Tag Archives: fiction



con·vex·o-con·cave (kuhn-vek-soh-kon-keyv), adj.  1. having one convex side and one concave side.  2. in optics, designating a lens whose convex face has a greater degree of curvature than its concave face, so that the lens is thickest in the middle.

Writer Rae Pilarski concludes this  flash fiction february with her flash fiction piece on con·vex·o-con·cave. Thanks to all our writers and all you readers for participating. Keep posted for more happenings here at the dictionary project.



He remembers his daughter when she was young. She looked like her mother then, so serious. When she came home with her first spider, big as the fist it was clenched in, legs sticking out between pink fingers, she brought it to him like an offering, setting it on the dirty knee of his jeans. As she got older, she spent her small weekly allowance on Mason jars in which to place her growing collection.  He built shelves to house them and helped her poke holes in the lids after she opened her finger with a paring knife. He remembers she hadn’t cried, just watched the drops of blood bloom at her feet. He is still amazed at how smoothly the phrase subesophageal ganglion passed through her preadolescent lips. When she was about ten, he told her about ants and magnifying glasses. He had described the way ants smell as they burn under the concentrated spot of sunlight. She had run away from him then, slamming the door to her bedroom behind her hard enough to set the jars along the wall rattling. He wonders now if he should have detected a pattern much earlier.

(Here he thinks about the first boy she brought home at fifteen, who eyed her as if already masturbating to her memory. Should he have known then?)

What he had always found most interesting about his daughter’s spiders was the fact that most were somehow able to spin their webs in their new habitats, unhindered by the smooth curve of the glass. One in particular spent most of its time clinging to the underside of the lid so that he had to turn the jar over in order to catch a glimpse of it. After his daughter left a second time, he had shaken that jar until the spider dropped to the bottom, its long legs curling into itself.

He can only remember his daughter when she was young. He falls into his easy chair. He opens another beer. He turns on the news. He searches for her mother’s face.



Rae Pilarski currently lives in downtown Tucson and attends the University of Arizona.

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con·sort (kon-sawrt), n. [Late ME.; OFr.; L. consors, consortis, partner, neighbor < com-, with + sors, a lot, share; cf. SORT],  1. originally, a partner; companion; hence.  2. a wife or husband; spouse, especially of a reigning king or queen.  3. a ship that travels along with another.  4. [Obs.], a) [OFr. consorte; L. consortium, community of goods < consors], association; fellowship; company. b) agreement; accord.  c) [altered  < concert] harmony of sounds.  v.i. 1. to keep company; associate.  2. to be in harmony or agreement; be in accord.  v.t. 1. to associate; join: usually reflexive.  2. [Obs.], a) to be or go with; accompany; escort.  b) to espouse.  c) to sound in harmony.

This week, the dictionary project‘s flash fiction february features a flash fiction piece by writer Kindall Gray. Enjoy!

The Cyclone

Gretchen waited at the entrance of the New York Aquarium for her former husband.  She wore a chartreuse scarf and carried a red handbag.  Above her the sky was the color of deep metal.  She tucked a hair behind her ear and looked at her cell phone again.  Nothing.  A rotund, mole-covered boy pushed in front of her to the ticket booth, and asked his mother why they’d come to Coney Island in the first place.

“To see the animals,” she told him, smiling apologetically at Gretchen.

“But I don’t want to,” he said, and stomped his feet.

Gretchen’s phone lit up and she pressed it hard against her ear. “Hello?”  She turned away from the mole child and his mother, who were now making their way into the aquarium.

“I can’t come,” Malcolm said.

Gretchen brushed hair out of her face.  The wind was cold and hard.  “What?”

“I’m not coming.”


“I just can’t,” he said.  “It’s stupid.  You know?  Like.  It’s useless.  It’d be cruel of me to go.”

“It wouldn’t be,” she said, and felt her fingernails digging into her palm. She could see the enormous Cyclone in the distance, rising above the Coney Island skyline like the skeleton of a dinosaur.  Even from far away the architecture looked haphazard, but still she wanted to ride with Malcolm, bump over the old, dusty tracks, and listen to carnival music.  She wanted to eat funnel cake and drink beer.

“I’m not coming,” he said again.

“But the roller coaster,” she begged.

“We’d probably have died on it.”

She waited a moment, unsure of how to respond.  This was the worst possible thing.  “I can’t believe you.”

“Believe me,” he said.  “It’s better for both of us.  I’m not going to pretend it’s okay anymore.  This thing we’re doing.”

“It doesn’t have to be okay,” Gretchen said, and meant it.

“She’s here right now.  Melanie’s here right now.”

“You said we’d still be friends.”

“I said it but I didn’t mean it the way you wanted me to mean it.”

Gretchen swallowed.  Hot tears ran down her chin.  A man passed with his jacket pulled around his shoulders.

“Fuck you,” she said, and ended the call.

She slipped the phone back into her pocket and turned to face the aquarium again.  Should she go inside?  Should she go on the coaster?  Should she locate a bar and get drunk?  Or take the subway home? Should she call her mother?

Malcolm.  Only a week earlier they’d gone to a club together, and then to a pizza place in Brooklyn.  They’d shared an order of garlic knots.  Sure, he talked about his new girlfriend most of the time, but he’d been paying attention to her, sharing with her.  He’d been her friend.

Suddenly she felt a presence at her side.  The fat boy with moles clutched her red purse.  He was alone.

“Where’s your mom?” she asked, alarmed.

“My mum’s inside,” he said.  His skin was like burnt almonds and his moles the color of dark chocolate.  They speckled his face like a constellation of stars.

“What are you doing out here?” she asked.  She glanced around and it was just the two of them.

“You’re crying,” the boy said.  “I hate maminals.”  He was too old to mispronounce such an easy word, which made Gretchen feel sorry for him.  She thought he was at least seven or eight.  “I want to go on the coaster,” he pointed.

Gretchen turned toward the coaster.  “The Cyclone,” she said.  “Why do you hate animals?”

“They’re always looking at me with their weird eyes,” he said.  “And I can’t speak to them.”

“Oh,” Gretchen said.  The boy’s reason made sense, in a way.  “You’d better go find your mother.”

“No,” he said.  “I’m going on the roller coaster.”  He turned from her, and began to walk toward the Cyclone, toward the boardwalk.

“Wait,” Gretchen said.  “You can’t.”  She couldn’t allow a smallish child to leave the aquarium.  What if somebody kidnapped him?  The mother would blame Gretchen.

The boy continued on and didn’t turn back.  Gretchen watched as his body grew smaller and smaller in the distance.  She checked her phone again and then dialed Malcolm’s number.  Her fingers were growing numb from the cold.  He didn’t answer.  She called again.  No answer.  Finally she left a message: “How dare you.”

She stood at the entrance of the aquarium for a long time and waited for the boy’s mother to come searching after him: “Have you seen my child?”  What would Gretchen say?  Would she lie?

The idea of lying to the boy’s mother filled Gretchen with a horrible guilt, and she cried harder.  She wasn’t sure if she was crying for the boy or for Malcolm or for the boy’s mother or for herself.

She took off running in the direction of the Cyclone.  She passed roller-skaters, homeless people, and couples making out on benches.  She passed tourists eating hot dogs.  At the entrance of the Cyclone she looked for the boy.  None of the heads in the crowd belonged to him.  Eventually she saw a small child standing dejectedly beside a ticket booth, staring down at his fingers as if waiting for money to appear.

She rushed over. “You’ve got to go back to the aquarium and to your mother,” she said.

“I don’t have enough money for the Cyclone,” he pointed.

Gretchen looked at the ticket booth.  Eight dollars a person.

“You’ve got to go back to your mother,” she said again.  She was still crying.  “I can’t have this on my conscience.”

“What’s wrong with you?” the boy asked.  “Will you just take me on the Cyclone?”
Gretchen looked up at the roller coaster.  The cars flew down the tracks at break-neck speeds.  They made the sound of clothes in a dryer.  She imagined the wind in her hair, the way the stale carnival air would fill her lungs and make her forget Malcolm.  Or maybe she’d even pretend the boy was Malcolm.  When they’d started having problems, and then after he moved out, she thought she’d be okay as long as he still cared for her.  Even as a friend.  Now he’d taken that care away.

“Okay,” she said to the boy.  His eyes lit up inside his face and he grinned, revealing a perfectly square gap in his smile as well as a silver filling in his back tooth.

She bought the tickets, and they waited in line.  A woman climbed off the ride, walked down the railing, and vomited in a trash can.  The boy grabbed Gretchen’s hand, and she let him.  When their car was ready, they walked to it arm and arm, and Gretchen let the boy get in first, as if he were the lady and she were the gentleman.  Gretchen felt dizzy with her own daring; taking the boy on the ride was risky, strange, out of character.

As the ride started, the boy said, “I don’t want to go on this after all.”
And Gretchen said, “You don’t have a choice, now.”

And the ride began.  As the world melted around her, Gretchen felt only air inside her lungs, icy wind on her lips, and laughter inside her throat. The laughter came out in a kind of hysterical scream.  The boy screamed too, but he was smiling.

Kindall Gray is a writer, a teacher, and an Arizona native (don’t hold that against her).  Her fiction has previously appeared in Back Room Live and Toasted Cheese, and she is currently at work on a collection of short stories and a novel. She can be reached at kindallg at g mail dot com.

On the creation of “The Cyclone”:

When I got my word, “Consort,” I immediately began brainstorming–and I kept thinking of couples, couples, couples; couples accompanying each other, “complementing” each other, and going on journeys together.  So I decided to write about unlikely couples–and the unlikeliest couples became a woman and her ex-husband, and of course a woman and a boy.  The story kind of morphed in front of me, and I let it.  At first I thought it would be more about Gretchen and her ex, but then it became about Gretchen and the boy and her reaction to the boy. — K.G.

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Screen shot from Road to Perdition (with some photo editing by me)


1flash \flash\  v 1: to break forth in or like a sudden flame  2: to appear or pass suddenly or with great speed  3: to send out in or as if in flashes <~ a message>  4: to make a sudden display (as of brilliance or feeling)  5: to gleam or glow intermittently  6: to fill by a sudden rush of water  7: to expose to view very briefly <~ a badge>  Synonyms GLANCE, GLINT, SPARKLE, TWINKLE —  flash·er

2flash n 1: a sudden burst of light  2: a movement of a flag or light in signaling  3: a sudden and brilliant burst (as of wit)  4: a brief time  5: SHOW, DISPLAY; esp: ostentation display  6: one that attracts notice; esp:  an outstanding athlete  7: GLIMPSE, LOOK  8: a first brief news report  9: FLASHLIGHT  10: a device for producing a brief and very bright flash of light for taking photographs  11: a quick-spreading flame or momentary intense outburst of radiant heat

3flash adj:  of sudden origin and short duration <a ~ fire> <a ~ flood>

4flash adv: by very brief exposure to an intense agent (as heat or cold) < ~ fry> < ~ freeze>


Welcome to flash fiction february! All month long, the dictionary project will be featuring flash fiction contributions from guest writers. Like all weekly posts, these short pieces will emerge from and be inspired by the word of the week (which I choose each week at random by closing my eyes and flipping through a dictionary). Keep tuning in and enjoy!

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re·cline \ri-ˈklīn\ transitive verb : to cause or permit to incline backwards

intransitive verb 1. to lean or incline backwards 2. repose, lie

Origin: Middle English, from Anglo-French or Latin; Anglo-French recliner, from Latin reclinare, from re- + clinare to bend. First Known Use: 15th century

(from Merriam-Webster.com)

The Lazyboy was a sort of garish orange threaded through with white. Susan picked at the worn section on the left arm, as if she could do no further harm to this eyesore of a chair that had no business existing in the first place. She could tell it was annoying her therapist, her picking not the chair itself, which he had apparently chosen after all. He had just asked her what she presumed was a pivotal question in her “therapeutic process” and he had a look of expectation on his face, although he was trying to hide it. This was the moment, she imagined, when she was supposed to have an epiphany. No, wait, it was called an epiphany in novels. In therapy, it was called… What the hell was it called again? Well, anyway, she was supposed to be overcome with emotion. She was about to disclose something major, something life-changing, something she had never realized until this exact moment. Maybe she would cry, a river or perhaps a single dramatic tear. A tear which she would let slide down the length of her cheek without wiping it away, feeling the poignancy of the moment grow as it slid and slid and then dropped below, leaving a mark on her cotton t-shirt.

But the truth was, she didn’t feel a damn thing. Hours and hours of therapy, hundreds of dollars and she had arrived at the moment when she was supposed to finally come to some sort of realization, perhaps provide herself with some restitution for years of self-harm and self-doubt. She almost felt bad for her therapist, who sat there calmly waiting for her to speak. He had worked hard to get her here and for what? For her to feel nothing at all? Perhaps she could fake it. Make some shit up. Babble about her subconscious desires. But no. This, she imagined, was one of the few things in life impossible to fake. You cannot feign knowledge about something if you have no idea what that something is supposed to be.

She looked down at the arm of the chair and realized what she had done. There was a large oval area on the chair’s arm that now resembled the bald spot on a mangy dog. Through one sliver at the side, you could even begin to see the metal rod inside the chair.

“Oh my God, I’m so sorry,” she said, only it came out muddled and muted.

“What was that?” her therapist asked.

“I said I’m so sorry. I wasn’t paying attention. I ruined your chair. I’ll pay for it.”

He dismissed the idea with a wave of his hand. “It’s not a problem, Susan. I’ve been meaning to re-cover or replace that chair for months. Really, you helped me out.”

“But shit, I just, I mean, I can’t believe I did this without noticing.”

“Really, it’s fine. If I was worried, I would’ve said something or asked you to stop.”

She could tell by the calmness of his eyes that he was telling the truth, but she couldn’t let it go.

“How much do you think a new chair costs? I can add it to my check for today. Really, I’d feel better.”

“Why do you feel it is necessary to compensate me for the chair when I’ve told you that it’s not important? Do you not believe that I’m telling you the truth?”

“No, I do believe you.”

“Then what it is it?” he asked.

“I messed it up, okay? I messed it up and I can make it right. This, this I can fix. I can fix this stupid fucking chair that is the ugliest goddamn thing I have ever seen. And it’s something that shouldn’t even be fixed because it’s that worthless. But I have the power to fix it and I know I can. So will you let me fix the fucking chair?”

She suddenly felt like she was going to vomit. She could feel the sensation of fullness in her belly and knew that the accompanying nausea would soon be followed by a warming of her esophagus as everything rose. But just as she felt it coming, she instead began to sob. Her whole body shook, convulsing in a way she had never experienced before. She did not fight it. She didn’t try to make herself stop. She put her head in her hands and she felt the water teem. Her nose was running but she didn’t reach for the tissues. She wanted to feel like the mess that she was. Oh right, she thought, it’s called a breakthrough.

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