flash fiction

Summer Shorts: Esther in Shanghai

Trailing classes – flash fiction by Kerryn Leitch


Esther landed in Shanghai with four bags, one husband and zero Mandarin. The air was frigid and zero was also the number of coats she had. She appeared on her well-heeled foreign hosts' doorstep wearing the entire contents of her backpack including a Bolivian alpaca hat, an Indian shawl and a tshirt with an outdated political slogan.

She waited patiently on the threshold exchanging glances with herself in the polished brass door plaque. Embossed in black was the arabic numeral 2 and a Chinese character which she traced with her finger. “Hao,” said the husband, “it means number.” “Two hao, two hao, two hao,” she fogged and traced.


Summer Shorts: Beijing Bound

Up in the air – flash fiction by Nick Compton


Been saddled up on this airplane economy seat for too long. I know it doubles as a floatation device, but I have a strong breast stroke and don’t plan on surviving a spiraling free fall from 30,000 feet into the deep Pacific, anyway.

United, from New Orleans to Denver to San Francisco to Beijing. Over 20 hours of mind-numbing, time-bending flight.

You start out early in the morning. Pull yourself out of a warm bed next to a soft girlfriend to load luggage, slurp coffee and pace off reams of reserve energy that would otherwise remain bound up in the maddeningly close confines of a trans-pacific budget flight.


Summer Shorts: Gloves Off

Love games – flash fiction by Erin McGrath


A bell rang – something was about to happen. Polo-shirted men leaned and gestured knowingly at one another, shaking the rosewood beads around their wrists, their thick fingers wishing for cigarettes. Savvy girls in tight, shimmering inverses of the macaroon-dresses popular in daylight angled their torsos away.

She was alone in the seats Xing had reserved for them, too near the ring. Possibly she would be bled on, or feel a spray of sweat, like a sneeze, diffuse on her forearms. At home she never would have thought to watch two men muddle each others’ faces, but it was pointless to be ethical when the city implicitly endorsed the opposite.


Summer Shorts: High Spirits

Steady your liver – flash fiction by Amy Daml


“Gum bay!”

Paul filed the word away. He was pretty sure it meant “cheers”, and he was pretty sure he would need to use again it in three ... two ... one –

“Gum bay, gum bay, gum bay!”

Two weeks into his new job in China, Paul was well on his way to fluency. He’d already learned “shay shay”, which he alternated with his newly acquired “gum bay” when toasting the officials, each one egging him on with complements about his impeccable tones and pronunciation. More important than either of those words, however, Paul had learned the phrase with the golden touch – “la may".


Summer Shorts: Train Station

Tickets please – flash fiction by Anthony Tao


It’s too humid to be raining. The water caught in the sky doesn’t fall so much as appear on our skin, so that it feels like we wear another person’s sweat. We turn into a narrow entryway, the thick orange characters transomed atop informing us that the station is ahead, past jewelry shops, milk tea stands, and a side entrance to Kentucky Fried Chicken. The air here is different, hefty and choked with presence, as if, according to some law of physics and society, it pushes back against our breath.

Travelers sleep on the grubby linoleum in the lobby. One man lies with his head pillowed by his single-zippered rucksack. A crowd has begun to pool around the only two functioning gates.