Mark Budman


You stand on the deck in Western New York, leaning against the rail, peering into the intense greenery of your back yard. You have nothing to do since you lost your job. Your yard is a place where the skunk, deer, squirrel and occasional black bear come for dinner, meditation or sex.  Even a firebird, a Russian-American zhar-ptitsa, an immigrant like you, sometimes picks wild strawberries here and shits ashes or embers.

You should be fir­ing off anoth­er resume, but some­thing caught your atten­tion. Something shape­less, brown and yel­low hangs on the branch of an oak. Your cat, who does noth­ing to earn his keep, jumps on the rail to stare in the same direc­tion. Perhaps the shape­less thing is a dead bat. That’s it. A bat.

When your youngest daugh­ter was lit­tle, she told you a joke once. “What is Dracula’s favorite soup?”

You shrugged. You didn’t know a bloody thing about Dracula except for his birth­place, his employ­ment in Hollywood and that he was relat­ed to Batman.

Scream of mush­room!” she answered when she real­ized that she couldn’t get blood out of a stone. Tears pooled in her eyes. She ran to her room, locked the door and cried. Perhaps she was afraid that she had inher­it­ed your IQ.

Your old­est daugh­ter coached her: “Don’t cry too far from them. It’s a waste of tears if they don’t hear you.”

So today, many years lat­er, you don’t want a pedes­tri­an bat any­more. You want some­thing else. As they say in com­put­er lin­go, WYSIWYG. What you see is what you get.

Let’s see. Yes, this is dead Dracula. He knew that you were born next door to Transylvania, so when Hollywood squeezed the last drops of his blood and turned to were­wolves for its movies, he came to die in your yard. The cat hiss­es; he agrees.

By the time you bring out binoc­u­lars, Dracula is gone, replaced by a clus­ter of last year’s leaves. He learned new tricks, even after his sec­ond death, the old dog. He has become a spine­less shape-shifter.

Your youngest daugh­ter is a med­ical stu­dent now, so her job prospects are good. Your old­est daugh­ter is a lawyer. They inher­it­ed your wife’s IQ—she has a bril­liant career, she works hard and she’s kind. They call every failed man, includ­ing reject­ed suit­ors, “Russian engineers.”

You ease your­self into a rock­er, the cat in your lap, your iPad rest­ing on his back. A squir­rel chas­es anoth­er across the yard. They must be a rein­car­nat­ed Hollywood agent and a celeb. You sigh. You fire off anoth­er resume. The cur­rent picks it up like a yel­low leaf, but it will prob­a­bly get caught in the web some­where in the void beyond the edge of your property.


Mark Budman was born in the for­mer Soviet Union and is flu­ent in Russian. His fic­tion, poet­ry and book reviews have appeared in such mag­a­zines as Mississippi Review, Virginia Quarterly, The London Magazine (UK),  McSweeney’s, American Book Review, The Bloosmbury Review, Sonora Review, Another Chicago, Sou’wester, Turnrow, Southeast Review, Mid-American Review, The Literary Review, the W.W. Norton anthol­o­gy Flash Fiction Forward, Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure, Short Fiction (UK), The Warwick Review (UK), Flash (UK), Neo (Portugal) and else­where. He is the pub­lish­er of the old­est flash fic­tion mag­a­zine Vestal Review. His nov­el My Life at First Try  was pub­lished by Counterpoint Press to wide crit­i­cal acclaim. He co-edit­ed the flash fic­tion anthol­o­gy You Have Time for This from Ooligan Press; a new anthol­o­gy is forth­com­ing in December of 2011 from Persea Books.