Tara L. Masih is editor of two ForeWord Books of the Year, The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction and The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prizewinning Essays, and author of Where the Dog Star Never Glows (a National Best Books Award finalist). Her flash has been anthologized in Word of Mouth, Brevity & Echo, BITE, and Flash Fiction Funny, was featured in Fiction Writer’s Review for National Short Story Month 2011, and was a finalist for the Reynolds Price Prize in Fiction. Awards for her work include first place in The Ledge Magazine’s fiction contest and Pushcart Prize, Best New American Voices, and Best of the Web nominations. She is the Series Editor for The Best Small Fictions annual anthology.
Her son twirls while she scrubs the week’s dirty tasks from her husband’s frayed overalls. She’s given up trying to get it all out—the cow dung, the chicken blood, the horse shit—just works the glass washboard to take off the scabs of farm crust. The wash basin water turns muddy fast. But she is too tired to replace it as often as it needs replacing.
Her son is playing with a few neighbors’ children, some game with a leather ball. If any of the children get too close, he starts his turning, swirling like the dandelion seeds they kick up in the long yard grass.
Her son is like a bird. He will not let anyone but her get within arm’s length. When folks ask, she says he likes his wing span. When they raise their brows, she says he needs that room to be able to take off and fly. When they shutter their eyes, she turns away in solitude.
Her son entered the world after she let her husband climb over her in the dark. It took all her emotional strength to let him cross over the radius she kept in bed with arms stretched out to the sides, night after night. But that night he refused to be held back and bent in her arms and held them down. She fought the urge to fly away.
Her son, like a bird. Too soon, an empty house, a flat horizon, and the muddy, putrefying water of someone else’s horizon-bound life.
She scrubs desires raw against the cloudy, rippled glass, he twirls in tandem.