These two stories are concerned with what is real, and why. “Raw,” by Nicole Moore, studies the time-warping landscape of the Las Vegas strip, and comes to find comfort in a faraway place. Janet Lee in “One Time Thing” explores the value of not talking or thinking about something, making sure it stays dead for the benefit of life. Reality is a fickle and brutish thing.
Please keep sending your flash fiction (500 words or less, but preferably 250 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy summer reading. — Lyle Rosdahl
Reyna looked down at her hands and feet, wondering where they would take her this time. What sensations would she feel? And what could Vegas do to her that all the other gritty cities hadn’t?
As she boarded the flight, she looked around. She could pick out the “Vegans” like they were horsemeat stinking in the sun. The over-60 men had dignified white bands running like winning streaks through their grey hair brushed so carefully into place and molded with spray; they wore large-banded gold watches and pinky rings. And the over-50 women strutted in short pants with patent-leather high heels; they wore gold rings and had manicured nails that pointed flare in every direction that their feathery heads turned.
Vegas, Reyna realized, is a desert: all brown and dust-flat, spread out over the deep-cragged valleys of the Grand Canyon. Dry and sunny, and brown like the shag of camel hair.
Outside the airport she stood in the bright white Nevada sun, watching a cast of characters huddled near, begging in fishnets and wigs, with dollar bills trapped between push-ups.
It’s all sparkle and diamonds here, she thought. And not always real.
The expressions of the people were stone-faced, or overly and suspiciously friendly, or simply sexual.
Reyna headed to Ellis Island off Flamingo and Coval for something cheap to eat. She passed the trash-laden gutters and call-to-order fliers for girls-barely-legal and dodged cars under the monorail-shaded back streets.
The ceiling matched the maroon-patterned carpet, and the low-hanging chandelier that cast warmth over the diners, a mix of slot-machine regulars, pay-girls, and tourists. After a couple of brews, Reyna walked light-headed out into the sinking sunlight.
She chose the most beautiful of the hotels to enter first. Darkened mirrors at the back of a high-end jazz bar reflected clientele dressed in dark Armani suits and cocoa-silk blouses, skirts tendered with delicate buttons trailing from hip to hem.
Most women think others are significantly more beautiful than they. And here in Vegas, this feeling was overwhelming as women competed for the attention of men. She saw flashes of desire in all the eyes she met, just as they must have seen it flash within hers.
This is the danger of this place, thought Reyna. The wanting.
The stink of Vegas assailed her as she walked outside again: dust, sweat, smoke, and perfume. She looked to the heavens above. The moon was full and bright: a soul high above the earth, high above mundanity, high above the elusive shows and elusive people, and she thanked that moon for being real.•
She wasn’t sure if she was going to tell him. She could just keep it a secret, a secret for herself. Wasn’t that a lie? If she said anything, it would end everything. Besides, he had a secret of his own. He still had his ex-girlfriend’s number and he called her. She had spied and she knew and she hadn’t said anything — yet. This would be a secret of her own. If you didn’t talk about something, did it really exist? If you never mention anything, did it ever happen? After it happened, it was gone. Forever. It was dead. Only talking about it would bring it back to life.
So she recounted to him a conversation she overheard at lunch. It made him laugh and she enjoyed making him laugh: It told her things were okay. That he forgave her for what she had done, and he was sorry for what he was doing, and it would all come to an end. Their past lives would come to an end for each other. It felt like a truce. She talked to him about other things and promised herself it was a one-time thing and she wouldn’t do it again. She wouldn’t mention the phone number she found, not yet. That was probably a one-time thing, too. Talking about things would only bring them to life. It was better that they were dead. •
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