Robert Scotellaro ~ Carnivorous Roads

Cannon Fire

My father’s wise words swung through the air like claw ham­mers hop­ing they might find a nail, might build some­thing. I kept out of the way of all that star­tled air, always hop­ing for “miss­es.”  My mother’s wise words climbed a card­board lad­der in the rain, tum­bling back down rung by rung.  I was a teenag­er and immune from failed gods and their edicts.  Found my holey texts in the­saurus­es and dic­tio­nar­ies, one word at a time till I formed my own lit­tle army, war-hard­ened with rain-wet cig­a­rettes hang­ing from the cor­ners of their mouths, curs­ing the mud and lov­ing it, their hel­mets dent­ed, their uni­forms wrin­kled and imper­fect, their rifles shoot­ing out corks attached to string—suitable enough, back then, for combat.

Life and Times During the Bikini Wars

It was dur­ing the Bikini Wars that I met Barb.  She had a bee­hive hair­do you could hide in dur­ing a rain­storm and not get wet, it was that hair­spray-impen­e­tra­ble and her biki­nis were small­er than what the oth­er girls were wear­ing, so to my 16-year-old testos­terone super­charged brain, she seemed per­fect.  But she didn’t like to read the way I did and said my poet­ry made her head hurt but that I was a good kiss­er and that made up for a lot.  We dat­ed for a time and one night, I swear, I thought I heard a bird chirp­ing from inside that hair mass and when I noticed her eyes glaze over I asked what was wrong, but she said noth­ing, that she was just think­ing.  I was think­ing too and sug­gest­ed we switch eyes for a moment and see each oth­er that way, and I could hear that bird flap­ping about mad­ly, but she said okay.  Soon after we split up my poet­ry improved expo­nen­tial­ly, and though I still suf­fered the painful side effects of the Bikini Wars, it was then I met Liz in a one-piece who could recite, with the sweet­est annun­ci­at­ing lips, the poet­ry of Emily Dickenson.

The Unexpected Dispensation from a Vending Machine

There’s a vend­ing machine in the hos­pi­tal hall­way and I tell it my secrets and nag­ging dis­qui­ets.  The wrong turns and car­niv­o­rous roads I’ve trav­eled, the iron­ic grace of the ones that did not like the taste and spit me out.  It’s all in a near­ly inaudi­ble mum­ble like a prayer and of course when some­one comes to make a selec­tion I step aside with the sheep­ish smile of the inde­ci­sive and con­tin­ue once they’ve gone.  In a bed sev­er­al floors above, my moth­er is in a coma, umbil­i­cal­ly teth­ered to a moth­er of machin­ery that will fail her in the end.  The vend­ing machine is tow­er­ing and its sug­ary heart is on dis­play; its only agen­da is a fair exchange.  For this is all a rehearsal; this behe­moth is a stand-in for the stone I’ll mur­mur over with a pint of rum, per­haps some flowers—my moth­er nev­er liked them—complained about her aller­gies, but I’m hop­ing, she’ll over­look it then. 

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Castle

When she vis­it­ed me in New York, she com­plained about the way the sky­scrap­ers “bul­lied” the heav­ens.  She was from a land­locked Midwestern state and the ocean was a wet moon­walk as she lift­ed her dress up and tied it in a knot, let the tide have its way with her.  Told me she wouldn’t mind being a light­house keep­er so she could watch that briny uni­verse reg­u­lar­ly.  I told her I could vis­it in that skin­ny cas­tle and sing sea shanties between sips of Côtes du Rhône.  She didn’t find that fun­ny or charm­ing and the week she stayed was off kil­ter, our Rorschach tests of each oth­er we viewed made us cringe.  At the air­port bar (before her flight back) we watched the planes tak­ing off and final­ly agreed on some­thing: how each one, with a lit­tle time and dis­tance was small enough to fit neat­ly between a thumb and index fin­ger (espe­cial­ly when you closed one eye) before it dis­ap­peared altogether.


Robert Scotellaro is the author of 8 flash fic­tion col­lec­tions includ­ing most recent­ly: Quick Adjustments (Blue Light Press, 2023), Ways to Read the World (Scantic Books, 2022), and God in a Can (Bamboo Dart Press, 2022), as well as 5 col­lec­tions of poet­ry, and sev­er­al books for chil­dren. He has, along with James Thomas, co-edit­ed New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction, pub­lished by W.W. Norton & Co.  His work has appeared wide­ly, nation­al­ly and inter­na­tion­al­ly, and is includ­ed in the W.W. Norton antholo­gies, Flash Fiction International and Flash Fiction America, and in 5 Best Small Fictions and 2 Best Microfiction award antholo­gies.  He is the win­ner of Zone 3’s Rainmaker Prize in Poetry and the Blue Light Book Award for his fic­tion. Robert is one of the found­ing donors to The Ransom Flash Fiction Collection at the University of Texas, Austin. He cur­rent­ly lives in San Francisco with his wife, artist and art his­to­ri­an, Diana Scott. Find him at: