Monday, March 17, 2008

Flash Fiction by Caleb Puckett

Sugar Land, Texas

There’s a broken gumball machine next to the exit and a new machete under the register at the grocery where I used to please my sweet tooth. Raul says that he must cut me if I mention “candy” aloud, though he slips me a note that indicates he knows where I can score some black market baking chocolate if I’m feeling really down. Yes, life has changed since that ruthless dental syndicate took over Sugar Land, Texas and started eliminating decay among its citizens in order to stimulate business for those higher paying cosmetic alterations that afford exotic vacations for the assistants, practitioners and insurance agents. I guess they figure less is more in the long run, but with all the violence and crime I wonder if it’s a worthy cause. Just last week, for instance, Linda Henneman ended up with a broken hand for planting some honeysuckle behind an old shed. She’s such a kind matron, a quiet, harmless retiree, that it makes me question the dental syndicate’s methodology. But times have changed, sure enough. Why I even hear that Grapevine will be taking similar punitive measures sometime in the near future, although I’m unsure if the focus will be the same, especially since that city has its own share of unhealthy problems, judging by their name.

Postmodern St. Louis

So much for the myth of the sedate Midwest. You’d think after T.S. Eliot renounced his citizenship for a more cultured shoal in merry old England that the place would’ve become even safer, more milquetoast, but no. According to recent findings, St. Louis tops the national list for crimes of every variety, thus rendering its famed arch into the sharp eyebrow of the stock villain who ties you to the tracks in the final scene leading to your screams, split seams and oblivion. The only thing missing is Ezra Pound’s maniacal laughter infusing the background with an Italianate sense of tragedy. It’s hidden somewhere in the eerie old archives with all the defunct laugh tracks, but you may rest assured that it will be retrieved in time to haunt Ernest Hemingway’s thwarted efforts to untie you, my dear heroine, my perilously positioned Gertrude Stein dressed to the nines in Hilda Doolittle’s seductive finery and nude tights. And there will be no William Carlos Williams around to save your organs for science, and if there were he would inevitably fail as well, being but a doctor playing an actor in the silent film of your mind. That said, I think it’s best to avoid taking Interstate 55 while listening to political appeals between bouts of soft jazz.

Caleb Puckett has work forthcoming in Asterisk: A Journal of New Initiatives, Elsewhere: A Journal for the Literature of Place, The Oklahoma Review and Salt Flats Annual. He recently co-authored Next Exit 8, now available through Kendra Steiner Editions, and he has a poetry chapbook, Desertions, available through Plan B Press.

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