Out of Touch
He touched the window, and the window dissolved. A hummingbird hovered, staring into his eyes, then flew away. A bee bounced off his cheek, and a fly circled his head. He caught it, but when he opened his hand, the fly was gone. He picked up a glass of water from the counter, and the glass vanished, the water spilling out. He touched the water, and the counter was no longer wet. When his lover came into the kitchen, he was staring at a hole where the faucet used to be. “What did you do to the faucet?” she asked. “I touched it,” he said, “Everything I touch disappears.” To demonstrate, he touched a mug she had given him on his birthday, featuring their smiling faces. It vanished. His lover looked at him—unimpressed. “You’re the opposite of a superhero,” she said. “I didn’t know there was such a thing,” he said. He touched her hair, and a bunch of it fell out in his hand. “Give that back!” she said. He handed it back to her, and she stuck it in her pocket. “Will you make me disappear?” she said. She was married and they had been seeing each other secretly for years. “Are you kidding?” he said. When they lay down on the bed together, he told her he would never let her disappear. He let his hand pass over her body without touching it. “That feels good,” she said, her eyes closing. “Do it again.” This time his fingertips almost grazed her breasts, and she shivered as if touched by a feather. “Again,” she said as if speaking to him in a dream or trance. Too close for comfort, he thought and lifted his hand, still moving it over her body. Outside the window, there were no bird sounds at all. There were the sounds of a quiet storm starting up, branches beating against the hole where the window used to be.
The Weak Man in the Circus
I live on a diet of air particles and gnats, enough to keep me awake, but not enough to give me the strength to walk outside or even to lift a glass of water to my lips. For if I could do that, I would lose my living. Each day, the boisterous crowd clamors inside my tent eager to see me attempt my famous feats. I start with hoisting a book, but my skinny arms can’t hold it up for even a second, so it falls on the ground. Then I rise slowly with Selena, my lover and assistant, at my side, holding me up as I take a step or two. Next, I might flex my arm to show off my very small hump of a bicep and my bony elbows. Eventually, I lift a piece of paper. As it rises almost to my chest, I give out and the paper floats toward the crowd. They cheer wildly and throw bills and coins in my direction. I place my fingers around a quarter and act as if I’m going to pocket it, but it’s no use, it’s too heavy, and it drops, which causes them pitch even more money at me, knowing that I don’t have the strength to spend it. When I pretend to faint, dropping into my cot, my lover signals for the crowd to empty out. When they leave, she collects the money and counts it before locking it away in a trunk. “You outdid yourself, honey,” she says, even if I didn’t. When we make love, it’s from a distance. She blows kisses at me with her hand. I catch them with my lips and close my eyes.
Under the evening star of the Winter Solstice, I persuaded an evil sorcerer into undoing the curse on my family. One brother escaped the sticky web of indecision in which he’d been caught like a fly since college. He stood there beaming at me with his contagious smile. The other brother pushed away the boulder that had crushed his legs in middle age and leaped up like a gymnast and told us about his exciting escape. Then, after years, my mother flew up out of a pile of ashes. “You’re all such successes!” she chirped. We held hands and laughed and one of the brothers told the old family joke about Cousin Mildred who fell in the bathtub, her head cracking open like a watermelon. “And then, Mildred became a concert pianist,” my mother reminded us. “Before the fall in the bathtub she could hardly play Three Blind Mice”. We toasted Cousin Mildred and second chances, and we danced and sang. One of my brothers did a funny impression of our father, who had run off to Hollywood when we were little to become an actor. “Remember his bad Fred McMurray impression?” my brother said. It was amazing to be back together like this, but something was bothering me. The evil sorcerer kept quiet, but I could feel him brooding. I could see something foreboding in his large brown eyes. “I’m worried,” I said to the sorcerer, pulling him aside. I noticed that the sorcerer’s hat was frayed around the edges and then for a moment his face changed. It was our father. “Dad?” I said, staring into the patched elbows of his sweater. “Shh!” he said, his skin as wrinkled as the milk skim on an old cup of burnt coffee. “Only you can see me as I am. Don’t tell them,” he said. “It’s HIM!” I shouted. Immediately, my siblings began arguing, their faces cracking with anger. My mother confronted her husband. “What did you do to us?” she demanded to know. “I brought you together,” he said, “then and now.” “You ruined us,” she said, and then, before our mother could punch him, the sorcerer disappeared. A cold wind blew through the room as she dissolved into a swirl of ashes. For a moment, my brothers stopped fighting and stared into the small tornado that was our mother. Then the first evening star blinked out, and a blanket of tiny indifferent stars spread over the sky like a net.
Meg Pokrass is the author of six flash fiction collections, an award-winning collection of prose poetry, two novellas-in-flash and a forthcoming collection of microfiction, Spinning to Mars recipient of the Blue Light Book Award in 2020. Her work has appeared in Electric Literature, Washington Square Review, Wigleaf, Waxwing and McSweeney’s. She is the Series Founder and Co-Editor of Best Microfiction.
Jeff Friedman’s eighth book, The Marksman, was published in November 2020 by Carnegie Mellon University Press. He has received numerous awards and prizes for his poetry, mini tales, and translations, including a National Endowment Literature Translation Fellowship in 2016 and two individual Artist Grants from New Hampshire Arts Council. Two of his micro stories were recently selected for Best Microfiction 2021.