Wet sand is greedy. It pulls at the boy’s footprints. At the water’s edge, he learns that standing too long in one spot is treacherous. The sand wants to swallow him up, feet first. So he never stands still. Aping the shorebirds, he attacks the first line of water. The water fights back with spray and chill. His toes are cowards. They launch him backwards. He forces them to return. Ram ahead, then retreat. Hair flies into his face and eyes and mouth and he’s laughing, open mouthed, so more gets in and the boy coughs the hair out and he’s still laughing.
My toes go numb and I stand in the inch-deep water while the sand pulls me down. There are clams down here waiting, packed in tight, fully surrounded by sand, each sending up a fleshy straw to breathe through. My feet cover their air holes and they want to pull me down under too. I let myself sink, deeper and deeper. How long does it take to swallow me whole? An hour? I came prepared with a long straw–one of those novelty straws that you win at the fair. A wide bubble tea straw. I held it above my head as I sunk and closed my eyes just before my head sunk beneath the sand.
How long have I been here? I am standing upright. My ears are packed with sand, yet I hear the boy’s laughter, muffled, above me.
He is running at full speed along the slithering tightrope of the waves edge. Thuds from his footfalls resound under the sand. He is looking down at his feet and doesn’t realize how distant his mother is now, until he looks up. He trips over my air straw and lands on his face. There is no time to hesitate. The sand around me vibrates at such speeds that it flows like water. I pull him down, down to my level. The sand above us smooths like a dress over prim knees.
D. S. G. Burke lives and writes in New York City. Her writing has appeared in the Seattle Times, 3Elements Literary Review, and Stinger Stories. Her day job focuses on averting the worst effects of the impending climate crisis. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @dsgburke
In our community, we trade virus statistics.
I’ll trade you X corpses in this city for Y corpses across this state.
Initially, we speak with somberness, but with each day, somberness is superseded by childlike energy. Glee, even.
Statistics beat images of shortness of breath or nausea.
But for fleeting moments, when loved ones gasp in constrained rooms, we wait for texts. Try not to imagine lives without their smiles, nicknames, and bad jokes. We even spare hints of empathy for others.
After our own die or heal, we discard Kleenex and step up the statistics trading.
We’ve cried enough.
Yash Seyedbagheri is a graduate of Colorado State University’s MFA program in fiction. His story, “Soon,” was nominated for a Pushcart. Yash has also had work nominated for Best of the Net and The Best Small Fictions. A native of Idaho, Yash’s work is forthcoming or has been published in WestWard Quarterly, Café Lit, and Ariel Chart, among others.
I guess you’re around fifty now.
You were five when I left your mother and brothers. I think about you kids every day but as I recall we didn’t get along all that well and so much time has passed and emotion with it as well as my not being able to recall what you look like.
I know my sister Edith tried to get you to visit me when you were passing through California, but you wouldn’t. You did go see my brother Lou and Edith is positive your visit caused Lou to jump from his hotel roof. He liked his substances and they liked him. You shouldn’t blame yourself.
I know that you’re living on the west coast now about two hours from me and I’d love to see you. Then, I didn’t feel I was wrong, but over the years slowly it’s come to me like the earthworm we watched climbing the tree.
I turned eighty and am retired. I found and read two of your books in the library. I hope you’ll write back. We have a lot of catching up to do and I’d like to talk to you about them, especially the father you write about. (I couldn’t find your brothers. Please send their email or snail
Hey Ben- Fuck off- No interest
Paul- This came after your father died. Thank god he passed without seeing the kind of person you turned out to be. Edith
Paul Beckman’s latest flash collection, Kiss Kiss (Truth Serum Press) was a finalist for the 2019/2020 Indie Book Awards. Some of his stories appeared in Spelk, Connotation Press, Necessary Fiction, Litro, Pank, Playboy, WINK, Jellyfish Review, and The Lost Balloon. He had a story selected for the 2020 National Flash Fiction Day Anthology Lineup and was short listed in the Strands International Flash Fiction Competition. Paul curates the FBomb NY flash fiction reading series monthly in KGB’s Red Room (Currently Virtual).