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Flash Fiction: the Hebrew Newspaper Fossil, Two Shipwrecks on Top of Each Other and Gowanda the Harp Seal,

The Middle of the Hudson by Eirik Gumeny

My buddy and me were standing along Van Der Donck when we saw it go down. We’d just finished at Westchester Environmental and were covering up the smell of bleach with a couple of cigs. It was late, maybe midnight, not a time when you’d really expect to see any boats, y’know? But we’d see ‘em sometimes. Some trust fund kid’d shove a handful of cocaine up his nose and take out daddy’s mini-yacht to show off for some chick and try to pork her under the moonlight. Almost be romantic if they weren’t such yuppie pricks.

There was a lot of fog that night, maybe the most I’d ever seen. It wasn’t like we’d never seen it, y’know? There were plenty of times when it’d just roll up slow and block out the whole damn Palisades. Looked like all of Jersey just up and vanished. But this fog, this was darker and heavier than we’d seen before. Moved quicker’n it seemed like it should. Me and my buddy, we thought something was up even before that boat froze.

These yuppie kids, they were never the best boaters, but this was strange, even for them. We’d seen boats swerving funny before, stalling out, even crashing into the waterfront, but they never just stopped, y’know? Something like that should even be possible, right? Even if the engines just up and died, there’s still the current, or inertia, or wind… Things don’t just stand still in the middle of the Hudson.

But this boat did.

Couple minutes after it happened, these two guys came strolling out of the cabin. They were moving frantically, like they didn’t know what was going on either. That’s when my buddy noticed the fog was even darker now, damn near black as the sky. And it was starting to roll up ’round their boat. But not like we’d ever seen, couldn’t of been just fog. It looked like there were these long, slow tentacles of mist curling themselves ’round the boat’s bottom.

One of the kids, he saw us, started waving his hands over his head. Thought he was ’bout to start screaming for help, but that’s when the other kid grabbed him by the shoulder and spun him ’round.

That’s when I saw it too.

The fog, it… it wasn’t fog anymore. It looked like a boat, some old-timey pirate ship or something. Had to be at least six times the size of that cabin cruiser, with these tall masts and ripped, tattered sails just hanging there.

The ship, it sailed right into those yuppies, swallowed that little boat right up into its foggy grey body.

And then the ship… it just… disappeared. Turned itself right back into black mist.

Me and my buddy, we stood there, staring, waiting, looking for those two kids and their boat. Thought maybe they were just on the other side of the fog, went to shore, something. But soon enough the fog passed… and that boat was gone.

The Story by Laura Silver

The young people, so modern, they think they are. So wise, they take themselves to be.

We are all in trouble. Deep trouble.

You want deep? I’ll give you deep. You got a minute? Sit down, listen. Listen good.

When I was young, fresh, without a wrinkle, not so far from here, it was the case you could walk in the streets and hear only my language. Like a prayer I tell you, people counted on me, like a prayer. Like I was their only connection to the Almighty, blessed be He. Now they like to say “She.” Oy.

Whoever the Almighty might be, that person should know. Maybe the Almighty is too shy or too polite to tell you. But, not me. I am not here to protect you from your ignorance. After all these years, that is not mine job to teach the new generation right from wrong, up from down, wet from dry. Some things are, how do you say? Eternal.

I was good at protecting people, you should know, from sun, from rain, from being poor. Not that I made them rich.  But I made them laugh. This is better than riches? Sometimes you have no choice. I showed them that they were not so very much alone as they thought. They needed me. They held onto me as if I should be bread, they could live on me and share me with their family. I could do something for them.

You want I should tell you the story of how I ended up like this, turned inside out and twisted in the shape of a challah? (It should never happen to your worst enemy). That means a loaf of egg bread, prepared especially for the Sabbath. Not Sunday, Saturday. The Jewish Sabbath. Challah, you should know, means bread.

Yes. That’s right, a loaf. I know this word, in English, it means something else, like when you sit on the couch all day and read only the newspaper. But nowadays they don’t even use the newspaper, they prefer something called, how do you say… Kindle.

Now we are getting somewhere.

I know, this word, kindle, in English, it means to turn on a fire. You want to turn on a fire? For this you need a newspaper, not an electronic thing that you plug into a wall. You want to know what language I am in? For this you need a saichel. Don’t try to pronounce it. Just know you don’t know. I’ll tell you something else you don’t know. Who I am.

You think I’m Hebrew? Gornisht you know. Nothing, not a speck. You have water in the brain. And brains in your stomach.

You want I should tell you my story?

Go learn something. Go listen from the ocean. And when you are finished, come back. You tell me what language I am from and I will tell you from my story.

Gowanda’s Sacrifice by Nate Worrell

Mike sat at the edge of the canal, playing the notes his father taught him on his pan flute.  The gray water swirled and a familiar head appeared.

“Hello Gowanda” Mike pulled some French fries from the crumpled bag next to him and tossed them into the water.
He sat on the cement while the seal ate.  He sighed.

“I messed up.  My son’s lying in a hospital bed right now, he’s banged up pretty bad.  It’s my fault.  I only had a few drinks.” Mike choked on the words.  “I know it’s a lot to ask of you, but you helped dad’s heart and you gave me my voice back.  Can you fix my boy?”

The seal bobbed in the water, large stone eyes stared into Mike’s.  He felt the pangs of guilt tear through his insides.  Then Gowanda dipped beneath the surface.  For a moment, there was stillness.  Then the water started to bubble and red ribbons meandered across the surface.  Then the water calmed and the seal came back to the surface.  Mike saw the scars, white like lighting on a stormy night, and ran back to the hospital with tears in his eyes.

Gowanda by Sarah Curry

Gowanda’s eye pooled with blood from where her asshole of a husband had decked her. She sat on the dock holding her face and watching the water shine purple-black in the moonlight. Without thinking, she dove in. Brackish water filled her nose and mouth and immediately weighed down her fur coat. For a moment, she watched bits of trash, worn smooth and shiny, swirl around her like a school of minnows. She did not try for the surface.

*

Earlier that evening, Gowanda had come home wearing an old fake fur, and, like anything else beautiful she received, Bobby was intent on locking it away in his Navy chest. Since the day they married, he had worn the key around his neck where it thumped against the tattoo he’d gotten to commemorate their wedding. Across his chest, an anchor dug its sharp flukes into a red heart that had both their names scrawled across in cursive. But Gowanda’s had come out so ambiguous she wondered if he planned on sleeping with other women. She didn’t trust him after that, with the key and the tattoo of a fake heart covering his own.

Tonight, she refused to take her coat off and Bobby had yanked her arm like he might break it. She had kicked at him but he had dodged her. He slapped her hard then and got out his lighter. He tried to ignite the coat one-handed but she leaned over and sunk her teeth into his flesh. She walked out the door as he yowled.

She’d kept walking until she was at the canal. The garbage smell that hung heavy in the air the rest of the year was barely detectable. The frozen air was fresh-ish even. It was hours before the clinic near their house would open and she knew exactly what the nurse would say when she saw her. “Ms. Gowanda, what have you gotten yourself into this time?” By then, her lips would be covered in frostbite and she wouldn’t even be able to say Bobby’s name.

She kicked a used condom and an old Gatorade bottle out of the way and sat on the dock. The water with its dark oily rainbows called to her.

*

Opening her eyes, Gowanda is surprised to see the dusky grey sky of morning. She lies on the snow, steam rising from her bruise colored skin. She tries to lift her arm to motion to a group of nearby barge workers but her arm doesn’t work like she remembers. Hoarse sighs come out of her mouth. “They probably think I’m a dead body,” she thinks. Frustrated, she lets out a demanding gravelly bark, which delights the men. They laugh and take pictures of her with their cell phones. She looks up at the men with wet round eyes trying to understand. She barks louder as she realizes her entire body is covered in a beautiful soft fur of her very own.