flash fiction

Grey Sweatshirt at the Zoo by Murphi Cook

The chimpanzee holds a sweatshirt and my heart implodes. Her face nuzzles the grey cotton with such care it seems only natural that she should wear clothes, until she sticks her head through the armhole and ruins the illusion. The hood flaps limply on her shoulder; all the visitors clap regardless, loudly applauding her attempts at failed anthropomorphism. She picks a twig out of her armpit and my broken heart suddenly burns with a searing anger. She is not cute. She is a furry imbecile. She is wearing my sweatshirt. 

I dropped the bananas the first time I saw his tight bottom squeezed into those khaki pants. I was the primary operator of the blender at the zoo’s smoothie hut. He was the new zookeeper. I loved him without ever hearing his voice, and when we kissed behind the African Elephants my only thought was forever. I forgot to breathe when he slipped the sweatshirt over my head, his chapped lips making their way down my sternum. Our forever lasted two weeks. He hasn’t called. He gave my sweatshirt to her. 

The chimp swings it over her head in triumph, clearly mocking me. As the crowd chirps with delight, I realize she’s staring at me. I shut my eyes. I am not crazy. When I open them, I see she has lifted her thick finger in the air, pointing it at me. She grunts. Our eyes lock. I grunt back. She beats her hands on her chest, the shirt gyrating with wild energy. I beat my hands on my chest right back, slowly first, then so hard it hurts. I scream. She screams right back. We are free. He didn’t call. I step onto the railing. I close my eyes. She can keep the sweatshirt. I jump into my wilderness. 


The Green Ones by Murphi Cook

I am mid-staring contest in the candy aisle. She’s a nun. I’m seven. Her habit’s black. My eyes are blue. I found her dissecting a roll of Lifesavers. She was looking for the green ones. She didn’t tell me this, but I could tell because whenever she found a green saver, she popped it in her mouth, sucking hard, but never biting. My mom says biting candy is the quickest way to make your teeth fall clean out of your head. When the nun was done with all those not green candies she shoved them right back into the shiny paper tube all sticky and crooked-like, and put them back on the shelf like nothing had ever happened. They looked sad that way, but there was nothing to say.

There are three green Lifesavers inside her mouth right this minute. She squints, but she doesn’t blink, instead she just makes a sound like slurping and spitting at the same time. Today, I got a 75 on my social studies test. But I haven’t told anybody that.

This nun is different than the nuns at school. They dress like old ladies. This nun looks like the nun from a book. She’s almost too real. I’m not Catholic, but my mom thought it would be better if I went to Catholic school because it’s private and not everyone could go there. One time everybody got to go to confession and I just got to spend the whole time praying that one day I would sin and be able to tell somebody about it.

Crunch. The nun breaks the Lifesavers with her teeth but she keeps looking at me. My hands are wrapped so tight around a bag of Rolos that I can feel the chocolate ooze in the plastic. If I blink now I will lose and then I will die — she swallows and blinks. Yes. I squeeze my eyes shut until I see yellow fuzz and count to ten. I open them, and she’s gone. I am holding the opened packet of Lifesavers.

“What are you doing?” My mom asks, breaking the quiet of the aisle. “Nothing,” I say, slipping the roll into my pocket. The only things in her cart are iceburg lettuce and boxed macaroni.

Later, when we’re at the Y for swimming lessons, my mom asks me why I keep messing with my coat pocket and I show her the Lifesaver roll. She slaps me. I don’t say a word as we drive back to the grocery store. My mom stays in the car.

I go up to the only open register. I look at the cashier. And he looks at me. He blinks. I blink. He blinks again.

“I’m sorry,” I tell him, and I mean it more than anything I’ve ever meant before. “I’m just sorry,” I tell him again as I drop the Lifesavers on the conveyer belt. “There aren’t any green ones left.”