Michael Malan ~ Four Microfictions


On cable news, pro­tes­tors are talk­ing to reporters, com­plain­ing about how much mon­ey the rich have stashed away in their stock port­fo­lios. “I work at Walmart,” says a young man from Kentucky. “I make $10.75 an hour.” A woman is hold­ing a sign that reads, “Where is Robin Hood when we need him?” Others are milling around, mak­ing faces at the cam­era. I thought back to when I was grow­ing up in Fresno and Cinque and his gang were shot by police in L. A. Patty Hearst had been kid­napped and brain­washed, the man on TV said. They showed a pic­ture of Patty in a bank hold­ing an auto­mat­ic rifle. “Very cool,” my broth­er Seth said, and cocked his fin­ger at me. Patty’s dad was named Randolph, my broth­er told me, and he had a ton of mon­ey. “He gave truck­loads of chick­ens to the poor,” Seth said, flap­ping his arms like a bird. The siege last­ed sev­er­al hours. Cinque went out shoot­ing like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. “The bad guys have all the mon­ey,” my broth­er said. “They live on Wall Street and send their goons to kill peo­ple.” He was smil­ing. “Some day, they’ll get theirs.” I wasn’t so sure. Our mom and dad kept their mon­ey in a bank. “Suckers,” my broth­er said. Today Seth works at Costco, makes $15.50 an hour. He rais­es chick­ens and watch­es Fox News. “It’s a liv­ing,” he says. “Work you devel­op a taste for.” When he hugs me, I feel his mus­cles tight­en. “Let’s wres­tle, sport,” he would have said thir­ty years ago. Today, a hug is all he wants.


A Week Off

Cars cruise past the Dairy Queen, kids mak­ing fun­ny faces out the back win­dows of mini­vans. Every action has a reac­tion, Luis believes. He has his own pri­vate thoughts and, at the same time, thoughts about oth­er peo­ple. Tonight he is think­ing about a boy who jumped off a mov­ing train into a corn­field as though it were a lake, and the chill that fol­lowed that long win­ter into April and May. Now he fears for the lives of oth­ers and wor­ries about irra­tional world lead­ers. Nothing is the same now as it was when we were chil­dren and the sky can­not be pulled down like a cur­tain. He recalls the love­ly sun­ny morn­ings on his way to work at the train sta­tion and the future as far as he could see was made of slow time. His dog Bilbo is back by his side after run­ning crazy through the streets. Later that night he hears engines through his bed­room win­dow, motor­cy­cles, a whole con­voy head­ed north toward Sturgis. A week with­out work and la vida celes­tial is dis­ap­pear­ing from his memory.


Family Portrait

In May, Jenny drove into town and applied for a com­mon-law mar­riage license at the coun­ty cour­t­house. After she filled out the form, she and her broth­er Jim and his wife Dorothy posed for a pic­ture in front of the gen­er­al store. Jenny felt OK, not great, but at least some­thing had been done. That night she watched stars plunge through arti­fi­cial con­stel­la­tions at a Grange Hall meet­ing. There is always some­thing more to be learned about astron­o­my, she thought when she saw Mars through a tele­scope. Days passed and she and Henry came to feel clos­er after the mar­riage even though his mind was grow­ing wings and she was think­ing about the dark­ness gath­er­ing around her vision of heav­en. On the last Sunday in June, she and her sis­ter Rose made ton­ics, reme­dies, and cures, and sat in church think­ing about refugees in oth­er coun­tries. War seemed far away, like a dis­tant drum­beat. Outside the church, blue glass crys­tals reflect­ed rain­bows across the green Wyoming hills.



Adrienne is walk­ing in Central Park, past the Bethesda Fountain, feel­ing elat­ed, hap­py for the first time since her dog died. She is think­ing about a man she met while on hol­i­day in the Caribbean. As they sat in lounge chairs beside a heart-shaped pool, he told her he was liv­ing with one woman, but lov­ing anoth­er. Eventually some mys­ti­cal expe­ri­ence will awak­en him to the real­i­ties of life, she thinks as the New York sky grows dark, shad­ows fall on the foun­tain and splash up into the arms of the angel. She stud­ies each of the four cherubs, repeat­ing their names to her­self. Temperance: Change is more acces­si­ble than trans­for­ma­tion. We will fuse time and space into one thing and call it after­life. Purity: Form, beau­ty, har­mo­ny, grace. Each moment hov­er­ing, call­ing atten­tion to itself, speak­ing to the wind, the weath­er. Health: How time unrav­els, then spools togeth­er, then bends and twists back on itself or for­ward into anoth­er day, anoth­er year, anoth­er time. Peace: Remember me. I will always be there for you. In par­adise. In your mem­o­ry. In every white sun and blue pool.


Michael Malan is edi­tor of Cloudbank (cloudbankbooks.com), a lit­er­ary jour­nal in Corvallis, Oregon. He is the author of three books from Blue Light Press: Overland Park (2017, poet­ry and flash fic­tion), Tarzan’s Jungle Plane (2019, prose poems), and Deep Territory (2021, poet­ry). His work has appeared recent­ly in Washington Square Review, New American Writing, Tampa Review, Cincinnati Review, and Poetry East.