnie on the day he had custody as the carbon monoxide filled his car. He wanted her to listen to the children.
When Alvarita wrote her novel she wasn’t careful how she told the truth.
About Sandra Arnold…
Behind the bar, she washes mugs while outside the sky churns.
Clouds tumble and wrestle and a long woolly spindle rolls like a wave then turns on point, reaches down and plucks the roof right off a grocery store. Two smaller spindles embrace like lovers clasped together for one urgent night, sucking and pulling at hundred-year-old trees, ripping at glass and paper. All of it takes flight, circling, spinning, a murmuring of debris, swirling in freeform. Then large stones of ice empty from the heavens. The sky a chaotic blur.
People spill off the streets, slip through the doors, seek refuge and hope in the comfort of strangers and walls of timber. Children whimper while their parents stand in fearful silence. Some drink like they’d never drink again – shot after shot followed by beer after beer. To keep warm, they say. Settle the nerves, they add.
And then it all stops. The clouds relax and thin and sun pours from a hole in the sky. The children return to smiles before everyone leaves just as quickly as they arrived, rushing back through the doors like a dam tripped opened.
She stays behind, invents a drink, a swirling tonic to calm the nerves. Calls it a tornado, but no one wants that. Not now. Not today.
About Jenna Heller…
From my extended lens on the Ushafa hills, the wind howls, the trees whistle and the waters whisper. I viewed a primrose in her red flowing gown sitting on a grey rock amidst beautiful green carpet grass and yellow sun flowers.
I could see she was lost in thoughts that I wished my camera could capture; her poise and elegance made her strike poses that could put Oluchi in the shadows, yet those too were ephemeral.
She swayed from side to side giving time a run for his money. She moved to tunes played by the wind and heard only by a few.
Is she a maiden set aside for the gods?
Or is she a belly dancer?
She fascinated me and kept me trapped in this trance. “This is an amazing creature to behold”, I blurted to myself less concerned with the fact that I was drooling and stalking.
Then, I noticed: she was not alone.
Her company in a manly form knelt beside her. He seemed to be chanting or proposing affection.
I really couldn’t hear his words but it was obvious that he sought companionship in her, yet she seemed oblivious of him.
So, with a quick zoom, I viewed her iris and they held in them a picture from the past: the remains of two hands torn from each other under a full moon.
About Sandra Adeyeye…
She sits on the floor, in the same place as yesterday, in the same way she has every day since she arrived. Her legs are effortlessly crossed. Her erect torso slowly pulses to a silent beat. Again, the diminutive fingers of her right hand brush away the unkempt fringe that eclipses her eyes. It’s become a reflex now, like a mule’s tail swatting away at un-cooperative flies, futile, but wishful.
In her left hand she clasps a fragment of cloth that’s white-veined blue, not exactly square, not exactly uniform, not exactly clean. Scythed from another’s dress or shirt, perhaps from a scarf.
‘I, remnant, am,’ she whispers. Her voice barely audible in a room full of classroom chatter, but a voice never heard before cuts the air like a siren’s song shrouded in a sea of mist.
The teacher takes a small but deliberate step back. She pinches her ear lobe, frowns inquiry at the girl. The girl understands, brushes her fringe away, and looks up. Her eyes are dark, bottomless wells. The other children hush like Christmas wonder.
‘I, remnant, am,’ she repeats, though this time, she says it a little louder.
About Lee Hamblin…
The Second Room
Whenever she ate meat, she gagged. No one ever asked her why, they only told her she was gross or weird. She learned to spit food into a napkin discreetly.
Whenever her boyfriend turned out the lights, she cried. He asked her why again and again, but she could never explain. She liked the way he touched her too much, and that was rare.
Whenever the phone rang, she jumped.
Whenever the postman knocked, she hid in the closet and waited until his footsteps were gone − all the way down the hall and then some. She crawled across the linoleum and put her ear to the gap at the base of the door to double check before she opened it and retrieved her package.
Whenever she received a package, she put it in the second bedroom and re-locked its door. Her boyfriend asked her what was in there, but she never told him. He frowned at the way her eyes looked to the left when he asked.
He had not come by in some time, and the second room was very full.
About Becca Jenkins<...
All that’s left
I sat at the airport for hours with my phone in my hand. I closed my eyes, burrowed down, and found old me. She was lying on her back and staring up at the ventricles of my heart. All I could hear was a deep bass that stretched back further than my own memories. I said, I’m leaving. Old me turned her head and whispered, that’s all you’ve ever done.
I didn’t know what to say. Instead, I stared and saw how red her veins were. They looked like the kind of red I saw when I’d brush my teeth so hard that my gums would bleed. And I’d spit and my blood would be like a little nebula in the whiteness of toothpaste and porcelain sink. Everything that was left of her was red. Her eyes were laced with red too, and I watched as they began to fill with tears.
All I felt on my fingers was salty water. I looked around for an exit but I couldn’t find the airport anymore. And still, the crying. My ears started to fill with the sound of rushing blood, but it was the kind that you only hear through conch shells, the kind that you mistake for the sea.
About Emma Shi…
You Gotta Lover?
Paul Alex Gray
I shouldn’t have picked the old guy up. He’s a weird one. First thing he asked was “You gotta lover?”
Still, I couldn’t have left him out there. The wind tonight is bitterly cold. Ghosts of blowing snow skip along the road as we approach the train station.
He coughs loudly and I smell the wine on his breath. He’s a big guy, two-fifty at least, grizzled and pale with a boyish face too small for his head. Said he had a business once, some matchmaking service down south. Seemed surprised I’d never heard of it.
“Here we are,” I say, pulling to a stop.
“You’ve done me a great service,” he says with a wink as he shuts the door.
I’m going to have to drive all night to get this job done. Tomorrow I might catch up with the boys. We’ll probably swing by Ethel’s Lounge. They’re always egging me on to hit on Jessie, the waitress.
There’s a glint of light beside me and I figure the old man’s left a key or something. I pick it up carefully, turn it over by the dashboard light. An arrowhead. Stone maybe? It’s all jagged and hot. I realise I’ve cut myself.
I squeeze a bead of blood out and I imagine myself telling stories to Jessie. Hearing her sweet laughter. She likes hearing about the places I’ve been, people I meet. I’ll tell her all about them. Ask her, maybe, to come with me next time.
About Paul Alex Gray…
Glow-Bee and Me
Our implants told me and Glow-Bee that we won a rabbit in a raffle. She didn’t know what a rabbit was, and I’d never heard of a raffle before. It’s hard sometimes when you’re pan-dimensional like us. Or that’s what we think we are anyway. Glow-bee just says, “Same shit, different day”, but I don’t agree with her about that. I call her ‘her’ because sometimes she appears as a very tall older woman. Mostly she looks like a big glowing iridescent bee. Twice now that I can remember she was an entire K-pop band from a hundred years ago. Mostly I’m people. I’m like a slide show and I’ll look the same for maybe a couple of days or only a few minutes. Always, always I have a beard. Usually some fat guy with a bushy face, but a few bearded ladies. Glow-Bee says sometimes when I’m sleeping I look like a squid with a beard (I have no idea what she means by that). Anyway now we have to find a common plane where we both have physical bodies and go see about that rabbit. Glow-Bee is after me about something called a ‘ticket’, whatever that is.
About Doug Mathewson…
Time and Space Two-Step
On the last night after the last day, Coyote sauntered into the dancehall of the angels and asked Lucifer for a final spin around the hardwood floor. The son of the morning peeled chipped pink polish from his half-bitten fingernails as he nursed one mother of a hangover. Too much loss can be…too much. For anyone. His brothers would find that hilarious coming from him but they were poor sports sulking in the corners, getting wasted, reminiscing about the good old smiting days.
Coyote stood, alone and humbly defiant, dusty hat in his hands, dressed to impress in cowboy boots and a killer smile that never failed to do it for Lucifer. The little trickster was up to something. He always was. Maybe he didn’t get the multiverse memo. Everything was kaput. His humdrum realm would cease at the stroke of thirteen. Along with light and dark, matter and energy, the fundamental forces and constants of the universe. Bonds would break in an exhaustive sigh like a phone-it-in orgasm from a blasé toy boy.
“Your meat puppets were an unaborted blunder, sweetie.” Lucifer offered a languid hand.
“There’s still a few ticks on the clock, darlin’.”
“Miracles are so last millennium.” Then a cheeky half-smile after discerning the melody from the tuneless honky-tonk piano. “Our song.”
“Something to remember, something to linger.”
“I will miss you, sweetie.”
Coyote held Lucifer loosely in his arms and together two-stepped out of time and space while the music played on.
About Patrick Pink…