Meg Pokrass & Jeff Friedman ~ Three Short Pieces

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.


Family Sorcerer

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.