TWO FLASH PIECES
by Savannah Slone
ON WHITEOUTS & FATAL SHAPES
I saw it happen before I heard it. My phone dropped from my grip, pulling my earbuds out and to the ground with it. A cellist played in my head. My breath hot, fogging and unfogging my glasses. I licked my chapped lips before doubling over to retch onto my rubber boots.
It had been snowing that morning. What some called a whiteout. Each step to work was a near-silent crunch. Unable to make anything out in front of me, I was one of the only employees going in because of how much had accumulated overnight. I would have been paid if I had stayed home, but I didn’t believe in taking unearned money. Working kept me busy, anyway. Keeping my mind occupied was the only way I could avoid unraveling since the accident.
Two sets of headlights came into view in front of me. A Jeep, at a stop sign, spun out. A snowplow, coming on perpendicular, didn’t slow down. Didn’t know to slow down. The Jeep’s brakes couldn’t hold up on the ice. The plow couldn’t see them coming. It was out of their control and now someone was dead. I had never witnessed a car get crushed into something so small and unrecognizable. There was smoke and a sizzling. The driver of the plow got out and ran, in slow motion, to his vehicle’s victim. He tried prying, what might or might not have been the door, open but there was no point in optimism for the surely distorted body. The man ran toward me. The Chariots of Fire theme song played, which made me chuckle. His murmuring’s volume increased as he grew nearer. I couldn’t hear him over that song, over my heartbeat—my temples pulsing. Vomit lodged in-between my teeth. I spat onto the ground.
“Call 911! Call 911!” He shrieked, too close to my face, before running back.
My eyebrows drew closer. I looked down at my empty hand, then my gaze fell to the ground. It was covered in the snow that kept falling. The snow that didn’t let up, even after it had pocketed a life. I ungloved my right hand, but my screen was too saturated to dial.
My wife, two winters earlier, died in a car accident on a day not unlike this one. As the Jeep morphed into its new, fatal shape, before my eyes, I finally felt released. My grief transformed into a sadness for whoever loved this individual as much as I loved her. I hoped it had been as instantaneous for her as it was for them. I hoped neither felt the pain that losing them unearthed. Approaching ambulance sirens overpowered the man’s sobs. I set my phone back down and tossed my glasses onto the ground, too. Red flashing lights came around the corner. Red flashing lights that I never called. I laid down and let the white everything consume my vision until my eyes couldn’t stand it anymore.
PARCHMENT, ABSORPTION, & SPLINTERED PALMS
After Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night Over the Rhone” (1888)
Every night I was intermittently woken up by a flashlight peeking into the small window in my door. A confirmation of my staying put. Double checking my pulse without having to hold my wrist. I’d been there for years. Set schedule. Second hand desk that you can’t brush up against without getting splinters. The walls and floor, off white. My bed sheets are pale blue. My smock, pale blue. Most of the time, I wish I could be pale blue, too. My mind winning marathons, winning trauma responses. This is my box of unhealthy coping mechanisms. This is the box where they’ll bury my empty body. Pins in my mouth, in my eyes. Maybe ashes to be spread, spilled, swallowed. I am a pacing nothing. At night, the internal hum dimmed. Everything outside of my body grew quieter at night, too. The river outside continued flowing—still reflecting, still evolving. From my encased window high above humanity, I had an even better view of the moon than the people who sat on park benches, who walked their dogs, who knifed open champagne on their anchored sailboats. I preferred moon slivers to full moons. I liked when the water balanced out and I could see every glowing bit of the above resting on its surface. I’d often stay up all night trying to replicate it on canvas. Trying to capture it in my hand. Trying to tuck it away—to save it for when I couldn’t see out. When the sun rises, I can still feel the constellation aftermath on my skin; yes, I am made of stars. My bones are these window bars. This is my rib cage. I am encased. Some people like to watch the sun rise and set; I prefer the in between. Yes, I am an in between. When your mind doesn’t fit the mold, it is the ever-changing phases of the night sky that show me I’ll be okay. Their flashlights walked me outside. Their fingers on my pulsing wrists. I soak up the night. I put it on paper. I save it for later.
Savannah Slone is a queer writer, editor, and English professor who currently dwells in the Pacific Northwest. Her work has appeared in Split Lip Magazine, Paper Darts, The Indianapolis Review, Glass: A Poetry Journal, Hobart Pulp, and elsewhere. She is the Editor-in Chief of Homology Lit. Savannah is the author of An Exhalation of Dead Things (CLASH Books, 2021), Hearing the Underwater (Finishing Line Press, 2019), and This Body is My Own (Ghost City Press, 2019). She enjoys reading, knitting, hiking, and discussing intersectional feminism. You can read more of her work at www.savannahslonewriter.com.